Working with a Ford’s Teaching Artist, students bring Lincoln’s words to life through a group performance.

Offered for grades 3-8, the Ford’s oratory residency and festival program enables students to experience how the power of public speaking can communicate ideas and inspire others. Classrooms study speeches by Abraham Lincoln and work with a Ford’s Teaching Artist over a series of classroom visits to stage performances of the speeches. Throughout the program, students expand their vocabulary, develop public-speaking skills and build confidence as they bring Lincoln’s historic words to life. The program culminates with students sharing their work. 

Local Residency and Festival

For classes in the D.C. area

Up to 20 classes in the D.C.-metro area participate in the local festival, with five school visits from a Teaching Artist and a performance on the Ford’s stage. Festival performance dates take place in early February.

“Thank you for the great experience of … get[ting us] on stage to get our jitters out and boost our confidence. You also boosted my speaking skills by not being afraid to be in front of a big crowd.”

- Brandon, Fifth Grader, Brent Elementary, 2016

Distance Learning Oratory Opportunity

Lincoln Online Oratory Project

For classes around the country and the world

Any class can participate. The first 10 classes to apply will get three free virtual visits with a Teaching Artist. Share and comment on one another’s speeches via YouTube.

Meet Our Teaching Artists

Ashley Buster

Ashley grew up just outside of Washington, DC in Silver Spring, MD. She earned a BA in Broadcasting Telecommunications and Mass Media and Theater from Temple University in Philadelphia, PA and is currently earning her MA in Educational Leadership and Supervision from Loyola University Maryland. After living in New York and singing for Royal Caribbean International, Ashley moved back to the DC area to continue her acting career her and has been seen at NextStop Theater, Signature Theater, and in “Freedom’s Song” at Ford’s.

W. Ellington Felton

W. Ellington Felton is an Actor/Singer/Poet/Father, a native Washingtonian and product of DCPS School Without Walls. He studied Acting at Carnegie Mellon University Theatre Conservatory and returned to DC as a selected Company Member of Arena Stage's "Living Stage.” Using his theatrical training and improvisational skills developed as a full time musician, Felton is able to introduce various facets of the arts through what he calls "EDUTAINMENT.” He is an artist committed to social change in the classroom and on the various stages he performs worldwide. The son of Hilton Felton Jr., musical director of Ford's Theatre's "Five Guys Named Moe,”

Heidi Fortune

Heidi Fortune is a professional actor and teaching artist. Heidi holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Webster University Conservatory of Theatre Arts and a MA in Arts Administration from Winthrop University. Heidi has worked as a teaching artist for over a decade, most recently at Boys & Girls Clubs in South Carolina. At Boys & Girls Clubs, Heidi worked with hundreds of children to produce over 30 plays and 50 original student films. The program she created won many grants and awards, including a highly competitive National Endowment for the Arts grant and a national award from Comcast, Disney, and Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

James Johnson (J.J)

Johnson is a teaching artist and professional actor raised in Front Royal, VA and holds a BFA in Theatre from Virginia Commonwealth University. Johnson has worked with Theater J, Arena Stage, Ford's Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre, Imagination Stage, Kennedy Center, among others.

Michele Vicino-Coleman

As a Teaching Artist, Michele frequently works with Imagination Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company, and Round House Theater. Previously, Michele was an Elementary School Teacher with MCPS, and the Theatre and Choral Arts teacher at Archbishop Carroll High School in NE DC, where she established a new Theatre Program. In addition to her TA work, Michele is a singer, actor, director, and music director for school programs, local theaters, and Levine Music. She holds an MA in Theatre Education from The Catholic University of America.

Cynthia Webb-Manly

Cynthia L. Webb-Manly is originally from Detroit, Michigan. Cynthia recently completed a master’s degree in Theatre Production from Central Washington University. Undergraduate studies include a major in Speech Communications and minor in Theatre and Psychology from George Washington University. She is also a former member of the US Navy. As an undergraduate she competed with the Forensics Team winning numerous awards for informative and persuasive speaking, poetry interpretation and dramatic duo presentation and wrote art reviews for the student newspaper. Cynthia was a middle school theatre teacher at a local girls school and has taught classes for Little Theatre of Alexandria, Adventure Theatre Musical Theatre Center and served as a presenter for the Legacy Project with the Helen Hayes Society.