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Thursday, April 14, 2005 05:12 am

backstage pass 4-14-05

The 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regiment Band of Bloomington is among bands scheduled to perform during the prededication celebration of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum opening

Many of this weekend’s theatrical offerings are focused on the celebration of the official opening of the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. A big downtown block party, with history as its theme, is planned for a large area stretching from the Lincoln Home neighborhood north to the museum, 212 N. Sixth St.

On the grounds of the Old State Capitol, more than 20 artisans representing the mid-19th century will set up a village market. Four Civil War re-enactment groups also will be present, some camping out on the grounds over the weekend. Dozens of performances are scheduled at outdoor stages at the Old State Capitol grounds, as well as at Union Park, across from the presidential museum.

The celebration kicks off at 7:30 p.m. Friday, when the 97th Regimental String Band performs period music at New Salem State Park near Petersburg (seating is limited; call 217-632-4000 for reservations).

At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, the Lincoln Home hosts the Air National Guard Band of the Midwest.

At 6 p.m. on Sunday, the 33rd Illinois Volunteer Regiment Band of Bloomington entertains at the historic Depot at Ninth and Monroe streets. Next, Fritz Klein re-enacts Lincoln’s farewell-to-Springfield speech, and after which a torchlight parade leaves the depot and make its way to the Union Park stage for an 8 p.m. concert with the 312th Army Band, featuring a fireworks and laser show.

Look for special performances by a number of accomplished actors who will bring Lincoln’s times back to life: Chris and Susan Gordy of Galena play a pair of itinerant 19th-century actors, Linda Schneider performs “Tad Lincoln’s Father,” Kathryn Harris portrays Harriet Tubman, Diane Moran tells Civil War stories, and Mike Follin of Cincinnati presents “Dr. Balthasar’s Marvelous Miracle Medicine Show.”

This weekend, of course, is the first time the presidential museum is open to the general public (9 a.m.-5 p.m. each day). Visitors will see two shows, “Lincoln’s Eyes” and “Ghosts of the Library,” featuring local actors Rick Dunham, Randy Erwin, Jason Goodreau, Troy Kemp, Ted Keylon, Dennis Rendleman, and Patrick Russell.

Not everything this weekend revolves around the Great Emancipator, though:

•The Active and Creative Teen Theatre’s production of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, an adaptation of the C.S. Lewis classic, ends its run this weekend at the Hoogland Center for the Arts. I had the chance to the see the production last weekend, and I applaud first-time director Molly Mathewson and her more-than-able ensemble of teenage actors for bringing so much life and character to the play. They actually improved on the script, creating Lewis’ magical land of Narnia on a basically bare stage with a nice backdrop of a forest in winter. Kari Kelley’s characterization of the White Witch is grand, scary, and beautiful; Joe Hawkes-Cates was exactly what readers would picture as Tumnus the faun; and Connor Homann was a powerful presence as Aslan, the great lion. The show ends this weekend, with 7 p.m. shows on Friday and Saturday, April 15 and 16, and 2 p.m. Sunday, April 17.

• The Skin of Our Teeth, Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, concludes a run at Parkland College in Champaign Thursday-Sunday, April 14-17. Randi Collins-Hard, one of the state’s best directors, oversees this production. It’s a bit difficult to describe the play, but it’s a comic and somewhat zany piece about the Antrobus family, from the Ice Age to the 20th century. For tickets, call 217-351-2528.

• Author, playwright, and performer David Sedaris finally comes to Springfield, performing at Sangamon Auditorium Sunday night. All I can say: Please bring him back! For tickets, call 217-206-6160.

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