On Friday February 11, the Hillwood Lecture Hall was packed with students, faculty, and community locals to celebrate Black History Month, and Abraham Lincoln.
Valeda Dent, Dean of the University of Libraries opened the program with a warm welcome to audience members. She gave a small speech about her childhood growing up with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s children. She spoke of his wife, Coretta Scott King, and concluded with something she said: “Remembering events are not as important as making what we were fighting for a way of life.” Dr. Jeffery Kane, Vice President for Academic Affairs, was the next to speak. He shared a personal reflection of the concept of remote history. Kane spoke of how when he was younger, the Civil War seemed so long ago. He went on to describe how he lived through the civil rights movement. “I remember water cannons, Rosa Parks, George Wallace. I can remember students being ushered into schools,” said Kane. “ What happened 50 years ago is ever present in our lives. History is a daily part of life in ourselves as a culture.” He summed up his speech saying, “History is not so remote.” Provost Dr. Paul Forestell then introduced the Keynote speaker, David Carlyon. Carlyon, is an actor, writer, and independent scholar. He has a Ph.D. in Theater History from Northwestern University, and has been an Equity actor and playwright. He graduated from the University of Michigan, served as a military policeman, and then graduated from Berkeley Law. Carlyon was a clown with Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus. He is the author of award winning “Dan Rice: The Most Famous Man You’ve Never Heard Of,” a biography and cultural history of 19th-century America. Carlyon gave a presentation entitled, “The Gettysburg Address: Politics Overlaps Performance.” The lecture highlighted similarities between the Gettysburg Address and a speech by actor Edwin Forrest. Carlyon believed Forrest’s Speech, given on July 4, 1838, might have influenced Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address in 1863. One of the more obvious similarities was Forrest’s, “Three score and two years ago,” and Lincolns, “Four score and seven years ago.” Carlyon went on to discuss more rhetorical and political similarities between the two. Throughout the presentation, Carlyon interacted with his audience and kept the viewers’ attention. At one point, he asked for a cordless microphone just so he could walk around on the stage. Carlyon’s passion for the topic was evident as he presented with energy and enthusiasm. Carlyon concluded his lecture by answering questions from the audience. “The lecture and performance were both very informative,” said sophomore Mike O’Toole. “They really showed how art and history act together to help us understand past events. The historian can create insightful narratives using known facts while the artist has the ability to fill in the gaps by using artistic liberties to really bring us closer to the possible truth of the past. Then we can apply them to our own progress.” Professor Rick DesRochers, Assistant Professor of Theatre at Post, led the next part of the program. DesRochers is an Artistic Associate at the Play Penn New Play Development Conference of Philadelphia, and has served as the Literary Director for the Joseph Papp Public Theatre/New York Shakespeare Festival. DeRochers was the Artistic Director of the New Theatre of Boston for six seasons, where he produced and directed over 50 new plays and musicals. DesRochers took the stage with Adam Newborn and Tremaine O’Gara, two students from Post’s Theatre department. The students read two scenes from two different Suzan-Lori Parks’ plays The American Play, and Pulitzer Prize winning Topdog/Underdog. “As a member of Post Theater Company it was truly an honor to be able to participate in this lecture,” said Newborn. “I also found out some great things about Abraham Lincoln during my rehearsal process with Rick DesRochers. I hope our reading sparked interest about the story behind Abraham Lincoln.” The performances captured the audience’s attention with actual quotes from John Wilkes Booth. “Thus to the tyrants,” yelled O’Garro, who played the part of Booth. “The south is avenged!” “The performances really added to the presentation,” said senior Dan Degerman. “It was interesting to see a different portrayal of Abraham Lincoln.” The program concluded with Professor Manju Prasad-Rao, head of the Instructional Media Center at the library. Prasad-Rao spoke of the library’s efforts to get involved with museums online in virtual worlds such as Second Life. She showed a walkthrough of second life where an Abraham Lincoln art exhibit was being shown. After Prasad-Rao finished speaking, she invited the audience for refreshments in the fishbowl. The event was sponsored by the B. Davis Schwartz Memorial Library, the Port Washington Public Library, the Hutton House Lectures, the Post Library Assn., HEOP, Hillwood Museum, the Honors Program, the Political Science Department, Phi Delta Kappa Chapter 1524, and the Department of Theatre, Film, Dance, and Arts Management.