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

Offered for grades 3-8, Ford’s Lincoln Oratory Festival enables students to experience the power of public speaking to communicate ideas and inspire others. Classrooms study speeches by Abraham Lincoln and work with a Ford’s Teaching Artist over a series of five 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 on one of two festival days in February.

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. Applications for the 2018-19 school year are closed. Applications for the 2019-20 school year will open in June 2019

“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, D.C., 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 D.C. area to continue her acting career here and has been seen at NextStop Theater, at Signature Theatre and in “Freedom’s Song” at Ford’s Theatre.

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 D.C. 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. He is the son of Hilton Felton Jr., musical director of the Ford's Theatre production of "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 more than 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.

Shanara Gabrielle

Shanara Gabrielle is an actor, director, and educator, creating in a variety of different mediums, who has worked across the country and abroad. Shanara believes in the transformative power of the creative arts and the potency of language! She holds a B.F.A. from Webster University and has taught in every environment from Pre-K to Universities to Senior Centers. In D.C., you may see Shanara on stage at Shakespeare Theatre Company, Arena Stage, Imagination Stage, Folger Theatre and more. Shanara has worked at theatres across the country and appeared in film, television, and commercials. She is a proud member of AEA and SAG-AFTRA. This is Shanara’s first year with Ford’s Education.

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 and the Kennedy Center, among others.

Michele Vicino-Coleman

As a Teaching Artist, Michele frequently works with Imagination Stage, Shakespeare Theatre Company and Round House. Previously, Michele was an Elementary School Teacher with MCPS, and the Theatre and Choral Arts teacher at Archbishop Carroll High School in Northeast D.C., 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 theatres and Levine Music. She holds an MA in Theatre Education from The Catholic University of America.

Cecilia Cackley

Cecilia Cackley is a Mexican-American playwright and puppeteer based in Washington, D.C. She is the artistic director of Wit's End Puppets and co-creator of their shows "Cabinets of Kismet," "Saudade" and "Malevolent Creatures." Her bilingual children's plays have been presented by GALA Hispanic Theatre and toured to D.C. schools. Cecilia is an affiliated teaching artist with Imagination Stage, Capitol Hill Arts Workshop and Ford's Theatre. Internationally, she has performed or taught workshops in France, Canada, Armenia, Guatemala and El Salvador. She is a proud company member of GALA Hispanic Theatre and Young Playwright's Theater. This is Cecilia’s second year with Ford’s Education Department.

Khaleshia Thorpe-Price

Khaleshia Thorpe-Price has worked as an arts educator since 2000. She has facilitated residencies and workshops for children and adults for Wolf Trap, Arena Stage, Young Playwrights’ Theater, Young Audiences of Maryland, Folger Shakespeare Library, Shakespeare Theatre Company and M-NCPP. As an arts manager, she has coordinated workshops and residencies for thousands of students and educators in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. This is Khaleshia’s second year working with Ford’s Education Department.

Rebecca Swislow

Rebecca is a Chicago native and a professional actor with extensive performance experience in various markets. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Emory University with her BA in Theater Studies and Psychology and went on to earn her MFA in classical acting from the Shakespeare Theatre Company’s Academy for Classical Acting at George Washington University. She also completed actor training programs with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art and the Moscow Art Theatre School. Rebecca has worked as a Teaching Artist for Ford’s Theatre and the Shakespeare Theatre Company with children and adults of all ages, creating curriculum and leading workshops on acting, movement, voice and oratory techniques. She also works as a freelance consultant/coach, preparing clients for interviews, public-speaking presentations, and special opportunities. This is Rebecca's fifth year working with Ford's Education Department.