The theater season started at Lincoln’s New Salem last weekend with “Mrs. Lincoln Fights Back.” Because of the early start and because April weather can be so unpredictable, all three performances were scheduled for the indoor theatre. And, the next show on the schedule (“The Last Five Years”) will also be performed indoors. But starting in late May, the show moves outdoors for season (weather permitting, of course!) The first outdoor show will be Treasure Island, which is an appropriate name because theatre at Lincoln’s New Salem has always been just that – a treasure!
Some of the earliest history of the site as a park date back 1918 when the Old Salem Lincoln League (working to create the park which because the historic site we know today) sponsored a pageant as a fund raiser! That was also the year when Illinois celebrated its centennial so there was much interest in local history and the folks of Menard County were excited about the prospect of honoring their most famous resident!
They were so enthused that they actually rebuilt much of the village to use as a backdrop for their pageant. While none of those buildings still stand, it was the first step in bring Lincoln’s New Salem back to life. On July 30, 1918, the community got together for a “Log Raising and Fish Fry.” At least six of the men there that day had known Lincoln personally! Replicas of the Rutledge Inn (as they called it), Offut’s store, and two other buildings rose on the old town site. As reported by Thomas Reep in his book Lincoln and New Salem, “a competent person [was] employed to write a scenario showing . . . episodes in the Life of Lincoln at this old town.”
Fast-forward to the late-1990s when the musical “Abraham!” premiered at Lincoln’s New Salem. Written by Ken Bradbury and Robert Crowe (decidedly “competent persons”), it fit the times and the tastes of the audience.
Then fast-forward again to last weekend sold-out show about Mary. One thing is clear – theatre at New Salem has always been and still a treasure! Come see what’s coming up this season!