Despite the fact that Ford’s Theatre Society is a private institution, it’s the latest casualty of the government shutdown. The company, which was scheduled to host its opening-night production of The Laramie Project in the historic theater tonight, has been informed that it won’t be allowed to use the space while the shutdown continues.
Although the company is privately funded and maintained, it operates within the Ford’s Theatre National Historic Site, which is managed by the National Park Service (all national parks and national park sites are currently closed). During previous government shutdowns, Ford’s was able to go ahead with its performances as usual. Unfortunately, despite mixed messages it’s received over the past few days, Ford’s has now been made aware that it won’t be able to use the theater space while the government is closed.
Tonight’s opening night performance of The Laramie Project has been moved to Woolly Mammoth Theatre’s rehearsal space, with no word yet on future performances. The show is timed to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man whose murder in 1998 shocked the country and led to new federal laws regarding hate crimes.
Devised by Moises Kaufman and the Tectonic Theater Project, the show explores the reactions to and aftermath of Shepard’s death, using a documentary theater approach to reenact courtroom testimony, other moments from the trial, and interviews with Shepard’s friends and family. Ford’s current production, directed by Signature Theatre’s Matthew Gardiner, is part of the institution’s Lincoln Legacy Project, an initiative that uses theater, educational programs, and other events to promote tolerance and respectful dialogue.