The Ford’s Theater reopened this week after 18 months of renovation. The first play being performed in the gussied up gem, “The Heavens Hung in Black” by playwright James Still has a run through March 8. The play is about the period between the death of his son Willie and the delivery of the Emancipation Proclamation.
If you do go to the theater, know that the chair Lincoln was sitting in is at the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan, but there is a reproduction in its place. You can still see the nicked picture frame of the portrait of Washington above where Lincoln sat the night John Wilkes Booth shot him in the back of the head. One of Booth’s spurs caught the frame’s edge when he jumped over the railing onto the stage. American flags are draped just like they were the night Lincoln and his wife Mary were enjoying their evening out before it came to an end.
Also on view is the original couch where Major Henry Rathbone was sitting nearby. Rathbone attempted to foil Booth’s escape and was cut by Booth’s knife for his efforts.
Later this spring, an exhibit about Lincoln’s presidency will open in the basement of the theater. In his New York Times article “When a Comedy Turned to Tragedy” Edward Rothstein ponders why the Ford’s Theater has such a hold on our consciousness. It begs the question, I think, about why we are drawn to places where history happened, although our emotional attachment may not be there. Or what makes a place one where we feel a stirring of something bigger than ourselves?
Here is a link to a virtual tour of the theater.