Opera salutes ‘A Shirt-Tail Boy Named Abe'

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Program was part of local bicentennial offerings

By Linda Ireland

Who stood 6-feet-4

Out under the sun?

That’s 2-inches taller

Than George Washington.

“Abraham Lincoln” from “A Shirt-Tail Boy Named Abe”

The opera “A Shirt-Tail Boy Named Abe” was, by most accounts, the most unusual offering for the Feb. 12 Lincoln Bicentennial.

The musical theater was a production of the University of Kentucky Opera Theatre and Schmidt Opera Outreach Program. It was sponsored by Lincoln Days Celebration Inc., Dr. E. Britt Brockman and John Kenyon American Eye Institute.

The 40-minute opera was presented at the Hodgenville Civic Center to an audience of about 250. Dr. James Rodgers, who wrote the play, was in attendance for its inaugural performance.

Four singers described young Abraham Lincoln’s qualities of tenacity, curiosity and honesty and some of his lesser known accomplishments such as starting the tradition of Thanksgiving and the National Day of Prayer. One touching scene showed young Abe’s encounter with a slave on the road in front of his Knob Creek cabin.

Betty Powell, who attended the opera with two friends, said the scene “brought tears to her eyes.”

There were humorous moments as well, including scenes from Abe’s blab school and a rap song “No one did it better than young Abe Lincoln.”

The audience rewarded the actors with a standing ovation.

Lincoln Days president Jeff Hughes credited the Hodgenville performance to Brockman’s generosity. He wasn’t sure how well it would be received by residents, but thought it a worthwhile project.

“I told him ‘to bring it on,” he said.


Lincoln Days sponsored its annual luncheon at noon at Abraham Lincoln Elementary School. The keynote speaker was Capt. Michael E. Jabaley Jr., a 20-year U.S. Navy veteran.

Lincoln presenter Jim Sayre of Lawrenceburg was presented the Richard Burks Lincoln Heritage Award. It is awarded to an individual or organization in recognition of efforts to perpetuate the history of LaRue County and the ideals of Abraham Lincoln, according to Hughes.

Sayre has spent 30 years promoting LaRue County as if it were his “real” birthplace, Hughes said. “Like Lincoln, he, too is a Kentuckian. Whenever he travels across the United States, he never fails to speak of LaRue County, its history and its hospitality.”

Sayre is a U.S. Army veteran. He retired after 46 years in the transportation industry to devote time to family and projects. He is a member of the National Lincoln Presenters Association and a presenter for the Kentucky Humanities Council Chautauqua series.

For more Lincoln Bicentennial coverage, see 4A.