George McGee, right, as “Henry Clay” on the Kennedy Center stage with fellow Kentucky Chautauqua characters Jim Sayer (“Abraham Lincoln”), left, of Lawrenceburg; Betsy B. Smith (“Emilie Todd Helm”) of Cynthiana; Barbara Flair (“Mary Owens” – Lincoln’s “first” Mary) of Greensburg. Smith is an ’86 GC alum and wife of Ed Smith of Georgetown College’s Theatre & Performance Studies department.
Thousands of Georgetown alumni and friends know George McGee as the colorful and pains-taking College Maskrafters director. On Feb. 2, hundreds more arts patrons were introduced to him as “Henry Clay,” the Kentucky Chautauqua character he performed once again along with a large cast assembled by the Kentucky Humanities Council for “Our Lincoln” at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
To feel some of the “WOW factor” you should really read Rich Copley’s account of the evening that was stripped across page A-1 of the Lexington Herald-Leader the next day.
McGee, chairman of Georgetown’s relatively new Theatre & Performance Studies department, said: “Playing the Kennedy Center is a great honor…the hall itself is a concert hall, dedicated for large groups of musicians…not like a Broadway stage. For a single actor…it’s a real challenge…a big open mouth of a hall ready to swallow you whole.”
He couldn’t say enough about Virginia Smith Carter, executive director of the Kentucky Humanities Council, and her organization. “They did a fantastic job to bring all the different groups together. It was a great showcase for the arts in Kentucky. I’m really proud of what we put together…so much talent!”
On a more personal note, he said, “Working with Nick Clooney and Bob Edwards is always fun. I was asked to do the backstage voice introduction for Congressman Ben Chandler. Just before my cue I looked back over my shoulder and there was Bob Edwards and Nick Clooney…I thought to myself…”What the heck were they thinking?” Me introducing Ben Chandler, with these guys right here? Kind of like being told to pinch hit with two outs in the bottom of the ninth of an all-star game with Mickey Mantle and Hank Aaron still on the bench ready to play. I got through it but didn’t look at Bob or Nick as I headed backstage to get ready for my ‘Clay’ entrance.”
KHC’s Smith e-mailed: “This evening will always be one of the highlights of my life and a shining achievement of the Kentucky Humanities Council. We honored Abraham Lincoln, we demonstrated what we mean by ‘Telling Kentucky’s Story,’ and we gave the nation a good look at the wealth of Kentucky talent in doing so. I am so proud of everyone involved.”