With the United States’ government still shut down for over a week (with no real signs of progress), the disturbing statistics still remain intact and continue to compile. Though 800,000 employees were furloughed at the beginning of the government shutdown, less than half have returned; all though have no guarantee in back pay.
Some of these unfortunate employees that have been furloughed are the staff members of Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C. Because the theatre falls under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, the staff has been deemed non-essential causing their temporary lay-off.
This theatre has become a prominent fixture in the LGBT community, especially in an area that teeters so close to the stigma of the “American South.” Since a march on Washington twenty-five years ago, this theatre has held events to celebrates that anniversary in part of their Lincoln Legacy Project, a series of events to promote Abraham Lincoln’s ideas of equality.
However, because of the shut down, their production of The Laramie Project has been placed in a position where the staff has become more creative in defining “theatre.” Even though this represents the fifteenth year anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death, the doors to the theatre are locked, and the play cannot perform in the designated space.
However, due to the grace of The First Congressional United Church of Christ, the show may go on at the cost of a Sunday matinée. Tomorrow’s performance (October 11th) will be followed by a candle-light vigil to remember Matthew and to commemorate National Coming-Out Day.
D.C. theatre only seems to get attention when it concerns 1st State Street or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but this must be a notable exception not because of the circumstance, not because of the production, but because of those who understand that some stories (like Matthew’s) have to be told.
The bickering of the American body politic has real effects on the nation, but this is an instance of a blatant resistance to the government. Even though this is not a case of censorship, this play creates controversy wherever it travels in whatever iteration it manifests itself in. However, this is not about controversy or resistance.
This is about the tenacity of the artists who are playing these roles and telling these stories. It is about a community who have come together to understand that Matthew cannot be forgotten. It is about inspiring hope and reaching out to those who may become Matthew, Billy Lucas, Tyler Clementi, Ryan Halligan, and many hundreds more.
I am from this area of the world, and since moving to the Boston area, the theater news that has reached this far north has been scarce.
But this needs attention.
- Ford’s Theatre closed by shutdown, but the show must go on (mcclatchydc.com)