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The genesis of Penn's portrayal of Abraham Lincoln goes back to 1996 when he was employed by Meansville Baptist Church as a custodian. Pastor Scott Stevens asked Penn about participating in the July 4th festivities in Pike County and suggested he create a personae of a prominent political figure. After much thought, Penn was torn between George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. Feeling that his facial features favored a slight resemblance to Lincoln, he settled on the 16th president.
Using his Father Abraham nose created by a talented friend, Penn embarked on a career of portraying the Kentucky native. And even though the portrayal was developed for the Pike County Independence Day celebration, a friend of Penn's, who ran a herbal shop at a flea market in McDonough asked him to share a brief speech in the early afternoon of the Pike event.
The work of sharing the message of Lincoln in the Deep South has not been without controversy. Confederates [and it is a shame to use that term almost one and a half centuries after the War] have been very vocal in their attempt to denounce both the man, the message and the messenger.
Since June 1996, Penn has performed Lincoln 79 times making the subject one of his most popular. The reality now is the February 17, 2019 event will be number 80, an impressive landmark in the brief career for Lincoln.
For bicentennial of Lincoln's birth in 2009, Penn pondered the possibility of doing a spectacular show honoring the memory of this great president. His enthusiasm was discerned by his friend, who decided to begin planning to create make-up that would transform Penn into a realistic Lincoln and not just a slight resemblance. Unbeknownst to Penn, he purchased two Lincoln life masks that were reputed to be used by the make-up artist who transformed Hal Holbrook into Lincoln for the television miniseries North and South. The latex appliances were created using the masks and three weeks before Thanksgiving, they were tested on Penn's face using Elmer's glue. They seemed to work flawlessly.
The average individual who has a casual interest in history will enjoy the February 17 show. They will be amazed at what they see and hear as Penn has trained vocally to project an historic interpretation of Lincoln's tone and timbre, reported by some historians as being like a high tenor trumpet.
The program, though lengthy (over an hour), will be filled with moments of humor (Lincoln was a noted humorist and storyteller) and charged, quite dramatically perhaps, with the recreation of many Lincoln speeches and proclamations.
Depending on time and schedule as Penn polishes the final presentation, the show will include:
The Gettysburg Address
The Emancipation Proclamation (partial)
1863 Declaration of Thanksgiving
1865 Inaugural speech (whole or in part)
Dear World, My Son Starts School Today editorial
O Captain! My Captain!
When Lilacs Last at the Dooryard Bloomed
Historic Albert E. Bailey story inspired by George Gray Barnard's statue of Lincoln in Cincinnati, Ohio.
The above photos and the following "field" photos were
taken Thanksgiving afternoon, November 27, 2008,
by Derrick Tyson, nephew of the talented make-up artist
who wishes to remain anonymous. To see more of
Derrick's photography talents, see www.flickr.com.
Following are photos taken at the Thomaston-Upson Archives by head archivist, Mrs. Penny Cliff. After each shot, she
physically shuddered at the realistic visual effect of the
Penn shared the 16th President at New Hebron Baptist Church on February 15, 2009. The make-up was done that morning and the following photo was taken prior to Penn leaving the make-up chair literally making him gasp when he saw it:
The 2009 photos at New Hebron were taken by David Russell of Molena:
Please note and realize that the February 17, 2019 portrayal of Lincoln at New Hebron will NOT have Penn in his Lincoln make-up as the appliances have deteriorated. Penn will appear in a fashion similar to the following photo only with silver hair, unless more engagements are booked requiring the use of permanent hair dye: