Ford’s Theater where Lincoln was shot has reopened

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.

Shakespeare comes alive in Staunton, Virginia

The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia is well known for its natural beauty. Visitors come from far and wide to hike the trails of the Shenandoah National Park and see the vibrant colors of the Blue Ridge Mountains in the fall — but there’s a new reason folks are flocking to the area: the theater.

In 2001, Shenandoah Shakespeare, which was to become the American Shakespeare Center, opened the Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. The playhouse is a replica of Shakespeare’s original indoor theater, and plans are in the works to build an open air replica of the Globe Theater as well.

Visitors to the Staunton playhouse can enjoy a rotating schedule of Shakespeare classics as well as modern plays and concert events in an atmosphere designed to recreate the Elizabethan experience. Next week marks the opening of the ASC’s production of Shakespeare’s Richard II:

An exploration about the nature of greatness is timely fare in an election year. Pitting Richard II, a man of words, against Bullingbrook, a man of action, Shakespeare raises the art of language to new heights while reminding us that rulers “feel want, taste greif, need friends.”

There are pay-what-you-will performances on September 10, 11, and 12, while regular ticket prices start at $20. Also playing this fall are King Lear, Twelfth Night, and Measure for Measure.

Theatre Lovers In For An Interesting Spring On Broadway

Spring is traditionally a busy time on Broadway, but this year, the United States’ most revered commercial theatre institution is offering something a little different. Instead of focusing solely on new musicals — long the mainstay of big-budget New York theatre — it seems that this season it’s plays generating all the excitement.

Starting in May, the more discerning live performance connoisseur can chose from revivals starring the likes of Kevin Spacey, Christopher Plummer, Brian Dennehy and Liev Schreiber. According to Howard Sherman, executive director of the American Theatre Wing, “After many years of hearing that plays on Broadway are a dying breed, the combination of star-driven productions, British imports, and the touring success of Twelve Angry Men, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and Doubt, is demonstrating that there is an appetite, and a commercially viable model, for dramatic theater.”

I was a theatre major in college, so I’m a big dork when it comes to stuff like this. My pick of the season is the revival of Eric Bogosian’s Talk Radio. The script is hysterical, and, by all accounts, Bogosian was fantastic as the central character when the show first ran in 1987. Now, with Liev Schreiber in the lead, it can only get more awesome.

Whether you’re a theatre-lover or not, New York is a great Spring destination, as it’s gorgeous that time of year. It’s not too hot, not too cold, and all the people seem so tired of being cold, lonely, and stuck in their apartments that they’re friendlier than you might expect.