The Sandy Springs resident is set to perform his heralded one-man show, “The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln,” at Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Sandy Springs Sunday, in honor of Presidents Day Feb. 17.
“Whenever polls are conducted, he’s generally our most admired president,” said Greissman. “For many individuals, Lincoln is a constant inspiration. ... They think if a man who started out with so few advantages can become so successful, they can, too.”
Greissman, in full period costume, has taken audiences on a unique journey as Lincoln for the past 20-plus years. The show’s premise finds Honest Abe back from the grave — in effect, a space-traveling “friendly ghost” — who has appeared to share the secrets of his success and words of wisdom.
“That is what separates this [experience] from the Lincoln lookalikes and impersonators ... in that here Lincoln has a message,” said Greissman.
Sunday marks a rare public performance of Greissman’s nod to Lincoln as he typically plays conventions, professional associations and other special limited engagements.
Proceeds from the church show will go to charity — that venue’s track record for such endeavors and policy of tolerance the chief reasons Greissman chose it for his next show.
For church officials, Greissman’s nuanced work — the message and messenger — made the booking a no-brainer.
“It will be like having the real Abraham Lincoln in person,” said Beryl Grall, chief organizer of the event. “Entertaining our visitors in a meaningful way is a strong tradition here at Northwest.
“Sharing Lincoln’s special and timely message on leadership in times that demand leadership — who better than Abe to teach us about handling the pressing issues of today?”
Greissman has written four books about the nation’s 16th president, who is credited with preserving the Union through the Civil War and severing the then-young country’s ties to the African slave trade.
The Georgia Tech professor of sociology conceived the one-man show more than two decades ago on wings of inspiration brought forth by his other gig at the time, host of “Up Close,” a TV program on TBS. Interviews with luminaries like Ray Charles and Tennessee Williams — and an eye on history — pointed him in the direction of paying tribute to another highly successful American.
“Lincoln had nothing and only one year of schooling ... and he was able to go from a log cabin to the White House,” said Greissman.
“Doing this [one-man] show has taken me to places that I never dreamed I would go.”
That includes a stint aboard the aircraft carrier the U.S.S. Abraham Lincoln, the Georgia Dome and two showings at Ford’s Theater in Washington. The latter venue, unsurprisingly, conjured the most vivid memories as it is where Lincoln was mortally wounded by an assassin’s bullet in 1865.
“It is a surreal experience to stand on the stage and look up to the opera box where Lincoln was sitting that fateful night and to realize I’m standing just a few feet from where John Wilkes Booth landed [after shooting the president],” Greissman said. “It was an amazing experience. ... I don’t know if I’ve had one like it before or since.”
IF YOU GO:
o What: "The Wit and Wisdom of Abraham Lincoln"
o Where: Northwest Unitarian Universalist Congregation, Sandy Springs
o When: Sunday, reception at 6 p.m. and show at 7 p.m.
o Tickets: $50 general; $75 VIP
o Information: www.NWUUC-ABE.brownpapertickets.com