My theatre career: I played Lincoln’s Severed Arm


Last night, I attended the final performance of Edgewood Jr. High’s performance of “Beauty and the Beast” and, after, the cast gathering at Dairy Queen. While waiting in line for Blizzards, my daughter, Genny, who played both the Hag and Marguerite, and her friend Kendra (the Enchanted Mirror) asked if I’d ever acted.

“Did you play a tree?” They asked in the way two 15-year-olds fresh from theatrical triumph ask.

“I was the judge in ‘Inherit The Wind'” did not impress them.

“I did play Lincoln’s severed arm,” which got the kind of reaction I was looking for, but they insisted I made that up. Here then, the proof, in the form of an excerpt discussing the role from Wilford’s Dramaturgical Catalog, the 1927 edition:

The arm, dislodged from the President by the shot that killed him, goes in search of Lincoln’s assassin. The role of the severed arm is a difficult one the play, as all it’s emotive powers are limited to gestures that can easily descend into the pathetic or comical, such as, for instance, the “startled revulsion” expressed by the hand of Lincoln’s severed arm when, dragging itself Southward on the trail of Jefferson Davis, whom the arm mistakenly believes commissioned the killing, encounters the rotted remains of soldiers North and South in the mud it struggles through near Antietam. While the hand cannot see the gore into which it is sunk up to it’s knuckles, it can feel it and is repulsed by the physicality of the war’s bloody cost, as well as despairing, because of Davis’ escape across the Virginia border. The actor portraying the hand must react without theatrics–recoiling from the remains of boy soldiers, horrified, but not dramatically raising itself palm opened, questioning and ready to grasp at whatever answer the gods may deliver, nor by shaking a fist or flipping the bird at empty fate. Lincoln’s hand, as with The Dane, challenges the actor’s emotionality to come forth in silence, behind the dialogue, in quiescent action. It is not a part to be shrugged on like a costume, the performer must become Lincoln’s arm, as well as his gentle and determined spirit, ever separated now from life.

Location:Hilltop Ln SW,Lakewood,United States

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