On his blog, Jacob Truax wrote about what brought him to decide to “become” Abraham Lincoln in “An Evening with Abraham Lincoln” and present a collection of his speeches and personal journey in a time when history is often seen as a story of “flawed jerks.” What he discovered, upon deciding to become an expert on the man, was the human being hidden behind the historical figure. He will present his one-man show at Oaklands Mansion one night only on November 12 at 6:00 p.m. produced by Murfreesboro Little Theatre.
“Several years ago, before the pandemic, my girlfriend Laura and I went to see three shows at The Hermitage. In the first of these shows, Gerald Dickens, a descendent of Charles Dickens, presented a one-man show wherein he portrayed Dickens. He spoke to the biographical material of Dickens and shared a few excerpts from his works. Later we would see two other men who do similar shows on Edgar Allen Poe and Washington Irving. As a life-long actor and lover of literature, these shows appealed to me and I mentioned to Laura that I would like to do something similar. She suggested that I do Abraham Lincoln, as I had the build for it. I resisted at first, since I knew next to nothing about Lincoln. The author I knew the most about was Shakespeare, and I don’t really look like him. However, over the next three years, the idea kept growing on me. I finally decided to start in on the project.”
Truax wanted his portrayal to bring out the authentic Lincoln, not the dower statesman we have come to see through history books. Starting in August of 2022, he began to immerse himself in Abraham Lincoln biographies, podcasts and lectures during his daily work commute. Along the way, he encountered a friend of a friend, Judge Jamie Cotton, Jr., who wrote a book called “The Greatest Speech Ever: The Remarkable Story of Abraham Lincoln and his Gettysburg Address.”
“His book was one of the best I read along my journey, and [it] provided a lot of insight,” explained Truax. “I wrote to Judge Cotton in April asking for his consent to use his book as a basis for my show. He sent me an amazing letter and a care package of Lincolniana along with his consent. He, and several other people, suggested I look at ‘Mark Twain Tonight’ for inspiration, which I did.”
The show is a patchwork of speeches and anecdotes from letters and other memorabilia that present a global picture of Lincoln, rather than a chronological one.
“I picked the speeches that I liked the best or that were the most famous,” noted Truax. “I excerpted letters to demonstrate Lincoln’s views on slavery and politics. I vetted anecdotes for their entertainment value. I wanted people to see the real Lincoln, not a staid statesman, but a joker who loved to laugh.”
So far, he’s performed the show once and had two visits to nursing homes. He gave some previews on Murfreesboro’s historic square on Friday, November 3rd during the Boro Art Crawl. Then he will have the performance at Oaklands Mansion, followed by a show on November 18th in Historic Rugby, Tennessee.
“I would love to continue performing this show at other historical sites, theaters, and events,” noted Truax. “I believe my vision for the show will evolve as time goes on. I would love to visit schools and other nursing homes as well.”
Like the shows he saw at The Hermitage that inspired his own creation, Truax would eventually love to take his play on the circuit around the country.
“I was recently inducted into the Association of Lincoln Presenters and am pleased to be featured as one of the presenters on their website,” added Truax. “I’m eternally grateful to my girlfriend, Laura, for her ideas, support and help.”
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