Play about Lincoln, civil rights coming to Arts Center

A new play about President Abraham Lincoln and African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass and their struggle to establish civil rights during the midst of the Civil War is coming to the Lawrence Arts Center a few days before President’s Day.

“Necessary Sacrifices” is a concert-reading-style play by Richard Hellesen, a playwright from Sacramento, Calif. Concert reading is a performance with little or no set, and the actors read from the script.

The play features Hawthorne James, a renowned African-American actor, as Douglass, and Peter Bretz, an actor, as Lincoln. It is helmed by award-winning director Peter Ellenstein.

James’ film and television career includes parts in Snoop Lion’s “Hood of Horrors,” “Speed,” “Seven,” “Stargate SG-1,” “Charmed,” “City of Angels,” “N.Y.P.D. Blue,” “Frasier,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and more. Bretz’s film roles include “Broadway's Finest,” “The Sopranos,” “Third Watch” and “Ghost Stories.”

The two-hour play will be at 7:30 p.m. Friday. Tickets for adults are $10 and $5 for students. Tickets can be purchased at the Lawrence Arts Center box office, 940 New Hampshire St., or on online at

Hellesen originally wrote the play for the Ford’s Theatre in Washington, D.C. Now, it is going on tour and will be showcased Feb. 18 at the Brown v. Board of Education National Historic Site in Topeka with two free shows and at the William Inge Center for the Arts in Independence, Kan.

The play was co-produced by the Inge Center, which was established in 1982 in memory of Inge, a playwright Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winner. Inge also graduated from Kansas University and was born in Independence, Kan.

“This play a magnificent telling of President Lincoln’s encounters with the abolitionist Frederick Douglass,” said Peter Ellenstein, Inge Center artistic director, said in a press release. “This is a story about two visionary leaders wishing, in the face of public opposition, to realize the true meaning of ‘all men are created equal.’”


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