Bringing down the House (and President)

In Theatres on June 23, 2011 at 3:32 am

Another NPS site in DC, although this one wasn’t a behind-the-scenes. Still pretty amazing though – today we’re talking Fords Theatre.

Famous as the place where Abraham Lincoln breathed his last, Fords Theatre is not actually the place where he died! Lincoln WAS shot here on April 14, 1864, but he died of his injuries in the early hours of the following morning across the road in the Petersen House. Usually part of the visitor experience, the Petersen house is currently undergoing major renovations, and so all we got to see was the theatre.

The theatre itself has been recently renovated, and after getting a free timed ticket, you are ushered into the auditorium to take your seats. We got front row of the circle, opposite the presidential box – perfect place to sit and get photos. The format is quite refreshing, because you have an NPS Park Ranger talk to you for about 15 minutes on the history of Fords, and he talks you through the night of the assassination in great detail.

It was fascinating – our Park Ranger was awesome (I think they all are, but my internship with the NPS may have damaged my objectivity on that front) and you really were on the edge of your seat for the whole thing; it’s old-fashioned storytelling at its best. It was short, perhaps a bit too short for my liking, but it is a cool way to learn a bit more about famous moment in American history, and a refreshing change from the usual.

I learned a lot I didn’t know. For instance, John Wilkes Booth (the gunman) was actually a very famous actor – imagine Leonardo DiCaprio shooting Barack Obama and you’re getting to understand what a weird, weird thing this was to happen. I thoroughly recommend a visit for more trivia and entertaining history like this – the Park Rangers are always worth listening to.

You can also visit Fords to see a play some evenings – unfortunately I missed the season by a couple of weeks, but they have three or four productions a year. Tickets are reasonably priced, and boxes are dirt cheap, although you’re sat in there entirely at your own risk…


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