Selby to Play Great Emancipator in World Premiere, The Heavens Are Hung in Black, in DC

News   Selby to Play Great Emancipator in World Premiere, The Heavens Are Hung in Black, in DC
David Selby will star as Abraham Lincoln in the 2009 world premiere of James Still's The Heavens Are Hung in Black, a look at the president's life in 1862, which will celebrate the grand reopening of Ford's Theatre in Washington, DC.
David Selby
David Selby Photo by Scott Suchman

The newly commissioned play will re-light Ford's Theatre Feb. 3-March 8, 2009, following an 18-month renovation. Stage and screen actor Selby ("Falcon Crest") will play President Lincoln in "the five months between the death of Lincoln's young son Willie and the issue of the Emancipation Proclamation," according to Ford's.

The play "offers a glimpse into the personal and political challenges that Lincoln faced during 1862. Over the course of the play, Lincoln is visited in dreams by Jefferson Davis, Dred Scott and Uncle Tom at moments when their life experience might aid his decision-making about the war and the Emancipation Proclamation."

Additional casting includes Norman Aronovic, Steven Carpenter, Jonathan Fielding, Michael Goodwin, Edward James Hyland, Beth Hylton, Michael Kramer, Robin Moseley, Hugh Nees, David Emerson Toney, Chaney Tullos, Jonathan Watkins and Scott Westerman, with James Chatham, Benjamin Cook and Benjamin Schiffbauer.

Stephen Rayne directs.

"We are thrilled to reopen Ford's Theatre with this historic world premiere," stated Paul R. Tetreault, director of Ford's Theatre. "James Still has written a remarkable play that explores one of the most crucial years of Lincoln's presidency. This play, along with the many special events we have planned for February, will provide a magnificent tribute to our greatest president." "The challenge of writing The Heavens Are Hung In Black was to maintain the integrity of Lincoln's character and the history of the Civil War while infusing the story with imagination and human elements," said playwright James Still. "Heavens offers a glimpse into the world of one of our nation's most important presidents and raises questions about how we might have behaved if faced with the pressures of that crucial time in our nation's history."

Still's Looking Over the President's Shoulder premiered at Ford's as part of the 2003-2004 season.

Director Rayne makes his Ford's Theatre debut. His work has been seen at the Alley Theatre and around the country, as well as in England.

Selby makes his Ford's Theatre debut. His stage career includes work on Broadway (The Heiress and The Eccentricities of a Nightingale), Off-Broadway, and at the Kennedy Center, the Alley Theatre, Goodman Theatre, Hartford Stage, Manhattan Theatre Club, McCarter Theatre Center, Public Theater, Shakespeare Theatre Company, American Shakespeare Festival, Pasadena Playhouse and elsewhere. Selby created the role of Quentin Collins on television's "Dark Shadows" and Richard Channing on "Falcon Crest." His film credits include "Up the Sandbox" with Barbra Streisand, "Dying Young" with Campell Scott and Julia Roberts and "White Squall."

Selby is also a playwright and novelist. His most recent book, "Lincoln's Better Angel," reflects on the personal impact of war. In the late 1990s, Selby performed the role of Abraham Lincoln in the New York, Charleston and Washington, DC, performances of his stage play Lincoln and James.

The creative team also includes set designer Takeshi Kata (who has created a White House office with walls that track off to reveal the wider world of Lincoln's Washington), costume designer Wade Laboissonniere (whose period designs and dark color palette reflect the mood of the characters' inner struggles and a nation at war), lighting designer Pat Collins, sound designer and composer Ryan Rumery, video designer Clint Allen, hair and wig designer Cookie Jordan and dialect consultant Lynn Watson. The production team also includes production stage manager Brandon Prendergast and assistant stage manager Kate Kilbane.

Opening night is Feb. 8, 2009, after previews. Ford's Theatre is located at 511 10th St. NW, between E and F streets.

For tickets call TicketMaster at (202) 397-SEAT or visit For general information call (202) 434-9548.

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