The three-act play, Our American Cousin, was close to its finale on Ford's Theatre's stage in Washington, D.C., on April 14, 1865. In a private balcony box, United States President Abraham Lincoln, First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and two of their guests watched as the actors conversed on stage.
What they didn't see was actor and Confederate Army sympathizer John Wilkes Booth slip quietly behind Lincoln, draw his Philadelphia Deringer pistol and fire a fatal shot into the back of the president's head. He would die the next day at the Petersen House, just across the street from the theatre.
To mark the 150th anniversary of Lincoln's assassination, Ford's Theatre has planned multiple events to pay tribute to one of the country's greatest leaders. An around-the-clock event will take place on the actual anniversary dates: April 14 and 15.
An actor potrays a detective on the hunt for John Wilkes Booth during a walking tour outside Ford's Theatre — Photo courtesy of Ford's Theatre
Listen to ranger talks; watch a performance of the play One Destiny, which questions if Booth could have been stopped; or attend panel discussions devoted to Lincoln's life, death and legacy.
A Lincoln Commemoration will feature stage and screen actors reading the 16th president's words and stories, Civil War-era music and excerpts from theatre and opera plays that the 56-year-old cherished. There are only a limited amount of tickets for this event, which will be available to the general public in March. For those who miss out, the event will be live-streamed online and at the National Portrait Gallery.
But the remembrance doesn't stop inside the theatre. On the streets outside, actors will be giving first-person accounts of the assassination and medical reports on Lincoln's failing health inside the Petersen House.
Anyone can visit the theatre campus throughout the anniversary night, but only if they have received tickets. Witness a recreated vigil for the president with historians on 10th Street. A wreath-laying ceremony is planned for 7:22 a.m. on April 15, to mark the time of Lincoln's death. Church bells will toll as they did 150 years ago.
Be sure to check out Silent Witnesses: Artifacts of the Lincoln Assassination, an exhibition of artifacts from that fateful night, including the pistol used by Booth and the top hat, cufflinks and coat worn by Lincoln that evening, as well as Todd Lincoln's black velvet cape.
The carriage that brought Lincoln to the theatre will also be on display at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History from Monday, March 23, until Monday, May 25, 2015.
If you can't make it to the actual anniversary, the theatre is still a great place to visit in the nation's capital. Take an audio tour, featuring character voices and sound effects, or peruse the permanent museum collection dedicated to Lincoln's presidency.
While the 16th president is a huge draw to the facility, the venue also regularly puts on performances that are not to be missed.
To get here, take the Gallery Place, Metro Center or Archives/Navy Yard metro.