Cristopher Guest and the Lincoln Library

I'm helping myself understand the black comedy coming out of the Lincoln Library and Museum by reading it as drafts of a Christopher Guest movie script.

We have the Richard Norton Smith character, a mercurial and vain pop historian who is running out of presidential libraries to preside over and has settled in for what is probably his last and biggest career shot. Played by Fred Willard?

We have the "power behind the throne," a brassy Illinois cultural operative, Susan Mogerman, who runs the show in Smith's name, reports to the governor, and who calls the shots. Catherine O'Hara?

We have a Mogerman staffer, one Richard S. Taylor, a public history intellectual who cooks up a tourism-generating idea called "interpretive theatre." Bob Balaban?

We have a former New York theatre guy returned to Springfield, Phil Funkenbusch, whose Illinois successes in making "interpretive theatre" work have resulted in his appointment as director of theatrical programs at the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Museum. Christopher Guest reprising his role as Corky St. Claire?

If you've seen Waiting for Guffman, you can't tell me this Funkenbusch project in Laramie is not a first cousin to "Red, White, and Blaine" ...
The play is also about a group of actors who interviewed and came to know those townspeople. So, not only do we meet and hear from the Laramie residents, we also hear from those actors and how the experience affected them. The fact that this is a community theatre production adds another level, because now Springfield actors are portraying the Tectonic Theatre actors portraying the people of Laramie, and we’ve all learned lessons about what it means to be human.

As you can see, the dialog can write itself. Mogerman: "We're competing with Disneyland, lakes in Wisconsin, casino boats and the like, so we have to have a program that's both entertaining and [ahem, cough] worthwhile."

Tom Vance, a manager at the Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site: "People expect to be entertained. So if you can get history across in an entertaining and accurate way, you're going to be more effective."

More effective at attracting people who expect to be entertained, I think.

Funkenbusch has ...
... about 10 boxes of scripts and a long list of ideas for that stage, including some contemporary plays about Abraham Lincoln. "These are actually good plays," Funkenbusch said. "There are a lot of bad Lincoln plays."

This is going to be rich.