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“Almost President” to be performed Nov. 3

Posted on Tuesday, October 30, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Another performance of a play about Pike County politician and presidential candidate Champ Clark has been scheduled.

The two-act production “Almost President” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Hannibal Arts County gallery at 105 S. Main in Hannibal across from the B & B Theaters.

The free performance is sponsored by the Hannibal Arts Council and is part of the 50 Miles of Art Fall Studio and Gallery Tour.

The play features drama, deception, suspense, a wistful tune and a little humor to tell the true tale of how Clark came within an eyelash of winning the 1912 Democrat presidential nomination.

Going into the convention, Clark, who served as the powerful Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, was the acknowledged front-runner. However, a bit of political treachery by a former friend helped derail Clark’s aspirations.

The campaign is set against the backdrop of an America that was on the cusp of becoming a world power while struggling to tackle issues such as a diverse economy, proposals for higher taxes and women’s voting rights.

The production was written by Louisiana resident Brent Engel, a former newspaper reporter and television assignment editor who currently is public relations officer at the not-for-profit North East Community Action Corporation (NECAC).

“We’re thrilled to get another chance to perform ‘Almost President,’” Engel said. “We had very successful shows in Bowling Green for the Champ Clark Heritage Festival and Clarksville for Applefest. We appreciate the Hannibal Arts Council giving us a stage.”

Had Clark won the Democrat nomination, he likely would have gone on to defeat Republican incumbent President William Howard Taft, Progressive Party nominee and former President Theodore Roosevelt and Socialist Party candidate Eugene Debs.

Engel said that many of the issues Americans are confronting in 2012 were the same ones people faced in 1912.

“Clark said that ‘Every dollar wrung from the taxpayers beyond the needs of government economically and efficiently administered is an outrage on justice and patriotism, even though done under the forms of law,’” Engel said. “In 2012, we’re faced with an election that will alter the course of our nation’s history. The same was true in 1912, and the ramifications of what happened are still being felt.”

Clark continued as Speaker of the House until 1919, but was defeated for re-election to Congress in 1920. He died the next year in Washington two days before his term ended and is buried in Bowling Green.

The cast features Engel as the narrator; Chad Perkins as Champ Clark; Curt Mitchell as Woodrow Wilson; Dan Long as William Howard Taft; Bill Maxwell as William Jennings Bryan; Abby Johnson as Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt; CynDee Jones as Anna Howard Shaw; Karen St. Clair and Dianna Clair as convention-goers; and Adam Engel as Song Boy.

Four members of the audience will be asked to briefly portray Democrat Convention attendees.