As the nation prepares for the bicentennial celebration of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, events are being planned around the U.S. to take place in the coming year. This monumental year of celebration will result in presentations by world renowned scholars on the nation’s 16th president.
On April 3, 4, and 5, a two-act play entitled “Lincoln’s Last Hours,” written by Gary Kersey who is a nationally known Lincoln scholar in his own right, will be presented at the historic Murphy Theatre in Wilmington, Ohio.. The play is a historically accurate re-enactment of that fateful night when John Wilkes Booth entered Lincoln’s private theater box and shot the president. A cast of 60 provides the audience with an indepth look at how Lincoln spent his last day alive, Booth’s activities leading up to the assassination, the assassination itself, and the moving of Lincoln to the Peterson House where he died.
A unique element of the play is the involvement of the theater’s audience as they watch the play that Lincoln watched on that fateful day at the Ford Theatre on April 14, 1865. Lincoln is actually part of the public “audience.” The assassination and the moving of Lincoln from his box seat occur right next to present day theater attendees. It’s much more than a play, it’s living history at its best.
The play will also be taken on the road and performed in late June as part of the Civil War Institute in Gettysburg, PA at the Majestic Theater.
The play is being directed by Bob Ford, of Cedarville, Ohio, who has written and directed many original plays about Ohio and Kentucky history. He worked as producer/director of “The Legend of Daniel Boone,” an outdoor drama in Harrodsburg, Kentucky. Ford combines his love of theater with his love of history to stage very moving productions.
Gary Kersey is a lifelong resident of Clinton County, Ohio and has spent his entire life living on the family farm near the little town of Port William. A graduate of Wilmington High School and Wilmington College, Kersey has a Masters Degree from Wright State University. Upon graduation from college he secured an American History teaching position at Wilmington’s Junior High School. During Kersey’s 10 years of teaching, he designed a comprehensive unit on the American Civil War that included all subjects. For America’s Bi-Centennial celebration he wrote a two act play entitled “Lincoln’s Last Hours” which has been performed numerous times in Wilmington and also in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The play performances have always been sold out – and the profits given to community projects. In recognition, Kersey has received the Rotary’s Paul Harris Award and the Daughters of American Revolution National Community Service Award (George Clinton Chapter). For the past 30 years Kersey has been in the real estate and auction business – and has served his profession as Past President of the Ohio Auctioneers Association. Kersey’s interest in Lincoln has expanded – mostly from his involvement with the Civil War Institute of Gettysburg College. He has been honored to give lectures to this elite group several times over the past 27 years. For example, Gabor S. Boritt, Director of the Institute and noted author of The Gettysburg Gospel, recommended Kersey to speak last year at Lincoln’s Boyhood Home National Park in Indiana.Most recently Kersey’s Lincoln research has led him to areas heretofore little explored. In particular the Congressional Delegation at Lincoln’s Funeral and Lincoln’s Pardon of a Soldier (Peter Gilner) of the 62nd Pennsylvania Regiment. Authors Tom Lowry Don’t Shoot That Boy and Tom Wheeler Mr. Lincoln’s T-Mails have been very complimentary as to the research and findings about Peter Gilner of Pittsburgh. Recently Kersey was honored to address the Western Pennsylvania Genealogy Society at the Carnegie Library in Pittsburgh. He is very excited to add the Huguenot Society of California, La Rochelle Chapter, to his speaking agenda.
The Historic Murpy Theatre
Driving down Wilmington’s Main Street reveals the first glimpse of the marquee of the Murphy Theatre, nostalgic of another era. Although the marquee has graced downtown Wilmington since 1918, it is merely a prelude to the wonderful experience that can be enjoyed upon entering through the theater’s doors. Once in the Murphy’s lobby, immediately visible are crystal chandeliers, tiled floors, and richly polished wood. If you close your eyes for a moment, you might be able to imagine what it was like on opening night, when 3000 people turned out for three separate performances. Upon entering the actual theater, the red upholstered seats await the audiences’ arrival, as do the red velvet curtains that grace the stage. It’s an exciting time on show night; you can feel it in the air. Lights go down, curtains go up, and it’s show time again, over 90 years later. Presently operating as a non-profit corporation, the Murphy exists due to the help of many volunteers and private and corporate sponsors. The Murphy’s season runs from September through May and is proud to feature nationally acclaimed entertainers.
There will be three Murphy Theatre performances in April of “Lincoln’s Last Hours.” Call today to purchase tickets at 1-877-274-3848 or 937-382-3643. Overnight packages are also available