The visit to the Ford Theatre was my personal highlight during a family tour of Washington. Most people say you can't beat the museums, monuments, and a session of congress for free. Maybe not--we did all three and loved it all--but for $5 more than free, our time in Ford Theatre ties it easily. We saw a fascinating two-man play (each actor playing multiple roles), toured the historic theatre where Lincoln was assassinated, visited the house across the street where a doctor would tend to him before the president would pass the next morning, and then saw a fascinating exhibit on the impact of President Lincoln on the people of his day and today.
The play, "One Destiny" features actors Harry Ford and Harry Hawk; Ford is actually a co-owner of the historic Theatre. The two men relive that fateful night and transport the audience through the events, including the action in the play that is interrupted by one fateful pop sounding from the actual presidential balcony stage left. The balcony is draped with bunting befitting its honored place in history. and the audible firing stills their dialogue and rivets the audience.
This particular play has been performed several years, often in spring and early summer. (In 2012 it will continue from March through June 30). There is also the option of attending a National Park Service ranger talk within the theatre. It's highly informative, though not as dramatic as the 35-minute play. Either one will include a visit to the basement museum full of fascinating artifacts, dioramas, and interactive exhibits of Lincoln's life. For details of what's scheduled when you go, as well as background on Lincoln and the theater, look at www.fordstheatre .org
You can choose either and pay $2.50, or for just $2.50 more you can cross the street to visit the Peterson House where the wounded president lay, mortally wounded. The ranger takes you through the house, supplemented with news clips and factoids about the assassination. The Peterson House exhibit ends with an elevator ride up two floors, where you learn about a grieving nation and the search of the several conspirators, including the assassin who had convinced himself he was saving a nation in killing the president.
Attached to the Peterson House is the Center for Education, which includes four galleries. A three-story (34 feet) high tower of books is the Center's focal point. This book tower totals about 6,800 books, less than half the 15,000 titles written about Lincoln. I heard one parent warn her eleven-year-old not to try to push the books, which lie flat at the top and are within reach from the top on the winding staircase. I wonder if some teens have tried to pull one book from the stack. Doesn't matter. I later learned the tower is made of bent aluminum, with the cover "jackets" printed on by the designers of this wonderful, artful tribute.
The Ford Theatre is a live theater, fully restored, and has premium plays in the evening, such ias the Musical 1776 and seasonal fare like A Christmas Carol. I can imagine this beautiful theatre campus wil be alive with visitors in 2015, when the nation recalls the 150th anniversary of the death of our beloved sixteenth American president.
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