Abraham Lincoln's words come alive at sculptor Daniel Chester French's Stockbridge studio

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STOCKBRIDGE >> "Lincoln Speaks," a new program of dramatic readings featuring Abraham Lincoln's little-known private thoughts, debuts at 4 p.m. Wednesday at Chesterwood.

The readings will be held in Daniel Chester French's studio alongside the sculptor's six-foot-high plaster model of the seated figure of "Abraham Lincoln" for the Lincoln Memorial.

The program features readings by noted actors, and political and cultural leaders, including two-time Tony Award nominee Jayne Atkinson, known also for her television appearances on "House of Cards," "Criminal Minds" and "24"); 4th Berkshire District Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli; and Dennis Krausnick, director of training at Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, who will recite the 16th President's least known and best-known private and public words about love, life, and the country he worked so hard to unite.

The performance will also include several surprise guests.

The program will be followed by a wine and cheese reception on the studio piazza.

Distinguished Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer, who wrote the program's script, will also serve as moderator.

"This is a rare chance to hear not just Lincoln for the ages, but also Lincoln of, by, and for his own age speaking about issues that might just as easily engage us today: personal subjects that competed for his attention even as he pondered, debated, and argued the great issues of his time," Holzer said.

Performers will re-create portions of Lincoln's ever-timely speeches: the "new birth of freedom" Gettysburg Address; the "malice toward none" second inaugural; the "right makes might" Cooper Union Address; and the still-timely warning from his 1858 announcement for the U.S. Senate: "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Lincoln also will be "heard" in words from a rare surviving letter to his wife, Mary, who had left Washington during her husband's brief Congressional term after failing to adjust to life in a crowded Washington boarding house. "In this troublesome world," a lonely Lincoln wrote her, "we are never quite satisfied. When you were here, I thought you hindered me some in attending to business. But now, having nothing but business — no variety — it has grown exceedingly tasteless to me. I hate to stay in this old room by myself . All the house — or, rather, all with whom you were on decided good terms — send their love you. The others say nothing."

Seating is limited. For reservations, contact Lisa Reynolds at lreynolds@savingplaces.org or 413-298-2034.


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