Wednesday, February 11, 2009
America's most famous theatre
Ford's Theatre bills itself "as America's most famous theatre" and that's probably true, although certainly not in a way you'd want to be famous. I saw a show there in 1976, during my first visit to Washington, D.C., when I was in high school. It was the gospel-themed musical Your Arm's Too Short to Box With God.
While I don't remember anything about the musical, I do remember looking up at the presidential box more than once. The history buff in me wondered what it must have been like on that fateful night of April 14, 1865, when John Wilkes Booth entered the box, shot President Lincoln, then leaped to the stage to make his getaway.
Tonight, a day before Lincoln's 200th birthday, Ford's Theatre officially reopens after a $25-million renovation. To mark the occasion, there's an invitation-only gala featuring a host of celebrities and the presentation of the Lincoln Medal to George Lucas and Sidney Poitier.
The theatre also plans a makeover of the type of work it presents, according to its director, Paul Tetreault. The emphasis will be on education and the American experience. "I think we're going to be focused on more important work. It might be funny, it might be serious."
A new play about Lincoln, The Heavens Are Hung in Black, by James Still, is playing there until March 8. Starring David Selby as Lincoln, it covers the five months between the death of the president's son Willie and the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation. It'll be followed by the musical The Civil War from March 27 to May 24.