When seventh graders Tera Kelly and Alex Moyer created a puppet show depicting Abraham Lincoln's assassination, they never imagined their audience would extend across an ocean.
British Broadcasting Corp. filmmakers on Friday interviewed the students and several of their St. Theresa School classmates for a documentary on the 16th U.S. president.
"I'm fascinated that Abraham Lincoln is like Churchill or Napolean in that he's one of the few figures in history where you recognize their silhouette," BBC producer David Olusoga said. "He's a big part of American culture, but Brits don't know too much about him."
Olusoga and his cameraman came to the Palatine school for its annual Civil War fair, which this year featured a performance by actors Michael Krebs and Debra Ann Miller as the president and wife Mary Todd Lincoln.
Krebs, who stands 6-foot-4 just as the "Great Emancipator" did, has portrayed Lincoln on The History Channel, C-Span's live broadcast re-enactment of the Lincoln-Douglas debates and at presidential libraries.
The actors incorporated humor and stories to depict one of the nation's most tumultuous eras. They also read from replicas of documents, including one of Lincoln's poems and an 1864 letter expressing condolences to Mrs. Bixby, who lost five sons on the battlefield.
Krebs never broke character even he answered students' questions about why he started wearing his famous top hat, recalling how he hung out with eight other tall lawyers in Springfield known as the Long Nine.
"We were poor and needed attention," he said.
Seventh- and eighth-grade social studies teacher Pam Wilk, who first heard the BBC was interested in St. Theresa earlier this month, said news of the documentary will make this year's Civil War lesson especially memorable.
Wilk was impressed at the poise shown by students tapped for interviews, including Kelly and Moyer as they put on their puppet show for what could be an international audience.
"The room went dead silent as soon as we started and I admit I was kind of shaking," Kelly said. "But I think we did a good job."
The unnamed documentary will be released sometime next year.