A journal following the history, design, construction and operation of Bernard Kempinski's O Scale model railroad depicting the U. S. Military Railroad (USMRR) Aquia-Falmouth line in 1863, and other model railroad projects.
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February 9, 2012

Necessary Sacrifices

Photo from the Washington Post Review 

I went to see a performance of "Necessary Sacrifices" at the Ford Theater this evening. I was utterly mesmerized by the show.  This is as close to a time machine as you are likely to find.  If you are not familiar with the show I suggest you visit the Ford's Theater web page  to learn more about it. Then get some tickets and check it out for yourself before it is gone. The run ends on 18 February.

Briefly the play covers two documented meetings between Frederick Douglas, played by Craig Wallace, and Abraham Lincoln, played by David Selby. The first occurred in 1863 after the Emancipation Proclamation. The second takes place in 1864 as Lincoln in campaigning for a second term. The topics covered are tense and complex as Douglas pushes for faster progress toward equal rights, while Lincoln explains his actions in light of the complexities he faces as a leader of all America. Major George Stearns, played by Michael Kramer complete with an impressive beard, has a supporting role as Douglas' friend. The only other on stage performer is a violinist played by either Thomas Brooker or Tony Donaldson.

The two main actors bear uncanny resemblance to the historical figures, while the venue itself is an historic location -   my eye wandered several times to the box where Lincoln was shot. As a result, I was totally sucked into the play.  Contributing to the sense of reality is Richard Hellesen's excellent script. I liked how the dialog sounded authentic without the pollution of modern vernacular, possibly because Hellesen used many actual quotes from Lincoln and Douglas. The fine script is is complemented by the excellent performances by all the actors.

The staging is simple but effective. At one point the sound of muskets from firing squads executing deserters across the Potomac drifts across the stage. Lincoln explains to Douglas what the noise was. It was quite unnerving but realistic.

All I can say is, " see it too."


  1. Sounds good Bernie.

    Do you think it would be popular/topical enough to shown as a TV version ?


  2. I don't know. Part of the appeal of the theater version is the intimacy. You feel like you are in the room listening along. Whether that could convey in a TV version is hard for me to say. Hopefully, some enterprising TV producer will pick it up.

  3. David Selby? The "Quentin Collins" of Dark Shadows David Selby?

  4. I do not recall the TV show "Dark Shadows" but a quick google search showed that it is indeed the same actor.

    1. Yes, that would have been before your time. But it was all the rage if you ask any 50-somethings! ;). I went on YouTube, and see he has also portrayed Lincoln in a play called "The Heavens are Hung in Black" at Ford's.

  5. Nice article on the Lincoln Exhibit at Ford's Theater in today's (2/12/12) New York Times. The exhibit picks up the morning after Lincoln's assassination.

    1. Thanks for the tip. I read it, but I am not sure I got the reviewer's point. In any case, I plan to check it out.