Eight people stand on a stage and look out at the audience. Behind them a jumbled pile of television screens all show images from a candlelight vigil.
The cast of the Ford’s Theatre production of The Laramie Project, directed by Matthew Gardiner. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

50 Years of Exploring the American Experience through Theatre

2 min read

On Lincoln’s 158th birthday, Ford’s Theatre reopened as a working theatre, presenting its first play since the evening of Lincoln’s assassination. Since that performance of John Brown’s Body on February 12, 1968, Ford’s has honored Lincoln’s legacy and his love of the performing arts for nearly 50 years. On the blog this season, we look forward to highlighting a few productions since the reopening.

Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope

September 15-October 10, 1971

April 18-September 15, 1974

Ford’s debuted this Broadway-bound musical revue exploring the challenges the black community faces in America. The show was conceived and directed by Vinnette Carroll, who is honored in the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. The Broadway run received four Tony nominations, including Best Musical and Best Director of a Musical for Carroll.

Beau Jest

September 21-October 24, 1993

Isabel Rose and Sal Viviano photo by Stan Barouh.
Actors Isabel Rose and Sal Viviano on set for Beau Jest at Ford’s. Photo by Stan Barouh.

Ford’s has presented its shares of comedies as well as dramas. In this romantic romp by James Sherman, Sarah, a Jewish girl, tells her parents she’s dating a Jewish doctor. She’s actually dating a non-Jewish businessman, but she falls for the (also non-Jewish) actor whom she hires to impersonate her ideal man.

Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992

January 30-February 14, 1997

Photo of Anna Deavere Smith by Ken Freidman
Anna Deavere Smith in a performance of Twilight: Los Angeles, 1992 at Ford’s Theatre, Photo by Ken Freidman.

Three years after her Broadway run, actress and playwright Anna Deavere Smith brought her one-woman show to Ford’s Theatre. Smith performed monologues she gathered from first-hand sources reacting to the Los Angeles riots of 1992. Smith’s show was an early example of “verbatim theatre”— journalistic plays based on direct quotes.

The Laramie Project

September 27-October 27, 2013

Cast of The Laramie Project at Ford’s Theatre. Photo by Carol Rosegg.

Another example of verbatim theatre is The Laramie Project, which details how the residents of Laramie, Wyoming, reacted to the tragic murder of Matthew Shepard, a young gay man, in 1998. Ford’s produced this revival of the show to mark the 15 years since Shepard’s death.

Sara Cohen is Marketing and Social Media Manager at Ford’s Theatre. Follow her on Twitter at @SaraECohen.

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Sara Cohen is Marketing and Social Media Manager at Ford's Theatre.

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