Celebrating 50 Years: Playing with History

Fifty years ago this February Ford’s Theatre began presenting plays to honor Lincoln’s love of the performing arts. Our mission is to showcase work that focuses on the American experience. Here are a few shows that help us remember our past.

Image of the interior of Ford's Theatre and the cast of the 1968 production of  John Brown's Body dispersed across the stage.
The cast of "John Brown's Body" at Ford's Theatre. The play was the first to be staged at Ford's since the Lincoln Assassination. Ford's Theatre Society photo.
John Brown’s Body
February 1968

Ford’s contracted with the National Repertory Theatre to present the first season of shows since Lincoln’s assassination. The season opened with John Brown’s Body, an epic poem following one Union and one Confederate soldier from John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry to the end of the Civil War. The first season at Ford’s Theatre continued with shows performed at Ford’s during Lincoln’s presidency—She Stoops to Conquer and Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors.

 

Actress Elizabeth Van Dyke wears a checkered dress and a smile, while holding a long cigarette. She is portraying novelist and poet Zora Neale Hurston in the Ford's production of the same name.
Elizabeth Van Dyke photo by Joan Marcus.
Zora Neale Hurston: A Theatrical Biography
January 22-February 23, 1992

Actress Elizabeth Van Dyke brought novelist, playwright and journalist Zora Neale Hurston to life on the Ford’s Theatre stage. Joseph Lewis Edward portrayed four different figures who influenced Hurston, including poet Langston Hughes. Van Dyke went on to share the production around the world in the 1990s and reprised the role in New York City in 2016 to mark Hurston’s 125th birthday.

 

Actors Brooks Ashmanskas, Erin Kruse and Christopher Bloch photo by Carol Rosegg (2012 production).
Brooks Ashmanskas, Erin Kruse and Christopher Bloch photo by Carol Rosegg (2012 production).
1776
March 12-June 8, 2003
and March 9-May 19, 2012

This quick-witted and playful musical about the Founding Fathers has proved a Ford’s fan favorite in the past two decades. 1776 reveals the oppositions and personal conflicts between the delegates from the 13 colonies who came together to sign the Declaration of Independence.

 

A man stands center stage with arms spread as if he is an airplane. He is tap dancing in the play title Fly at Ford's Theatre
Omar Edwards portrayed the Tap Griot in the Ford's Theatre production of Fly, Photo by Scott Suchman.
Fly
September 21-October 21, 2012

Fly shared the stories of four young men who trained in Tuskegee, Alabama, in 1941 to fly combat aircraft in World War II. The production used a tap griot, performed by Omar Edwards, to accompany this play about the Tuskegee Airmen, whose excellence led to the desegregation of the American military.

Sara Cohen is Marketing and Social Media Manager at Ford’s Theatre, where she is proud to share Lincoln’s legacy with the world. Follow her on Twitter at @SaraECohen.