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"Abraham Lincoln" Coming to Springfield This Week

Fritz Klein as Abraham Lincoln
photo courtesy of Lincoln Institute for Education

Fritz Klein was first asked to portray Abe Lincoln in 1976. He was working in Hawaii as a landscaper and doing community theatre on the side when someone recognized his potential.  But Klein turned the request down…

"I thought I was too young, that it was too difficult, and I ended up being talked into it, and it turned out to be fairly successful," he said.

In fact, Klein, who will give a presentation at the Library Center Wednesday night as Abe Lincoln, has made a career of it—portraying the 16thpresident of the United States full-time since 1980.

After his first presentation, he began being asked to do more presentations, and requests continue coming in today.

Klein knew little about Abraham Lincoln in the beginning.  Since then he’s become well-educated about the president, but he says he’s still learning…

"I've had requests to talk about how Lincoln responded to financial crises, and that took me down roads I'd never gone before, so as the years go by I develop more and more breadth in my knowledge and ability to address things," he said.

Klein says he rarely mixes his life with that of Abe Lincoln except for a few habits of the president’s he found desirable…

"Some thing I feared might creep into my life such as his peculiar gait, so I decided early on  that I was not gonna use that when I was onstage.  The only time that it feels a little invasive  personal friends don't use my real name, and maybe at church or someplace they'll introduce everyone in a circle by their real name but when they get to me they use Lincoln's name.  That always irritates me.  I'm getting over it, but there's a certain amount you give up when you become closely identified by a character like this," he said.

Wednesday night at 6:30, hear President Lincoln, portrayed by Klein, give his presidential and personal perspectives on slavery, emancipation and the difficulties in Missouri…

"I hope that folks will feel like this was almost eerie in the sense that they had a close encounter, so to speak, with a person that's so similar to what they imagine Lincoln to be like, that it was a good thing.  But I also hope that they go away with new insight into human nature, into who Lincoln was, the kinds of difficulties with which he dealt and perhaps something that makes them inspired and perhaps better informed about Missouri and the heritage there," he said.

After the presentation, you’ll have a chance to ask questions during a town hall-style forum.  To find out more, visit thelibrary.org.