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Actor historians Emma Sargent, John Meehan and Loretta Williams rehearse at the Alton National Cemetery in preparation for the 2014 Vintage Voices tours, Voices of Courage and Conviction. Tours begin each Saturday in October from 1 to 3 p.m.
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Lynn Carter and Amy Miller in front of one of the trees that line the cemetery's walkways.
ALTON — Alton Little Theater will produce Vintage Voices: Voices of Courage and Conviction from 1 to 3 p.m. every Saturday in October at the Alton City Cemetery.
Guided walking tours will originate from the east gate every 12 to 15 minutes and guests will meet 12 actor-docents at nine stops. Mark Hilgert is directing this year’s tours after holding open auditions and reaching out to new community members who love history and want to take a leap of faith into acting.
The former Alton citizens who are depicted are chosen by a committee that included founding stewards Margaret Hopkins and Charlotte Stetson. Many of those portrayed this year came to their turning point in the early 1900s and advocated for changes like giving women the right to vote, desegregating schools and furthering human rights and education for all of Alton’s people. Individuals like Hannah and Joachim Scarritt envisioned Alton and the Mississippi as “national treasures” and held the ideals of education above all else. The cast includes Jerell Williams, who will portray an African-American soldier, Thomas Riley, who fought and died for the Union he loved so much. Another young performer, Emma Surgent, will portray a girl who attended the State Fair in Alton in 1856 and remembers the hope and promise citizens had for their sleepy little river town. Newly retired Red Cross employee Loretta Williams will portray Melissa Van Zant, a suffragette who traveled from California to cast her vote in Alton for women’s rights. Other cast members include Jeff Pruett, Patti Kruegel, Mogen Ruden, Lynn Carter, Don Harlan, Amy Miller, John Meehan, Jacob Henderson and Jared Hennings. Henderson and Hennings are sharing the role of Ambrose Bibb, who became the symbol of desegregating schools in Illinois.
Each actor’s story was extensively researched with the help of Hayner Library’s genealogy department and the Madison County Historical Society. Tickets for the hourlong tours are $12 for adults and $6 for students through high school; tickets are available at the Alton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau, 200 Piasa St. in downtown Alton, and WBGZ radio. Tour guests also can buy tickets at the main gate of the cemetery at Fifth and Vine streets beginning at 12:45 p.m. each Saturday. Tour guests will have a chance to register for tickets to Alton Little Theater’s 81st season shows and the special holiday bonus show, “Always Patsy Cline.”
More information about touring opportunities can be obtained by calling the ALT office at (618) 462-3205.