Black Friday, a play by photographer and local Dunn County News local history columnist John Russell, that recalls the last moments of President Abraham Lincoln’s life in that fateful balcony seat in the Ford Theater, is now scheduled to appear on the stage of the Memorial Opera House in Valparaiso, Ind., in April, 2015, 150 years after the assassination.
William Adams, one of more than 6,000 members of the “Sons of the Union Veterans of the Civil War” which represent the Grand Army of the Republic, will be the sponsors of the dramatic production that has had many appearances over the past 50 years. There have been two productions of the drama by the Menomonie Theater Guild over the years, and other presentations in Beaver Dam and La Crosse. A community theater group in La Porte, Ind., has produced the drama in three sold out presentations, three times. The last production was in 2006, and since La Porte is less that 20 miles from Valparaiso, that community theater group may be involved in helping, and even casting the neighboring production.
Russell is amazed at the longevity of the interests in his drama that was used in the assassination moment by the producers of the 1977 film, The Lincoln Conspiracy. That was an interesting production for a reason, that because of “space” cannot be told here. ABC Television used the sound track of the Mable Tainter’s production to provide the “crowd noise” at the moment of the assassination in the Kundart Production of Lincoln’s life.
Critics have been kind in reviewing the various productions of “Black Friday.” Richard Sloan, editor of the national publication The Lincoln Log, wrote “…it should play at Ford’s Theater.” Because of the cast size, and the fact that the production actually ends on the street outside of the theater, after a year of consideration it was found to be too difficult to stage and too big of a project to produce. However Mark Ramont, a producer at Ford’s Theater, wrote that the play is “…a powerful and strong reenactment of the assassination”.
Milo Swanson, a highly-respected state historian from Madison, wrote “It was so vividly historic that it should be presented throughout America. Russell has turned back the pages of time most effectively, and in a an unforgettably manner.” Phyliss Williams, a critic from Chattanooga, Tennessee, wrote in a note to Russell, “Your approach to theater is so innovative.”