Stateline Strong: Freeport’s drama duo stage Lincoln-Douglas debate in Washington D.C.

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A Freeport drama teacher relives the memories he made during a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Washington D.C. to dramatize a historic debate between Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas. Tim Connors’ impact went far beyond his class when he educated the world through theater at the National Archives.

Connors played Stephen Douglas, the Democratic opponent to Abraham Lincoln in the 1960 presidential election, during a February 22nd performance at the William G. McGowan Theater, in Washington D.C. Lincoln, his Republican opponent, was also played by a Freeport native, George Buss, during the reenactment for the National Archives.

The dramatic duo portrayed their historical counterparts in front of a large audience in D.C., which was also live-streamed for the world to see.

Buss has taken his stagecraft to Washington one other time, but for Connors, February’s trip was a first. Playing Stephen Douglas is not a role he takes lightly.

“I think of how he would’ve reacted a certain way and how he would’ve spoke in a certain way, and I just get myself into the character and perform as if I am really him,” said Connors. “Not many people play Stephen Douglas. He’s the other guy, there’s no doubt about it, but he loved his nation and he believed that there was nothing better in the world than to have a strong nation, and that’s why I’m really proud to perform Stephen Douglas.”

The Archives sought out Connors and Buss to play the parts of Douglas and Lincoln. They will be performing at the Lincoln Forum in Gettysburg next year, but before then you can catch them on stage locally, throughout the summer, in Freeport.

Having two Freeport residents highlight the Lincoln-Douglas debates in D.C. only makes sense, since debate on the issue of slavery happened in the Pretzel City.

Douglas explained “the Freeport doctrine” during the second debate in 1858. It stated that despite the Supreme Court’s Dred Scott case ruling, slavery could be prevented from any territory by the people prior to the formation of a state constitution.

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