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"Civil War Voices" Returns to Lincoln

Mayor Chris Beutler announced that "Civil War Voices" will return to Lincoln for the City's annual Abraham Lincoln Birthday Celebration in February. The musical, written by local attorney and playwright Jim Harris, will be presented February 11 through 21 at the Haymarket Theatre, 803 "Q" Street. The presenting sponsor is Cornhusker Bank, and the production is supported by the Nebraska Arts Council and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. Additional funding is provided by local businesses, organizations and individuals.

After the 2008 original workshop of "Civil War Voices" at Doane College in Crete, the musical was presented to a sold-out audience at the Lied Center as part of the City's Abraham Lincoln Birthday Celebration in 2009. It has since been presented in 14 states, and has been through two major revisions.

In 2010, "Civil War Voices" won six awards, including Best Production of a Musical, at the Midtown International Theater Festival in New York City. The Tony Award-winning Barter Theater of Abingdon, Virginia produced the show and took the musical on a 26-city national tour in 2011. In 2014, the musical was produced to commemorate the 150th anniversary of the founding of New York's venerable University Club. It was also produced in concert at the National Arts Club in New York City in 2015.

"After seven years of performances in the east and south, it's exciting to bring the newest version of this outstanding home-grown musical back to Lincoln," Mayor Beutler said. "It is important that we keep Civil War history alive and make sure new generations understand the lessons of this critical time in our nation's history. Jim has written this musical using the actual words of real people who lived through the Civil War era, and people of all ages can identify with their stories."

Eight performances are scheduled: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 11 through 13 and Feb. 18 through 20, and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. February 14 and 21. Tickets are $15 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. Tickets are available athaymarkettheatre.org. (Messages can be left at 402-477-2600, but calls may not be answered for up to 24 hours.)

The public is invited to a free pre-show birthday party at the theatre from 5:30 to 7 p.m. opening night, Thursday, February 11. It will feature free birthday cake, historical exhibits and music from local favorite Chris Sayre, who has performed at every City Abraham Lincoln Birthday Celebration. No ticket is required to attend the party, but a ticket is required for those attending the 7:30 p.m. performance. The audience is invited to stay after the performances on both Fridays, February 12 and 19, for talk back sessions with the playwright and others involved in the production.

The musical focuses on five individuals who lived through the Civil War. A key figure is Elizabeth Keckley, a former slave who bought her freedom and became Mary Todd Lincoln's personal assistant and closest friend in the White House. She will be portrayed by Omaha singer and actress Camille Metoyer Moten (musicbycamille.com).

Harris will portray his great-great uncle Joe Harris, an Alabamian who kept a Civil War diary in which he revealed his conflicting feelings about the war. Local actors Patrick and Rachel Kornfeld-Lambrecht will portray President Lincoln and Mary Todd Lincoln. Other area performers featured in the production are Zach Kloppenborg, Matthew Landis, Laurie Martinez, LaVance Reed, Mark Thornburg and Kayla Wilkens.

Noted composer Mark Hayes (markhayes.com) of Kansas City wrote all new arrangements of traditional melodies for "Civil War Voices." The production is directed by Rob McKercher, Chair of the Doane College Theater Department, who directed the original workshop in 2008. The Musical Director and accompanist is Gretchen Foley.

The musical will be presented by special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing Company, which published the show in 2014.

More information is available by calling 402-441-7831. More information on the musical is available at civilwarvoices.com.