Behind the scenes at a historic meeting

SPRINGFIELD – The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum will take audiences behind the scenes of a historic meeting when it presents “Five Presidents,” a fascinating play about a gathering of the chief executive and four of his predecessors.

The five men – Bill Clinton, George H. W. Bush, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter and Gerald Ford – met on April 27, 1994, for the funeral of Richard Nixon. What did they talk about? What old grievances, frustrations and secrets surfaced while they were behind closed doors?

Award-winning writer Rick Cleveland (a veteran of “The West Wing” and “House of Cards”) asked himself those questions and answered with a combination of deep research and lively imagination. His play is “fun to watch” and filled with “moments to make you think,” said the Chicago Tribune. The New York Times praised it as “smart and funny.”

The play runs April 25-27 and May 2-4 (Thursdays through Saturdays at 7:30 p.m.) at the Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum’s Union Theater. Tickets are available by visiting www.PresidentLincoln.illinois.gov and clicking on “special events.”

“‘Five Presidents’ is a thought-provoking look at some of the fascinating men who have led our nation. Having Ford, Carter, Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton all in the same room together is a historian’s dream and makes for a wonderful play,” said Alan Lowe, executive director of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum.

The 90-minute play, which contains adult content and is for mature audiences, features Patrick Foster, Tom Lawton, Ed MacMurdo, Rich McCoy, Chuck McCue and Zaxxson Nation.

“Five Presidents” received its world premiere in 2015 as a co-production with Arizona Theatre Company and Milwaukee Repertory Theatre.

“I hope ‘Five Presidents’ will give audiences a greater understanding and perhaps some sympathy for these men who occupy a special place in history,” said the show’s director, Phil Funkenbusch.  

Tickets are also on sale for the one-man play “Mister Lincoln” on Sunday, April 7, at 3 p.m. Actor John O’Connor and director Carly Shank have been touring the Herbert Mitgang play for the past few years and presented it to a capacity crowd at the ALPLM last year.

The Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum uses a combination of rigorous scholarship and high-tech showmanship to immerse visitors in the life and times of Abraham Lincoln.  Visitors can see ghosts come to life on stage, watch TV coverage of the 1860 presidential election, roam through the Lincoln White House, experience booming cannons in a Civil War battle and come face to face with priceless original Lincoln artifacts.

The library holds an unparalleled collection of Lincoln books, documents, photographs, artifacts and art, as well as some 12 million items pertaining to all aspects of Illinois history. 

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