“"Where Lincoln's Legacy Lives"”
Ford’s Theatre celebrates the legacy of President Abraham Lincoln and explores the American experience through theatre and education. A working theatre, historical monument, world-class museum and learning center, Ford’s Theatre is the premier destination in Washington, D.C., to explore and celebrate Lincoln’s ideals and leadership principles: courage, integrity, tolerance, equality and creative expression. Ford’s Theatre History In 1861 theatre manager John T. Ford leased out the abandoned First Baptist Church on Tenth Street to create Ford’s Theatre. Over the next few years, the venue became a popular stage for theatrical and musical productions. On April 14, 1865, Abraham Lincoln visited Ford’s for his twelfth time for a performance of Our American Cousin. At this performance, Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth; he died the next morning in the Petersen House, a boarding house located across the street. Ford’s Theatre remained closed for more than 100 years. Ford’s Theatre officially reopened in 1968 as a national historic site and working theatre. It is operated through a public-private partnership between Ford’s Theatre Society and the National Park Service. Ford’s Theatre Today Through its inspiring theatrical productions, live historic interpretation and engaging education programs, Ford’s Theatre offers visitors the opportunity to immerse themselves in America’s past while revealing meaningful connections to today. Over the last several years, Ford’s has been engaged in a dramatic expansion and renovation. In 2009, Ford’s reopened a restored and renovated theatre along with a re-imagined museum, illuminating the world of Civil War Washington and the years of Lincoln’s presidency. In 2012, Ford’s opened the new Center for Education and Leadership, expanding the pathways for connecting with Lincoln’s legacy.
We just missed the final tour by a few minutes and I asked an employee (who looked like she was sick of tourists) if I could peek in and see the the theatre, to which she replied without much emotion, "no you can come back tomorrow." I asked (politely) if there was a manger I could talk to, as I would be leaving DC tomorrow -to which she replied she was the "supervisor tonight!" And I could "buy tickets to the evening show ($65 per person), if I wanted to. As a former theatre employee myself, I have never met anyone more rude and so disconnected with the theatre world. She looked as if she really didn't want to be there or be bothered by anyone. I was always willing to show any out of town guests the theatre and I have given tours myself, and actually, any theatre I've ever been to (New York, Chicago, London, Toronto, Scotland, etc.), the theatre employees loved that I was into theatre and were very eager to let me in (if even for a few minutes) to see or even chat theatre. Very disappointing for such a historic iconic theater.
Tours are self-guided, though there are National Park Service Rangers all over who are able to answer questions and point you in the right direction. The tour is free, but it is encouraged to "order" tickets ahead of time from their website. The tour begins in the lower level of the theater with a history of politics of the time as well as the Booth family history/plot. Then you can move upstairs to the actual theater and see the box where Lincoln was shot and the stage where Booth jumped and broke his leg. Across the street is the Petersen House where Lincoln was taken and later died. The house is pretty much unchanged, which is cool. It was funny to see how the tiny little house is now situated amongst huge buildings all the way around. Connected to the Petersen house is another exhibit that focuses on the funeral route back to Illinois and the capture of the conspirators. All in all a nice little tour. There is enough stuff to take up a half a day, but you can also be in and out in an hour if you're not into reading every little display. Again, the National Park Service Rangers are just so great, all around DC really. We met one gentleman here, Arthur Doyle (and no I didn't ask him his middle name, though I wanted too!) who we spoke with for 15-20 minutes about Booth and his accomplices and how/why they did things and escaped and so on.
Pretty disappointed in this to be honest. It's cool to see the spot where Lincoln was killed (if a bit morbid) but basically the entire tour is walking up some steps to the balcony and then it's pretty much it. Don't expect much.
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