CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- David Selby's invitation to read the voice of Abraham Lincoln in the FestivALL and state sesquicentennial production of "The Civil War" didn't come just because he's a well-known actor with a nice voice.
Selby is a bit of an Abraham Lincoln scholar.
"I've had a longtime interest in Lincoln and it goes back to my graduate school days in Illinois," Selby said, referring to Lincoln's birthplace. "I was tall — so I was asked to play Lincoln in a show."
Selby, who was to pursue a long career in TV, film and stage, would go on to portray Lincoln several more times, including with President Barack Obama in "The Heavens are Hung in Black" at the reopening of the Ford Theater and in conjunction with Lincoln's 200th birthday.
"Then I went back a year and a half ago and did a new play about Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, who was a black slave," Selby said.
Selby has even written a play, "Lincoln and James," which tells the story of a Vietnam veteran who cared for the statue of Lincoln at the Lincoln Memorial.
Still, Selby says he didn't know what his longtime friend, Kay Goodwin, state secretary of Arts and Education, had in mind when she called and asked if he would participate in the sesquicentennial celebration. He agreed — and later learned he had been tapped to play the part of Lincoln for the Charleston Light Opera Guild's production of the musical "The Civil War."
This afternoon Selby will be there in person to perform his part, dressed as Lincoln. In subsequent productions, a taped version of his voice will be played, and the image of Lincoln will be projected to a screen on stage.
The play, written by Gregory Boyd and Frank Wildhorn with lyrics by Jack Murphy, has been described as a song cycle more than a traditional musical.
Reggie Parks, who plays the abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, said he was not aware of the play until he auditioned for it.