This collection consists of the administrative, promotional, and production materials of The Great American People Show (GAPS), a non-profit theatre company based in Lincoln's New Salem, in Petersburg, Illinois, from 1976-1996.
Founded by University of Illinois theatre professor John Ahart, GAPS performed works showcasing American history, with a particular focus on the life of Abraham Lincoln. Their signature piece was Your Obedient Servant, A. Lincoln (John Ahart, 1976), which the company performed every year until 1993, and reprised in 1995. The company put on several plays with a Lincoln focus written by Ahart, as well as popular American plays, such as Thornton Wilder's Our Town. Plays were performed at the restored pioneer village of New Salem (Menard County, Illinois), where Abraham Lincoln lived from 1831-1837. They were specifically performed in the Kelso Hollow Outdoor Theatre from 1976 to 1991 and the Visitors Center Indoor Theatre from 1992 to 1995. GAPS won a number of awards and honors, including the Governor's Award for the Arts in 1980, and was named the "Official State Theatre of Lincoln and the American Experience" by the Illinois legislature in 1994.
This collection contains administrative material, such as board minutes, financial records, and grant applications, as well as publicity and promotional materials, such as programs, audience feedback surveys, photographs, newsletters, advertisements, and newspaper clippings. In addition, play scripts, sheet music, reel-to-reel tapes and audio cassettes are also included.
This collection was donated by three members of the GAPS Board of Directors: Dianne Toalson of Champaign, Cathryn Wood of Petersburg, and Robert W. Johannsen, a professor of history at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The bulk of the materials were donated to the Library in 1998, with Toalson donating additional records in 2000. The collection also includes two large posters whose donor is unknown, and some mailings and other ephemera collected by library staff.