By Phoebe Muthart
SYRACUSE — Abe Lincoln reenactor, Danny Russel, brought Lincoln’s wonderful humor, honesty, love of learning, mastery of languages and empathy for his fellow man to life in a one-hour commentary. The event took place Sunday, June 27, at Wawasee High School in Syracuse, instead of Oakwood, due to the weather.
Russell is a professional actor who portrays famous Hoosiers, such as Lincoln. He lives in Indianapolis. As a seven-time grant recipient honored by the Indiana Arts Commission, Russel is delighted to tour the Midwest with his signature character.
A native of Maine, he is a professional actor. Russel pursued advanced training at Chicago Actors Studio and spent many years toiling in regional theater, as well as in commercials and industrial films.
During the late 1990s, his wife suggested Lincoln as a possible portrayal to augment piecemeal income.
He researched in Hodgenville, Ky. (Lincoln’s birthplace); southern Indiana (where he lived from age 7-21); Springfield, Ill., (where Lincoln lived and practiced law for nearly 25 years); Washington, D.C.; and Gettysburg, Penn. (where Lincoln delivered some of the most iconic words in American history).
Donned in Lincoln’s famous attire, complete with his famous iconic black hat, Russel shared nearly an hour of Lincoln’s life as the former president himself. Emotions were often raw as Russel, playing Lincoln, outlined the ups and downs of the former Hoosier resident, and at times, crying.
His mother was instrumental in his life, often reading Scripture to Lincoln as a young boy. He lived in Spencer County in Indiana.
When Lincoln was 19, his sister, Sarah, died and his mother, Nancy, died of “milk sickness” in 1818. He married Mary Todd on Nov. 4, 1882. He and his wife, Mary, lost two children.
He had two businesses that failed, and he was a farmer and a blacksmith. In 1860, he said, he got a letter from an 11-year-old girl, who said he should grow a beard, “so I did.”
Lincoln attended a slave auction one time and was deeply disturbed. He discussed his feelings about slavery.
“I hate slavery!” shouted Lincoln, while on his knees. Lincoln noted that Indiana didn’t have slavery at the time.
He told his cousin, John, one time, “I will do something about slavery,” and Lincoln eventually did.
He signed the Emancipation of Proclamation, therefore freeing slaves. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, Lincoln said, “as it was not in our Constitution at the time until then.”
Lincoln entered politics and won the election for president and took oath as the 16th president in 1861.
The Patriot’s Day celebration was hosted by Chautauqua-Wawasee. Later that night, a patriotic pops concert was conducted by Wagon Wheel Symphony of the Lakes.