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Ford's Theatre closed by shutdown, but the show must go on

Kendall Helblig

Twenty-five years after lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and allied activists marched on Washington, Ford’s Theatre is holding a series of events to celebrate the anniversary as part of their Lincoln Legacy Project to promote equality.

Because of the government shutdown, though, they have had to get creative.

In honor of this anniversary, and also of the 15th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, Ford’s is putting on "The Laramie Project," a play written 10 years ago about the 1998 high-profile murder of Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming because of his sexuality.

The only problem is that Ford’s is locked out of their theater. Although Ford’s Theatre Society (FTS) is a private, non-profit organization, they cannot access Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, operated by the National Park Service, for their performances.

As the saying goes – the show must go on. The First Congressional United Church of Christ has agreed to let the company move several of the performances to their space, just one block from the Ford’s Theatre building. Because of services, though, the matinee performance on Sunday is cancelled.

Following Friday’s performance, a candlelight vigil will be held in honor of Matthew Shepard, and of National Coming Out Day -- which is also Friday, October 11. Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s father, will be giving remarks.

“We hope this fall’s programming will propel us forward in the spirit of Lincoln’s ideals of understanding, acceptance and reconciliation,” said Ford’s Theatre Director Paul R. Tetreault in a press release before the shutdown.

In light of the last few days, perhaps Washington lawmakers should take another look at Lincoln’s ideals, too.


By Kendall Helblig
McClatchy Washington Bureau