MOUNT VERNON — Elixir, Ohio Humanities and partial funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities “We the People” present the first of several programs honoring the 150th anniversary of the start of the American Civil War. This series will run through 2015, and is being referred to as CW150.
Every year, Chautauqua organizers strive to provide a wide spectrum of characters including someone who is remembered as an infamous person.
To kick off the civil war theme, John Wilkes Booth will be portrayed by Jim Stoner. Most people know Wilkes Booth was a renowned actor, some people know he came from a family of gifted actors, but few people understand what drove him to commit such a deed as killing a president.
Booth was one of 10 children born to Junius Brutus Booth and his mistress Mary Ann Holmes. He grew up on the family farm and helped his mother after his father’s death, which was a result, in part, to his excessive use of alcohol. His older brother, Edwin, inherited his father’s acting genius while John inherited his father’s good looks but never developed into a first rate actor.
John experienced negative reviews in many of his performances north of the Mason-Dixon Line and was embraced by the audiences south of the line. This, and being raised in the South with slaves, undoubtedly had an influence on his final act as well as upstaging his better respected acting brother.
On Nov. 9, 1863, U.S. President Abraham Lincoln watched John perform as Raphael in the play “Marble Heart” in the very same box at the Ford Theatre that Booth would assassinate him about 1 1/2 years later.
Many facts are well-known about the evening’s events but many questions can only be answered by Booth himself such as why was he so obsessed with Lincoln and why did he use only a single shot derringer and knife to assassinate the man? Why kill Lincoln and not Gen. Ulysses S. Grant who was also in the audience that night?
Stoner has portrayed Edgar Allen Poe, John Lennon, Paul Lynde and Frank Sinatra at previous Chautauquas and has received glowing reviews, bringing each of this diverse collection of characters to life.
Opening the program will be the musical group, Elixir, a trio of entertainers who reinvent songs of the past in new and interesting ways. For this program they will offset an evening of serious reflection with a generous dose of their usual zany humor and fun for the whole family.
John Wilkes Booth and Elixir will appear at ThePlace@TheWoodward, 111 S. Main St., Mount Vernon, on Thursday at 7 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m. This event is brought to the public on a donation basis. For more information call 393-6102 or 392-3018. The entire 2011 series, as well as past performers’ photos and directions to ThePlace@TheWoodward, can be found at www.elixirpresents.com.
Published on February 7, 2011