Remembering The Legacy Of Lincoln (Transcript) | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio

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Remembering the Legacy of Lincoln

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:09
Welcome back to "Metro Connection." I'm Rebecca Sheir and as we continue our audio exploration of legacies this week, we turn now to a project that's bringing an American president's legacy to life on and off the stage.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:33
You're hearing a song from "Parade," the Tony Award-winning musical now playing at Ford's Theatre in downtown D.C.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:00:47
"Parade" takes place in Atlanta in the 1910s and tells the true story of Leo Frank, a Jewish factory superintendent accused of murdering a 13 year-old female employee.

MS. REBECCA SHEIR

00:01:13
Frank was sentenced to death, then life imprisonment, then he was murdered by a mob.

MR. PAUL TETREAULT

00:01:18
In "Parade," we have the issue of anti-Semitism, the issue of racial injustice, the issues of religious intolerance.

SHEIR

00:01:26
And these kinds of issues, says Ford's theatre director, Paul Tetreault, are at the heart of a new program combining stage performances and community dialogues to honor our 16th President's legacy.

TETREAULT

00:01:36
I always tell people when they say, how do you choose plays? And I say, well, I always think about what would Abraham Lincoln think if we presented this play today? And Abraham Lincoln, of course, would have a 2011 sensibility, but if we presented this, would he appreciate it? Would he approve? Would he disapprove? And so it was about a year ago we started thinking about how can we connect even stronger certain types of theatre to Lincoln's legacy?

SHEIR

00:02:04
Thus the Lincoln Legacy Project was born. The five-year program will include one play each season that echoes the causes Lincoln held dear.

TETREAULT

00:02:11
You know, the quality, tolerance, fighting for the downtrodden.

SHEIR

00:02:16
And it will also include Monday night discussions featuring historians, journalists, Congressional leaders, artists, among others. I recently visited Ford's Theatre and sat down with Tetreault, who says the five-year endeavor isn't just about keeping Lincoln's legacy alive.

TETREAULT

00:02:30
This is also about wanting to create a dialogue within our town, within our community, which happens to be Washington D.C., which happens to also be our nation's capital. So we kind of have the crazy idea that maybe we can actually change a few minds about how we deal with civility, how we deal with tolerance, how we deal with equality, how we deal with being different.

SHEIR

00:02:54
Crazy indeed.

TETREAULT

00:02:56
Yes, wild idea, right? why not work with the theatre? I mean, if it can't happen on Capitol Hill all on its own, maybe the theatre can be the catalyst to get people to sort of think about these ideas and recognize how important they are.

SHEIR

00:03:12
And again you'll be combining theatre with these discussions and conversations. Let's talk about some of the discussions that will be going on around "Parade."

TETREAULT

00:03:20
Well, on the whole legacy project we actually have brought in, first of all, a number of partners, the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the Jewish Community Center and the Jewish Historical Society, among others. And all of those people have come together to work with us on these Monday night events.

TETREAULT

00:03:41
The first one being October 3rd and it's moderated by Chris Matthews and it's called "E pluribus Unum," from many, one. And it's going to be a conversation with members of Congress who also happen to represent or be part of a sub sect.

TETREAULT

00:04:00
Not only are they members of Congress, but they might be Jewish-Americans, they might be African-Americans, they might be Muslim-Americans, gay Americans and to bring those folks together and have a conversation about what it means to be in a position of authority, in a position of leadership, but also as a member of a sort of subgroup. And I think that'll be a very fascinating conversation to have with the audience and the audience participating, asking questions.

SHEIR

00:04:27
Well, back to the theatrical side of all of this, I've heard some titles being tossed around, shows that might be these season openers in the Lincoln Legacy Project. For example, the Laramie Project.

TETREAULT

00:04:37
Yes, I think that we have only, obviously made a commitment to "Parade," but in the future we're looking at a piece called, "Fly," which is about the African-American experience during World War II and specifically, the Tuskegee Airmen. We're looking at, as you mentioned, "The Laramie Project," about the Matthew Shepherd, sort of hate crime that happened and really spurned a whole concept of bullying and hate crimes in a very horrible way.

TETREAULT

00:05:05
Looking at pieces possibly like "The Crucible," "The Scottsboro Boys," which talks about the Scottsboro trials. So there's a number of pieces. I don't want to get committed to five plays for the next five years but we've got the first one and I think "Parade" is an absolutely riveting story, historically and as part of a sort of benchmark in the kind of rights movement.

TETREAULT

00:05:31
I mean, the Anti-Defamation League was truly formed as a result of this incident. But I think there's also in the play, there's this amazing love story between Leo and Lucille Frank that people, I think, initially think I don't want to go see that play but really there's something quite lovely in it and I just hope people will come out and see it because I think it's an extraordinary piece of theatre and it's an extraordinary story.

TETREAULT

00:05:55
And we'll, you know, in probably another three months or so be announcing our season for next year and we'll have the second piece and I think we'll just keep building on it. The whole concept is to keep this legacy of Abraham Lincoln alive and this concept that he had about equality for all people.

SHEIR

00:06:13
Well, Paul, thank you so much for taking the time to talk with me today.

TETREAULT

00:06:17
You're very welcome. Thank you so much for having me.

SHEIR

00:06:20
"Parade" is playing at Ford's Theatre through October 30th. For more on the show and the Lincoln Legacy Project, visit our website, metroconnection.org.
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