‘An American Story’ Tells The Tale Of Lincoln’s Final Hours
Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Aired 1/9/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.
Hershey Felder, actor, playwright and composer.
From movies to books, the life of Abraham Lincoln continues to fascinate. Now a new one-man play explores Lincoln’s last day from the perspective of the doctor who tended to him in his final hours.
Written by actor/playwright/composer Hershey Felder, "An American Story for Actor and Orchestra" is inspired by Dr. Charles Augustus Leale, the young Union Army medic who was the first to reach Lincoln in his box at the Ford's Theatre the night he was assassinated. Leale stayed at the President's side and cared for him until his last breath.
Felder, a pianist who is known for his one-man shows about musical luminaries such as Chopin, Beethoven and Gershwin, came across Leale's speech, "Lincoln's Last Hours," while researching another subject at the Library of Congress. Leale gave the speech years later on what would have been Lincoln's 100th birthday.
As Felder shared with the Pasadena Sun in 2012, Leale's speech "touched me deeply and it always interested me, why he kept it quiet. I think I understand. It must have been so hard for him to have witnessed that, and to know that he had the responsibility for the country’s sake to keep the President alive as long as possible so that a safe transference of power could happen.”
Felder plays the role of Leale at age 90, who serves as the play's narrator, recounting the story of that fateful night at Ford's 67 years earlier. He based his play on Leale's speech and the words of Lincoln, and his score on the songs of Stephen Foster ("My Old Kentucky Home" was Lincoln's favorite song and is performed by Felder and a live orchestra).