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Ford's Theatre reopens with new Lincoln play


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  • Ford's Theatre reopens with new Lincoln play

    Ford's Theatre reopens with new play on Lincoln

    Posted 1h 1m ago

    By Brett Zongker
    Associated Press Writer
    via USA TODAY

    WASHINGTON — Scenes from a new play that goes beyond the Honest Abe myth to explore the 16th president's torments and humor will cap a star-studded night Wednesday at Ford's Theatre to celebrate its $25 million makeover.

    The Heavens are Hung in Black recently made its world premiere at the theater, which is reopening after an 18-month renovation that includes new, more comfortable seats, a revamped museum and a new lobby that showcases the bloodstained coat that Abraham Lincoln wore when he was shot in 1865.

    "You can experience the myth in a very moving way by going to the Lincoln Memorial ... That's not what I was writing about," said playwright James Still. "It's sort of when he gets off of that big chair in the memorial, then what happens?"

    President Barack Obama, who has evoked Lincoln's legacy, studying his words for the inauguration and using the same Bible to take the oath of office, has been invited to attend the Wednesday gala before he flies to Illinois for the celebration of Lincoln's 200th birthday. Besides scenes from the play, tribute performances for Lincoln will include appearances by Katie Couric, Kelsey Grammer, James Earl Jones and others on stage. Sidney Poitier and George Lucas will be presented the Lincoln Medal.

    The production of the new play, nearly three hours in length, reflects a shift in the theater's programming strategy, which was more often known for its light, tourist-friendly fare. The theater now wants to focus on education and the American experience.
    At Ford's, the theater box where Lincoln was shot is still dressed with flags and an image of George Washington, as it had been when the president came to see a performance of Our American Cousin, less than two weeks after the Civil War had ended.

    "Imagine, the theater is full. The orchestra conductor could see the president coming" in from the back, Tetreault said. "They stop the action on the stage, the orchestra played Hail to the Chief ... and the audience broke out into applause."

    John Wilkes Booth struck less than two hours later.

    Ford's was closed for many years after the April 14, 1865, assassination, and only reopened as a theater in 1968. Today's theater, which draws about 1 million visitors a year, is a historical re-creation, though not exact, of how the playhouse looked in Lincoln's day based on the photographs of Mathew Brady.

    The newest renovations make it a better space for audiences, replacing the uncomfortable wooden-back chairs with 658 plush maroon seats, fewer obstructed views, improved acoustics and new heat and air conditioning systems.

    Future plans call for building a Lincoln Center for Education and Leadership across the street as part of a $50 million-plus capital campaign. Much of the fundraising is already complete.
    Ford's Theatre reopens with new play on Lincoln -
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006

  • #2
    Re: Ford's Theatre reopens with new Lincoln play

    I've had the opportunity to visit Ford's Theatre twice, it is one of the must-see historical locations in this country. It's the site of not one but to two great tragedies in our nation's history and you can feel it when inside.

    June 9
    Three interior floors of Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC collapse, resulting in 22 government clerks killed and 68 injured. From 1893-1931 the building would serve as a warehouse and a publications depot for the Adjutant Generals Office of War Department and in 1932 it would be transferred over to the National Park Service.
    "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006


    • #3
      Re: Ford's Theatre reopens with new Lincoln play

      So, is the booth Lincoln was assassinated in still original? Or was that replaced after the collapse? Does it still have the holes in the wall John Wilkes Booth carved out before he killed our president?

      What original elements does the theatre still have intact?


      • #4
        Re: Ford's Theatre reopens with new Lincoln play

        From James L. Swanson's 'MANHUNT: The 12-Day Chase for Lincoln's Killer':

        "After the assassination, Ford's Theatre survived arson, abandonment, and disaster. (Secretary of War Edwin M.) Stanton vowed that the site of Lincoln's murder must never again serve as a house of laughter and public entertainment. He surrounded it with guards, ordered it closed, and confined John T. Ford in the Old Capitol prison for thirty-nine days."
        "It was too much for Stanton. He seized Ford's Theatre again in the name of public safety. The government sentenced the building to death as a playhouse, and paid a contractor $28,500 to gut the interior. All evidence of its appearance on the night of April 14, 1865 - the gaslights, the decorations, the furniture, the stage, and the President's box - vanished, either destroyed or carted away. By late November 1865, a little more than seven months after the assassination, the once beautiful theatre had been defaced beyond recognition and relegated to a drab, three-floor office building."
        Interest in returning the building to its appearance as of the night of Lincoln's death didn't come to fruition until 1968, when Ford's Theatre was reopened to the public. According to a NPS publication, the furnishings were:
        A Major Overhaul at Ford's Theatre National Historic Site Raises a Few Eyebrows | National Parks Traveler
        "If you don't know how to draw, you don't belong in this building" - John Lasseter 2006


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