For 15 years, actor Steve Holgate has taken on the persona of America’s 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, and will be performing as him at BYU-Idaho May 1 to May 2 in the Snow Drama Theatre of the Eliza R. Snow Performing Arts Center.
Holgate’s one-man play consists of him portraying the earlier days of Lincoln when he was a lawyer and through the politics and ordeal of the Civil War, according to the A Town Hall with A. Lincoln website.
Holgate said much research went into creating this play. Figuring out the right material to use was a challenge, with him being the only actor in the entire show and having to spend long hours in the basement alone, sometimes with only his dog for company.
“It’s just deadly having to do the discipline to make a good rehearsal with no one watching and no one to work off of, no one to play with as it is,” Holgate said.
He said his goal was to portray a more complex version of Lincoln while doing this play, besides the basic attributes most people know Lincoln for, such as being honest and kind.
“I hope they will take a more three-dimensional view of Lincoln himself, reminding their selves that he’s just a human being,” Holgate said. “He’s just a guy who took on tremendous responsibilities, and his success as president was anything but inevitable. Throughout much of his presidency, he was horribly, horribly criticized.”
Holgate said it took him a year to create the first script for his show as Lincoln which he started after his retirement from the U.S. State Department. The script undergoes a constant revisal process based on how his audiences react to the show.
“It’s a bit like a book,” he said. “Once you’ve written it and you give to your readers to make of it what he or she will, a play is the same thing. It’s what resonates the most with them, and I put out what I have in mind, but other people pick up different things, and that’s fine too because everyone takes what means the most to them.”
Holgate said he has always been fascinated with Lincoln, and his strong resemblance to him has been what has encouraged the process of creating this play.
“Lincoln is such a giant character in our history that it’s important that I feel gratified that I get to be an instrument to get Lincoln a little bit better known and that feels good,” Holgate said.
He said he has been an actor since he was 13, and the passion clicked when he felt he was better understood on stage.
“It’s an interpretive art, being an actor, and can be very satisfying,” Holgate said. “There’s the satisfaction and feeling that it’s gone fairly well and people seem to really like it, and that’s very satisfying, that I’ve done a piece that is worth doing.”