recreate Lincolns through
appearances as lookalike impersonators
VEVAY, Ind. Even before he had his beard, Bill
Wiseman was constantly told he looked like Abraham Lincoln.
"People would always say, 'Do you know you look like Mr. Lincoln?'
" he said sitting in the living room of his farm north of Vevay,
"Even with biking shorts and a helmet on, people were asking for
pictures of him," said his wife, Stasia.
This resemblence to the 16th president has resulted in
this couple's on-and-off portrayal of the First Couple over the past
twenty-five years. Bill and Stacia started the President Lincoln and
Mary Todd impersonations during the Bicentennial Year of 1976. Since
then, they have performed in states ranging from Florida and Kentucky,
and in venues such as Republican banquets, schools, churches and Walt
Disney World's Epcot Center.
They are currently members of Association of Lincoln Presenters, a national
organization, and two years ago they won a prestigious annual Lincoln
lookalike competition in Lincoln's birthplace city, Hodgenville, Ky.
On President's Day this month, the couple will make their first local
appearance as the Lincolns at the Captain's Quarters Bed and Breakfast
on Hwy. 56 near Vevay.
The historic house is believed to have possibly been once visited by
Lincoln, according to its owner Donna Bumstead.
Bumstead has spent a great deal of time researching the house's history
and is currently seeking documentation to support Lincoln's presence
Meanwhile, the Wisemans will present speeches and poems like they have
done so in the past. At times, Bill will deliver the popular Gettysburg
Address and Farewell Address; Stacia will perform anonymous poems she
has found about the Lincoln.
"We don't go into a lot of politics in our show," said Bill.
"We do a lot of family stuff." Bill will often tell stories
and jokes that Lincoln would have told, as he was known to do both in
The Wisemans, both New Jersey natives, have been performing on stage
together for 51 years š when not as the Lincolns, as musicians or theatre
artists. They met while working for a pharmaceutical plant called Hoffman-LaRoche
in Nutley, N.J.
Stacia's family boasted a music background š her father led a Polish
orchestra. It was her father who first encouraged Bill to play the bass
fiddle. They started to perform in musical productions and Christmas
In 1952, they relocated to Eustis, Fla., where they became involved
in community theater. Bill already had a background of theater and drama
at Rollins College.
While living in Florida, the Wisemans experienced the development of
Walt Disney World. A few years later, Bill became involved in the live
nativity at nearby Pleasure Island Village.
He played various others roles, including extras in a couple of feature
films that were being made in Miami. But still he was constantly reminded
of his resemblance to Lincoln. Therefore, the couple continued to portray
the Lincolns, increasing their performances from 15 minutes to 45.
Sometimes, they would perform with their daughter, Sheree. "When
we first did the show, we had our daughter (Sheree Barrell) play a military
drummer," said Stacia. Now Barrell lives in Lawrenceburg, Ind.
"We always enjoyed teasing him that he looked like Lincoln,"
Barrell said of her father. "But my dad studied so hard to learn
his mannerisms and the things he said. He's such a perfectionist when
it comes to portraying him."
The Wisemans have another daughter, Terri, who works as a spa director
for a resort in Palo Alto, Calif. By living so close and performing
at Walt Disney World, it was inevitable that Bill would appear as Lincoln
there. Disney producer Ron Severini asked him to do Lincoln at Disney's
Epcot Center. Bill's Lincoln portrayal took place mostly during special
events and contract-related assignments, a lot of them during the month
of February when many times he stood by for autographs and photographs
The couple came to Vevay in 1999 to be closer to their daughter, Sheree.
Recently, they have become best known for their musical performances
and their efforts in helping to organize the year-round concert series
at the Historic Hoosier Theater in Vevay. They are frequently seen performing
the dulcimer and autoharp at venues such as folk festivals, school,
variety shows and civic clubs.
Bill finds it a more laid-back type of performance. "I don't have
to color my hair. I can tune my dulcimer and go."
In addition, Bill is a woodworker who makes instruments. He teaches
Though the couple has not performed the Lincolns as consistently as
they used to, they have not let go of the memories. "It's kind
of a treasure," said Stacia, indicating the scrapbooks full of
pictures of the couple portraying the Lincolns.
As Bill puts it, "When I get prepared for a Lincoln show and put
on the Lincoln costume, I feel very much like the character."
Bill and Stacia Wiseman will portray the Lincolns
on Feb. 17-18 at the Captain's Quarters Bed & Breakfast, 473 Hwy.
156, Vevay, IN. Bill Wiseman will address the crowd at noon and 2 p.m.
each day. Photos taken with the Lincolns. Admission $2. Call 1-800-HELLO-VV
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