MANKATO — Joshua Kloster is preparing for his finest hour as Abraham Lincoln.
The tall, square-jawed 19-year-old who is a business administration student at Bethany Lutheran College is also a seasoned veteran in Lincoln’s Traveling Troupe, the volunteer company of mostly youth actors and actresses that performs the historical manuscripts written by area Lincoln enthusiast and reenactor Bryce Stenzel.
In past productions, Kloster has portrayed a teenage Abraham Lincoln as well as a Lincoln on the occasion of his presidential nomination. He’s played a Lincoln beset with anxiety as the nation plunges further into Civil War even as the U.S.-Dakota War is breaking out in Minnesota, and he’s played a Lincoln deeply concerned with the South’s recovery as he unwittingly neared the end of his presidency.
Now, in the latest of Stenzel’s Lincoln-related plays — “... We Are Met on a Great Battlefield of the War ...,” which explores the significance of Lincoln’s famous Gettysburg Address in the year of its 150th anniversary — Kloster will play Lincoln during what is perhaps the 16th president’s most iconic moment.
“I’ve played Lincoln about six times,” Kloster said. But when asked if his wealth of previous experience would make it easy to recite one of the most powerful and significant speeches in American history, he replied modestly: “Not quite.”
Even a century and a half after its utterance, the Gettysburg Address continues to astound observers both for its brevity — at 272 words, Lincoln spoke for only a few minutes during the battlefield commemoration ceremony on Nov. 19, 1863 — and its clarity.
In what Stenzel considers the philosophical endpoint to the articulation of the American ideal that began with the Declaration of Independence, Lincoln underscored the argument for human equality while also defining the Civil War as a fight to preserve democracy.