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Theater gets interactive

Courtesy Ford’s Theatre

Live theater is not just for stages anymore.

Although sitting down in a comfortable chair to see a play or a musical will always be a part of the theater experience, today’s theater scene offers much more than passive entertainment. Production companies, theaters and other organizations offer groups opportunities to have interactive encounters in some of the country’s hottest theater destinations.

Travelers who love getting in on the action can find a variety of ways to go beyond being an audience member. In New York, numerous production companies participate in the Broadway Classroom program, which gives visitors the opportunity to learn about theater firsthand. And numerous other organizations have developed theatrical experiences that unfold in the city streets, allowing travelers to participate in an improvised show that unfolds in real time.

If you have theater buffs in your group, consider treating them to one of these interactive theater experiences.

History on Foot
Ford’s Theatre found permanent notoriety in Washington, D.C., and across the country when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated there. Today, the building serves as both a historic site and a working theater, and offers a number of interesting theater experiences for groups.

In addition to a scheduled season of full-length plays, the theater runs two historical productions that deal with Lincoln’s life, death and legacy. In addition to these shows at the building, though, groups can take a tour with the theater staff that teaches them more about the Lincoln story.

“We have a history-on-foot tour called ‘Investigation Detective McDevitt,’” said director of education Sarah Jencks. “Detective James McDevitt was a real police detective in Washington in 1865, and the tour takes the group through the investigation that he did on the night of Lincoln’s assassination.”

The two-hour tour begins in front of the theater and ends at the White House. Along the way, an actor playing the role of McDevitt walks guests through the process of unraveling the conspiracy that led to Lincoln’s death. The tour highlights Washington as it would have been in 1865, with a script written to blend sightseeing and drama.

“It’s a piece of theater, written for us by a playwright,” Jencks said. “It’s rehearsed and directed, and there’s an element of dramatic imagination.”

Brian Jewell

Brian Jewell is the executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. In more than a decade of travel journalism he has visited 48 states and 25 foreign countries.