Eighth-grader Jacob Languell has never
thought of Abraham Lincoln as a particularly
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."
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
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
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
permission of the copyright owner. Further
reproduction or distribution is prohibited