Rudy Panucci On Pop Culture

A Tribute To Abraham Lincoln: RFC 59 Notes

Episode 50 of Radio Free Charleston is online now! This week’s show is a special tribute to our sixteenth president, Abraham Lincoln, on the 200th anniversary of his birth.

We feature two songs from the Contemporary Youth Arts Company production of the opera, “Lincoln,” by Dan Kehde and Mark Scarpelli, and we also have a Lincoln-centric short film and an animated message from George Washington.

Host segments were shot while driving around Charleston in a Lincoln Town Car, but we end up on the site of the former Lincoln Junior High School. With all the Lincoln-specific content, there was only one thing we could call this show, “Pittsburgh Steelers Shirt.”

First off, we have to deal with a couple of omitted credits, the first of which is no big deal. “Funky Lincoln” is by me. I arranged the funk-ay music and edited the footage. It took less than 30 minutes, but I like it. Our animation is “George Washington vents about Abraham Lincoln.” This was created by me, with animation by RFC Big Shot Brian Young (also one of the kings of LiveMix Studio, home to the Pre-Valentine’s Day Massacre party on February 13). I was in such a hurry to finish the end credits for this show that I left out these credits. Big apologies to Brian, who, to be honest, probably doesn’t give a crap anyway.

The real meat of this show is the two songs that we bring you from “Lincoln.” As I write this, you have three more chances to see the show: February 5,6 and 7 at 8PM at the WVSU Capitol Center Theater, 123 Summers Street in Charleston.

This is a wonderful show, locally-originated, and executed by an extremely talented cast. It tells the story of the last day of Abraham Lincoln’s life.

In this episode of RFC you get to see Dan Kehde, the lyricist and playwright, as Abraham Lincoln. Tanya Dillon-Page lends her powerful voice to the role of Mary Todd Lincoln. Newcomer Jake Henley makes his mark as young Tad Lincoln. They sing “Dark Parade,” an early song in the show. This tune sets the tone of how uneasy the country was after the climax of the Civil War. It’s a great song, bolstered by top-flight performances from the cast.

You also get to hear Alicia Lewis as Lettie, a freed slave, singing “I Am Free.” Alicia has an amazing voice, and this song shows it off well. Alicia is joined by a chorus of cast members as she belts out this gospel-tinged showstopper.

While the end credits roll, you get to see a snippet of Jonathan Tucker’s performance as John Wilkes Booth. Jonathan also does a great job in the show. We chose not to feature too much of his performance because we don’t want to give away too much of the plot, and we needed songs that were short enough to fit our format.

I do implore you to try and catch this show during its final weekend. It’s only been over the last few months that I’ve been exposed to CYAC and their original productions, and I am mightily impressed by the quality of the material and the performances showcased by this scrappy group. They don’t have the budgets of the higher-profile theater troupes in town, and they aren’t afraid to challenge their audience with original and daring material. Forget being proud that a city our size has a company like this. Major cities don’t have companies producing work like this on as consistant a basis.

We shot these two songs Saturday, January 31, before the doors opened for that night’s performance. The footage shown during the end credits was shot at a rehearsal earlier in the week. The footage from “Funky Lincoln” and “George Washington vents about Abraham Lincoln” is archival film of the actual presidents themselves, retrieved from the Library of Congress…when no one was looking.

That’s the dirt on RFC 59, our tribute to President Lincoln. The first tall, skinny president from Illinois. Next week-ish, look for our Taylor Books show, with music from Joseph Henry and Captain Crash and the Beauty Queen.


  1. Elvis Capone

    I never knew there was a Tad Ghostal Lincoln.

  2. Pete & Karen Kehde

    We enjoyed the sneak preview of “Lincoln” on your web site. We are actually flying up from Florida to see “Lincoln” for the first time Saturday, February 7th.

    An added bonus for us is that Dan, my brother, will actually be performing! He didn’t tell us he was performing (perhaps we weren’t suppose to know.)

    Looking forward to seeing the beautiful Kanawha State Forest and “Lincoln.”

  3. Bella Donna

    Wow. Who knew Lincoln could bust a move?

    Who knew George Washington was so bitter?

    But most of all, WOW for those awesome performances from Contemporary Youth Arts Company. Hope people will go out and catch those last three performances you mention.

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