Abe at Ford’s, Jan 1998

Text by Michael Broschat, with Melissa Meier

We didn’t travel very far tonight—just a few blocks down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the White House, and up a couple blocks. That’s where Ford’s Theater stands, the place where Abraham Lincoln was assasinated more than 130 years ago.

His name will always be linked with that place, and for 103 years after his death, the theater was closed. It was right that it was reopened, and it is even more right that it was reborn as a living theater. His box is no longer used (not a great seat, anyway), and it’s alway there, visible to the audience, with its bunting and other presidential decoration.

It’s magical to be there. That it’s a theater for live performance helps, of course. That’s always magical. We willingly suspend disbelief, when we attend a play, and when in that same state you can glance up a bit toward that now vacant box, it isn’t hard to imagine him there, Abe, perhaps the greatest American.

Abe believed in the Union, past a time when most of the rest of the country had lost faith. To this day, I don’t know that he was right. I don’t know that it was better to keep the South, and not just let it stay another country. But, he believed passionately in what he saw as the mission of his forefathers in creating this country, and he, among so many others, lost his life in that struggle.

Ford’s Theater is a place where a lot of these feelings come together, for me anyway. I hope that when you’re in the area, you’ll take the tour (it’s a national park), and then see a show. For many, the museum under the theater is worth the visit. But, if you can feel the place live again by watching a play there, just as Lincoln used to do, you’ll be experiencing the incorporation of history in your own life, and participate in some of the unity that people like Lincoln have been able to make of the past and present time. The future is always harder to incorporate. I guess that’s why visionaries are so rare.

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