Irwin To Present Sangamon Songs State Play in Petersburg This Weekend

By Benjamin Cox on August 4, 2023 at 11:43am

Audiences in Petersburg will get a special musical theater performance of a play about local events from the late 19th Century.

Local Folk singer-songwriter Tom Irwin produced an album of songs in 2012 after he discovered a diary written in 1893 of a teenager who previously lived in his family’s farmhouse in rural Pleasant Plains. The diary entries had been tucked away inside a pie-tin cabinet and left there when the teenager’s family moved West.

Irwin began composing songs based on entries in the notebook as a master’s degree project in 2006 at the University of Illinois-Springfield.

Irwin has performed the songs as a part of his repertoire since the album’s release more than a decade ago. Irwin says the songs covered the teenager, Harry Glen Ludlam’s life from going to a barn dance, shucking corn, to going to the World’s Fair in Chicago.

The songs were turned into a play in 2019, debuting in Petersburg, with Irwin narrating with aid from his sons John Gifford Irwin, who portrays Harry, and Owen Thomas Irwin, who fills in on acoustic guitar. The script was adapted to the stage by John W. Arden and a slide show will accompany the stage play. The play has previously been performed at the Skokie Theater, UIS Performing Arts Center, Hoogland Center for the Arts, Carbondale’s Varsity Center and the Gaslight Theater in St. Louis.

The play will be performed this weekend at the Salem on Seventh Theatre on the west side of the Petersburg square tonight through Sunday. Tonight and Saturday’s show time is 7:30PM, with the Sunday matinee starting at 3PM.

General admission is $20 and can be purchased online at this link or call 217-632-7089.