It is August first, and in some parts of the country, schools are going back into session as early as next week. Can you hear the groans? And the snickers, too, from the kids whose districts have another month before they start up again. But all too soon, schools across the country will once more be in session.
At this point, twenty five years ago, a new school year was also starting. At that time, I had no idea that with it would come a huge change in my life. I was a happy-go-lucky actor, plying my trade in theatres around the country. A few months later, I was contacted by some slightly crazy gents from a small company called Mobile Ed Productions. They had a problem. They produced and marketed school assemblies (I had no idea what that meant!) right here in Michigan, and they needed a Lincoln ... wait, what?
Seems they had arranged an entire tour of schools for an Abraham Lincoln presenter, both in Michigan and in surrounding states and on the East Coast, and shortly before the tour was to commence, he disappeared! They were frantic!
A mutual friend had mentioned to the distraught fellows at Mobile Ed that he knew this tall actor who might be able to look like Lincoln. I got a phone call, and some three weeks later I was in a costume beginning my first nervous show. To say I was a little unprepared would be more than an understatement. But with each performance, and each book rapidly consumed, and with each question asked by some young and eager mind, my own knowledge grew and my ability to convey this knowledge to an audience of young people expanded and flourished.
That was twenty five years ago. And thousands and thousands of performances ago. All told, I have performed the program some 10 to 11 thousand times, in front of a combined audience of well over three and a half million people. Of course, the time I appeared on Ryan's Hope I was seen by more than that in thirty seconds! Still, it is a whole lot of Lincoln.
In 1993 we began hiring other actors to do my program so that we could expand beyond the schools I could cover alone. Over the years numerous wonderful fellows have donned the “beard and hat” for us, and we have carried the word of Lincoln into schools all over the country, as well as into Libraries, Senior Citizen homes, Boy Scout gatherings, Church groups and even a few prisons!
It has been a great ride! There is a wonderful satisfaction to be found in opening the eyes of children to the life of Mr. Lincoln, and to his humanity and his greatness. I have been extremely fortunate and honored to be a part of this.
But it is far from over! Though I myself seldom perform anymore, we are busily engaged in creating a new version of our venerable Living Lincoln school assembly.
Beginning this year we are proud to offer a new Lincoln assembly entitled Books Made The Man. This wonderfully exciting new show still features Mr. Lincoln, but now, rather than focusing broadly on all the events of his life, the new program will instead feature Mr. Lincoln leading children through his own educational journey, from the early efforts to learn to read, and the primitive schools he attended only infrequently, through all the books, and reading matter that then filled his life for the next five decades. It will be a wonderful odyssey of the mind, taking children from Aesops Fables and the story of Sinbad the Sailor through Shakespeare, Law and all the other printed matter that found its way into Mr. Lincoln’s hands throughout his life. It promises to be not only fun and enlightening, but also a superb motivator for getting kids to read!
So, with the new school year approaching, don’t be caught off guard, as a young actor once was some 25 years ago! Be prepared! If you have not yet scheduled your school shows for the new year ... well, what are you waiting for? Call today! many tours are already filling in (especially the anti bullying programs!). And give a thought to Books Made The Man... wink, wink, wink .. :-)
Geoff Beauchamp is the Regional Manager of Mobile Ed Productions where "Education Through Entertainment" has been the guiding principal since 1979. Mobile Ed Productions produces and markets quality educational school assembly programs in the fields of science, history, writing, astronomy, natural science, mathematics, character issues and a variety of other curriculum based areas. In addition, Mr. Beauchamp is a professional actor with 30 years of experience in film, television and on stage. He created and still performs occasionally in Mobile Ed's THE LIVING LINCOLN.