Google+

‘Honestly Abe’: Mike Strozier on the Musical about Lincoln’s Youth

Robert L. Hecker’s Honestly Abe is a musical about Abraham Lincoln’s youth, and is being staged now in New York theaters. Mike Strozier, the director of the play, shares his thoughts about Honestly Abe with Ernest Dempsey.

Ernest:   Mike, first I’d like to ask what is it in Lincoln’s character that fascinates you, because you also have written and directed a play on his character previously?

Mike: My interest is largely because I am a playwright first. The show I wrote, The Tragedy of Abraham Lincoln, is a play, though it does have songs in it, they are famous, ancient songs that I didn’t write. Robert L. Hecker’s show, Honestly Abe, is a full-fledged musical with 30 tracks, wonderfully written songs, and a historically accurate story. When writing a major play or musical, a playwright requires a major subject.

I had grown up in Springfield, Illinois, and my father is a Lincoln scholar so I had literally grown up with Abraham Lincoln. We visited every single site related toLincolnand I heard every story because my father was working on this or that book aboutLincolnor he was restoringLincolnsites that had been forgotten, like the Lincoln Law Offices. Added to that was all of the typical information that a school child inSpringfieldreceives about Abraham Lincoln. As one example, as a boy scout, I walked the same 25 mile route thatLincolnwalked to get toSpringfield, that’s the route with the iconic image ofLincolnreading a book while walking. I realized I knew Abraham Lincoln like few others did.

My play was successful and very well-liked. I had published one of Robert’s books and he sent me his script. Having produced my own show, I felt confident to put on another show about Abraham Lincoln. I realized that there have been very few shows or movies about Lincoln, even though there are many books about him. Honestly Abe is the first one about his youth. And my show was the first about the last year ofLincoln’s life. Subsequent to my show, there have been books about this period too, even movies. Lincoln’s character fascinates all Americans; yet he is largely ignored. La Muse Venale, my theater company, is therefore at the forefront of a very important show that I feel will become standard at schools and community theaters nationally.

Ernest: So tell us a little about what Honestly Abe shows on stage about Lincoln?

Mike: Robert L. Hecker’s show is a historically accurate portrayal of Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood. There is a large ensemble of 14 characters taken directly from history. And Robert delves into the relationships of these characters and what they faced in life. The story follows the arc ofLincoln’s youth to when he enters into law and from there he would go on to politics. And we’ve just finished a cast album that is going to be sold nationally. The music greatly adds to the show, even in terms of the staying true to that era of the early 1800s. The choreography of Ashley Wren Collins is incredible and it too works in tandem with that time period.

Ernest: Who plays Lincoln’s character in Honestly Abe and how did you select him for this role?

Mike: Abe Lincoln is played by Jeff Kline, Torrey Wigfield, and Ryan Turner. The actors have done much research for their roles and they fully bring the character to the stage. All of the cast members are highly successful in portraying their characters. I held auditions inNew York, and there is always an abundance of extremely talented actors inNew York. This is a non-Union show, one of very few that is Off-Broadway.

Ernest: This play is a musical. Was it in some ways challenging to do a musical on Lincoln?

Mike: Musicals are incredibly complex and very hard to direct and produce. They are much harder than other plays. Lincoln is strangely enigmatic in America and that would make it that much harder, yes. And it’s partly the confidence that I had aboutLincoln that gave me the courage to tackle this subject and show. But once I started, I soon realized that I was doing something of major significance. The show has grown and there are many complex parts to it. And this is something of an experiment, to produce a non-Union musical Off-Broadway. It’s just not done this way in New York Theater, so I am defying the norms. It has been very educational for that reason alone.

Ernest: How do you compare the appeal of your play showing Lincoln’s end of life against Honestly Abe which shows his youth. What appeals you more, speaking impartially, as a director and admirer of theater?

Mike: I find both parts of Lincoln’s life interesting. And Honestly Abe is a large musical, whereas my show was a play. I gain a lot of valuable experience in producing a musical like this. And directing is not easy. I think the only way you learn how to be a director is to actually do it; schooling does little to make you a capable director. And normally, directors leave on opening night and are never seen again, partly so they can go on to the next show. But I have been working on this show continuously, and we’ve had quite a few new cast members come along. And we have keep working on this show; it’s hardly what it was when it debuted.

Ernest:  How long has Honestly Abe been staged now and what audience has it attracted most?

Mike: We are in our 5th month now. That is a major accomplishment for a show inNew York. We are bringing in school groups as well as average theater-goers.

Ernest: Do you think Honestly Abe exhausts Lincoln’s character for you?

Mike: Yes, because Honestly Abe is a wonderful and accurate portrayal of Abraham Lincoln’s boyhood and youth. And the show has romance, action, and drama. I feel that this show will reach many schools nationally and become standard fare for schools.

Ernest: Before saying bye, how is your press doing and what have been some of its more noteworthy recent books?

Mike: My press is doing well, as always. The big book I just published is The Longest War by John Holmes, a collection of stories from the recent wars told by veterans. It’s selling very well and we have the chance to reach national distribution for the first time.

Ernest: Thank you Mike for taking time for this round of a chat about art.

 

Learn more about Mike Strozier’s publishing work at the World Audience Publishers.

 

Entertainment

Raunchy Adaptation of Classic TV Series Arrives on Home Video

  Chips DVD Review by Kam Williams Raunchy Adaptation of Classic TV Series Arrives on Home Video Whenever a classic television series is made into a movie, the buzz always seems to be about whether the screen version will be a creative variation on the theme or merely a campy, cornball, take-the-money-and-run ripoff trading in familiar formulas and shopworn cliches. After all, for every inspired adaptation like Batman (1989), Charlie's … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Books

Gil’s Goodwill!

  Gil Robertson The “Book of Black Heroes” Interview with Kam Williams Gil's Goodwill! For nearly three decades, writer/author Gil L. Robertson, IV has used the written word to enlighten, empower and uplift. The one-time political organizer initially made his mark in entertainment journalism, penning over 50 national magazine covers and contributing bylines to a wide range of publications that include the Los Angeles Times, the Atlanta … [Read More its Good for You...]

Art

The Day After the Day Of

  The Day After the Day Of by Paul Ilechko   The sky sheds its tears. This morning is the morning of the day after. The day of mourning, the day after the day of.  I beseech the sky to shed tears in order to wash away the tears on my face.   This is the first day of the time after. This is the beginning of a new time, the days of pain, the days of sorrow. We are in mourning. The sky looks down and sheds its tears for … [Read More its Good For You...]

Real Estate

How to Hire a Winner in Real Estate

  How to Hire a Winner in Real Estate by Amy Lignor   You want to buy that new house because the twins are on their way. Little Betty and Little John are already there, but who knew you would have even more so soon? What’s that? Oh…well, of course, in order to buy that new home with four bedrooms instead of two, you will also need to sell your present homestead in order to get the money needed to start paying on a new one. And, of … [Read More its Good for You.....]

Lifestyle

Ejogo’s Largo!

    Carmen Ejogo The “It Comes at Night” Interview with Kam Williams Ejogo's Largo! Carmen Ejogo has established a distinguished career in both feature films and television. She is best known thus far for her leading role of civil rights activist ‘Coretta Scott King’ opposite David Oyelowo in Ava DuVernay's universally acclaimed SELMA as well as being singled out for her ‘mind-blowing’ lead role as Sister in SPARKLE alongside … [Read More its Good for You...]

Outdoors

Tidewater 230 LXF Combines Luxury, Family Friendly Features

  Tidewater 230 LXF Combines Luxury, Family Friendly Features By Craig Lamb Are you looking for a family friendly, center console fishing rig in the 23-foot class? Your search is over with the 230 LXF from Tidewater Boats. The all-new 230 LXF has a centerline of 23’ with a wide beam spanning 8’ 10.” The boat weighs 3,200 pounds and has a fuel capacity of 95 gallons for peace of mind on long trips. Best balance of performance and fuel … [Read More its Good for You...]

Sports

You Don’t Have to be Greek to be a “Zorba” Fanatic

  You Don’t Have to be Greek to be a “Zorba” Fanatic by Amy Lignor   No, the sport is not called ‘Zorba’, but it most definitely fits for this article’s title. This most unusual sport is actually called ‘Zorbing’, and has caught on like wildfire across the globe. And now, seeing as that the NBA has wrapped, with Golden State proving that they were determined to make amends for last season; and with the NHL closing up shop for the season … [Read More its Good for You...]

Business

Add Value with Summer Home Renovation Projects

  Add Value with Summer Home Renovation Projects by Amy Lignor   There are a whole list of summer activities for you and the kids planned. Most of them, of course, you want to be nothing but fun, such as grilling outside on the patio or swimming in the pool. However, having the backyard pool and patio are two things you really need in place before either of those activities could be enjoyed. And building this area could be a great … [Read More its Good for You...]

Travel

Finding Relaxation in the Most Remote Locations of All

    Finding Relaxation in the Most Remote Locations of All by Amy Lignor   It is a fact that the largest travel locations are also beyond popular. Among the downsides of this fact is that when you’re looking for peace, quiet, and basically a chance to do nothing more than spend time with yourself and, perhaps, one other best friend, the most popular places don’t offer that. In other words, it is the most remote (sometimes most … [Read More its Good for You...]

Green Living

Creating the Perfect Vegetable Garden

  Creating the Perfect Vegetable Garden by Amy Lignor   Many are still dealing with that wintery mix Mother Nature just loves to toss down from the sky this time of year. Yet, that gardener living inside the soul – the one just dreaming of the sunny skies and lazy rainy days that are must-haves in order to grow the best vegetables possible – is already jotting down the facts, tricks and tips they need to know in order to make that … [Read More its Good for You...]

Trackbacks

  1. […] play before directing Honestly Abe, grew up in Springfield, and is the son of a Lincoln scholar.  In a recent interview, he discussed the new show and Lincoln’s place in American memory: Musicals are incredibly […]

  2. […] Newspaper interviews me about Honestly Abe. […]