Better Angels

by Wayne Peter Liebman
Better Angels
James Read, David Dean Bottrell, McKerrin Kelly
Scenic Design
Costume Design
Lighting Design
Sound Design
Properties Design & Set Dressing
Production Stage Manager
Public Relations
Technical Director
Set Construction
Production Crew

Light Board Operator
Sound Board Operator
Production Assistant
Stage Crew
Cover Art
Dan Bonnell
Victoria Profitt
A. Jeffrey Schoenberg
Chris Wojcieszyn
Cricket S. Myers
Leesa Freed
David Elzer/Demand PR
Robert T. Kyle
Elephant Set - Studio Scenery
Jonathan Acuna, A.C. Bradshaw, Justin Kief,
Christopher Rivera, Daniel Tuttle
Kathryn Horan
Heather L. Waters
Kelly L. Passinault
Kira Alvarez, Kelly L. Passinault
Ricky Vodka
Michael Lamont

(in order of appearance)

John Hay
Mr. Lincoln
Mrs. Harvey
David Dean Bottrell
James Read
McKerrin Kelly


A university lecture hall in 1909
Lincoln's office at the White House in autumn, 1863

A Note from the Playwright

You could argue that a fascination with heroes is a retreat in despair from the over- whelming problems of our own time. But I would argue back that in dark times we can use a good hero and might as well go with quality. I think of Lincoln as a gift to us all -- 
The only known photograph of President Lincoln (center, with stovepipe hat), giving his Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863
his existence and unlikely career, what he did, said, and wrote, the stories about him that have come down to us. My knowledge of Lincoln had been that of any schoolboy growing up in Los Angeles in the nineteen fifties and sixties. I knew his birthday was February 12, a day we got off from school; he had a funny beard, walked six miles to return two cents, then freed the slaves. And of course, then Ford's Theatre. And there the learning had stopped. The whole impression was fixed, a part of the landscape so familiar I never questioned it -- the good and great man, his penny profile as remote and lifeless as the copper it was stamped on. It was an impression I carried pretty much intact into adulthood, which is to say that as an adult, I looked at Lincoln through the eyes of a child. Somewhere deep in middle age, I started to remedy this defect. When I first read the description of Mrs. Harvey's White House visits in Volume III of Carl Sandburg's The War Years, the tale encapsulated for me everything which was singular about Lincoln's character, particularly his relentless capacity for introspection and change. What made it irresistible was the contrast it provided with George W. Bush's treatment of Cindy Sheehan, who waited in vain outside Bush's Texas ranch in 2005, wanting to ask the president face-to-face why her son had died in Iraq. Being a playwright, I set to work on a play, first by transcribing the dialogue, and soon discovered to my chagrin that once in play format, the Lincoln-Harvey conversations amounted to barely nine pages of script -- hardly long enough for a short one-act, let alone a full-length piece. Nor did the material work on its own as a play exactly. It needed another character, a sort of go-between, to fill in gaps for an audience and serve as host. For this part I enlisted John Hay, Lincoln's secretary. Still more was needed - rounding of character, further layering of theme and plot, more metaphor, more resonance to our own time. I cut, elaborated, stole, invented with abandon. If such liberties were good enough for Shakespeare they were good enough for me. I hope audiences will discover in Better Angels echoes illuminating of our own time. Mainly, though, I hope the play will challenge the vague iconography of "the man on the penny" we've all grown up with, so those who hear it may come away sharing some of my enthusiasm for and curiosity about the remarkable and specific individual who was, to our everlasting credit, our sixteenth president.

-- Wayne Peter Liebman


Brad Brown  Michael Cabler  Diana Foster at United American Costumes
Patty & Andrew Freedman  Brie Quinn  Stephan Socroun
Karolyn Stewart  Phil Torf & House of Props  Wadler Data Systems
Samuel’s Florist


Darin Anthony  Daniel Attias  Barbara Beckley
Larry Biederman  Nathan Birnbaum  James Cromwell
Dog Ear Playwrights  Heather Dundas  Dale Franzen  Daniel Henning
Dustin Hoffman  Melanie Jones  Lost Dogs  Dawson Moore  Amy Ryan
Matt Shakman  Raul Staggs  Jim & Kay Thigpen  Jon Tuttle