John Dilts, Jim Douglas to square off in re-creation of Lincoln-Douglas debate

BRANDON — Over 150 years ago, Americans struggled with issues of slavery, race, freedom, equality, states’ rights and the role of the federal government. In the 1858 Illinois Senate race, as the country steamrolled toward civil war, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas embarked on a series of debates. Their epic clash of ideas and oratory forged a future president and a nation.
There were seven debates between Lincoln and Douglas all around Illinois from Aug. 21 to Oct. 15, 1858. Nearly a century later, they were the basis of the “The Rivalry,” written by radio pioneer Norman Corwin. The show is in the format of a memory play, with Douglas’ wife, Adele, recalling the debates. “The Rivalry” is a riveting depiction of the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and uses texts from the original debate transcripts to bring to life in an on-stage style of drama, the fierce competition between the future president and the incumbent senator.
The public is invited to experience a live performance of “The Rivalry” just up the road from where one of the candidates, Stephen A. Douglas, was born. The dramatization will be performed in Brandon on July 6, following the town’s Independence Day parade.
The Brandon performance will feature former Vermont governors Madeleine Kunin and Jim Douglas and local talent John Dilts. Following the presentation, there will be a rededication of the Douglas Monument, which was originally presented to the town in 1913 on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of Stephen A. Douglas’ birth. 2013 marks what would have been the 200th birthday of the “Little Giant,” as Douglas was known.
Tickets for the event cost $10 each and children under 12 years old are free, but they must reserve a seat. A reception will follow in the newly renovated lower level of the striking Brandon Town Hall, which was being built right at the height of Lincoln and Douglas’ political careers.
The event will begin at 3:30 p.m. For more information and to purchase tickets, visit www.brandon.org and click on events or call 802-247-6401. The event is being sponsored by the Stephen A. Douglas Birthplace Community Center Inc., and the Friends of the Brandon Town Hall.

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