John Wilkes Booth assassinated Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Inside that theatre today, Ranger Powell of the U.S. Parks Service takes crowds of tourists, the curious and the ghoulish through a step-by-step description of the assassination. Underneath the box where Lincoln was shot, he describes the plot of the comedy Lincoln watched that night, Our American Cousin, as being “kind of like the Beverly Hillbillies.”
Scratch the surface of any story and underneath you will find layer upon layer of fiction masquerading as fact. The play’s main character, Mark Killman?a feared but much admired director?draws inspiration from Abraham Lincoln’s assassination to stage the schizophrenia of America. He hires two actors to play Laurel and Hardy. Both are to re-enact the assassination, while he himself plays the iconic role of Abraham Lincoln as a wax figure.
The script is frequently self-referential, building on each of these “retakes” with further allusions to itself, telling the same story many times over in different voices from different points of view. Tremblay quite explicitly stages elements of literary theory with this play, including references to Jean Baudrillard’s concept of the simulacra and the “desert of the real,” concepts first popularized by the movie The Matrix?the idea that in our post-modern world, the imitator has become more relevant than the imitated, and that the virtual worlds we construct are becoming more “real” to us than the real world.
Absurd, hilarious and haunting, Abraham Lincoln Goes to the Theatre is an unforgettable mystery that asks the question: How can we ever know who we are and what is true when the world we know is shifting beneath us? Its answer is simple: John Wilkes Booth was the first American star?the actor who kidnapped reality to transform it into theatre.
Cast of 3 men.
About the authors
Larry Tremblay is a writer, director, actor and specialist in Kathakali, an elaborate dance theatre form which he has studied on numerous trips to India. He has published twenty books as a playwright, poet, novelist and essayist.
The recent publication of Talking Bodies (Talonbooks, 2001) brought together four of his plays in English translation. He played the role of Léo in his own play Le Déclic du destin in many festivals in Brazil and Argentina. The play received a new production in Paris in 1999 and was highly successful at the Festival Off in Avignon in 2000.
Thanks to an uninterrupted succession of new plays (Anatomy Lesson, Ogre, The Dragonfly of Chicoutimi, Les Mains bleues and Téléroman, among others) in production during the 1990s, Tremblay’s work continues to achieve international recognition.
His plays, premiered for the most part in Montreal, have also been produced, often in translation, in Italy, France, Belgium, Mexico, Columbia, Brazil, Argentina and Scotland. In 2001, Le Ventriloque had three separate productions in Paris, Brussels and Montreal; it has since been translated into numerous languages.
More recently, Tremblay collaborated with Welsh Canadian composer John Metcalf on a new opera, A Chair in Love, a concert version of which premiered in Montreal in April 2005. One of Quebec’s most versatile writers, Tremblay currently teaches acting at l’École supérieure de théâtre de l’Université du Québec à Montréal.
Keith Turnbull served as the artistic director of Theatre Arts programs at the Banff Centre for the Arts from 1993 to 1999 and was also the co-director of the Banff playRites Colony and director of the Contemporary Opera and Song Training Program from 1997 to 2000. His career as a director, producer, designer and dramaturge is highlighted by a commitment to contemporary and new work in both theatre and opera.
In addition, Turnbull has a particular interest in the pedagogy, performance practice and interpretation of the works of Shakespeare and of other language-based texts. He has directed more than seventy plays at various theatres throughout the world.
Turnbull also founded a First Nations theatre company from which emerged many of Canada’s most noted Native performers. He was the founding co-artistic director of the Toronto Theatre Festival and the president of the Toronto Theatre Alliance, as well as a board member of the Canadian Actors’ Equity Association. He has taught at the University of Manitoba, the National Theatre School, the University of Calgary and the Banff Centre for the Arts.
A feared but much-admired director hires two actors to re-enact the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Cast of 3 men.
?? explores the wellsprings of psychic and social violence.”