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Abe Lincoln impersonator is 'beyond the typical'
Journal & Courier - Lafayette, Ind.
Author: MIKEL LIVINGSTON
Date: May 17, 2012
Start Page: n/a
Section: NEWS
Text Word Count: 587
Document Text

Eighth-grader Jacob Languell has never thought of Abraham Lincoln as a particularly humorous figure.

The pictures in history books don't paint Lincoln in the most humorous light, in no small part due to his unenviable role in keeping a nation in turmoil from coming apart.

But Jacob along with other Tecumseh Jr. High eighth-graders got a closer look at the country's 16th president Thursday when Lincoln impersonator Michael Krebs spent the morning at the school.

Along with actress Debra Ann Miller, who played Mary Todd Lincoln, Krebs enthralled students with Lincoln's wit and humor.

"They stayed in character up until the end," Jacob said. "It was great."

Standing at 6 foot 4 inches, Krebs matches Lincoln's height exactly, although he notes Lincoln's hands were twice as large, and his shoe size was four sizes bigger. He's been performing as Lincoln for 18 years and is a With Lincoln Productions presenter.

He's done work for C-SPAN, the BBC and performed for sitting presidents. On Thursday he strolled, watched by rows of students seated on all sides. He regaled them with humorous anecdotes about generals, or the nature of his marriage.

"I haven't told you any lawyer jokes yet," the faux Lincoln blurted excitedly at one point. "They're the best."

When Miller's Mrs. Lincoln wasn't laughing along, she was chastising her husband for leaving his overcoat in another room or griping about her distaste for Julia Grant, wife of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant.

"They were people; they were human," Miller said of the Lincolns. "If someone with as many faults and foibles can overcome and evolve and become the man he was, it's a much more realistic goal for (these students) as well."

Full picture

Krebs said he wants students to get a full picture of who Lincoln was.

"If there's nothing else, I have to plant the seed that he was a humorous president," Krebs said. "He was probably the most humorous president we've ever had. I worry about us watching a textbook shrink to where we just have this melancholy Lincoln we see in those pictures. We have to learn half of his great wisdom was his ability to laugh when things were the worst."

But the performance wasn't all humor. An underlying somberness occasionally surfaced as Krebs' Lincoln grappled with the weight of the Civil War and the prevalence of death in and outside his immediate family.

The Lincolns lost four of their five sons, a loss punctuated when Miller's Mrs. Lincoln jovially grabbed a letter she assumed to be humorous correspondence but instead proved to be the condolence letter Lincoln wrote in 1864 to Lydia Bixby, the mother of five sons who died in the Civil War.

"They were all our children," a consoling Lincoln told Mrs. Lincoln, referring to the more than 600,000 Americans who died in the war.

Eighth-grade teacher Matthew Brown said the presentation will give students a new outlook.

"Textbooks, even Web 2.0 technologies, can only take us so far," Brown said. "This is beyond the typical class experience. They're engaged."

Krebs said interacting with students is more rewarding than TV spots or book trailers.

"I'm doing more and more commercial work, and the kind of set work -- you sit around and get bored all day, and this just is more valuable to me," he said. "The one on one -- any actor wants this, to get that instant response. And when you're able to win over this age group, there's a special feeling of 'I've done well.'"

ID_Code: BY-305170015

Abstract (Document Summary)

The Lincolns lost four of their five sons, a loss punctuated when Miller's Mrs. Lincoln jovially grabbed a letter she assumed to be humorous correspondence but instead proved to be the condolence letter Lincoln wrote in 1864 to Lydia Bixby, the mother of five sons who died in the Civil War.

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