Ford’s Theatre begins phased reopening

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Ford's Theatre's reopening (Part 1)

Early in the pandemic, the future was uncertain for D.C.’s historic Ford’s Theatre.

“There’s no more idea of ‘back to normal,'” Ford’s Theatre director Paul Tetreault told WTOP back in April. “What we’re talking about is back to a ‘new normal.’ Life as we know it is going to be very different when we return from this crisis.”

That return begins Wednesday, as Ford’s Theatre kicks off a phased reopening.

“We are thrilled to be finally opening the site for visitation,” Tetreault said. “Obviously, we’re not going to be opening for theatrical performances for some time, but we’re thrilled that we’re going to be able to open the historic theater and the museum so that people can come that in a limited capacity on timed entry [with] advanced tickets.”

Ford’s will offer a modified schedule for daytime visitation on Wednesdays through Sundays from 10 a.m. to noon and from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. The site will be closed during the 1 p.m. hour for cleaning. Tickets will become available each Friday prior.

“We are just opening under the phase two guidelines by the city,” Tetreault said. “We are opening for timed admission, 25 people per hour that we’re going to pull through the theater, everyone must wear mask, everyone’s going to be temperature checked.”

The Petersen House, a.k.a. The House Where Lincoln Died, will remain closed across the street, as will the Aftermath Exhibits at the Center for Education and Leadership.

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews Ford's Theatre's reopening (Part 2)

Meanwhile, theatrical productions remain postponed. Instead, the annual holiday production of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” will be produced as a radio play.

“We’re really excited to be able to offer [this radio play], not only for our audiences who have experienced the ‘Christmas Carol’ holiday tradition for over 35 years, but also for the actors and performers, many who have been in the production for five to 10 years.”

When productions resume in the spring, shows will focus on Civil Rights icons.

“As we plan for the future, we are committed to using our power to tell stories that speak to the present moment with courage, hope, inspiration, joy and healing,” Tetreault said. “I hope our revised 2020-2021 season is a reflection of those values.”

It starts with the D.C. premiere of “My Lord, What a Night.” Written by Deborah Brevoort and directed by Sheldon Epps, the play explores physicist Albert Einstein’s friendship with contralto Marian Anderson before her historic concert at the Lincoln Memorial. Felicia Curry will play Anderson and Christopher Bloch will play Einstein.

After that, get ready for Katori Hall’s “The Mountaintop,” which re-imagines the events from the night before the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968. KenYatta Rogers will play Dr. King and Shannon Dorsey will play the role of Camae.

The spring season will end with a new production of “Necessary Sacrifices,” written by Richard Hellesen and directed by Psalmayene 24. The play premiered at Ford’s in 2012, exploring the two documented encounters between Frederick Douglass and Abraham Lincoln during a period of national crisis. Wallace will play Douglass.

“I am excited to join our craftspeople and audiences when we safely return to Ford’s Theatre,” Wallace said. “This season’s works are sure to stimulate conversation and debate as well as entertain. COVID-19 paused us, but did not stop us!”

Before COVID, Ford’s welcomed an estimated 750,000 visitors per year.

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