The National Theater Washington DC is one of the many places in the city where you can celebrate the arts. The venue hosts a wide array of stage shows, movies, and free events, along with boasting a deep history and even a ghost story or two.
National Theater Image: t_d_cornwell (flickr)
Located on Pennsylvania Avenue, the National Theater DC has earned the nickname the Theater of Presidents. Its strategic location, just three blocks away from the White House, is part of the reason. When it opened in 1835, Andrew Jackson held the highest office in the land and Pennsylvania was a muddy road in a capital that was at the beginning of a growth spurt. Since then, presidents and average people alike have enjoyed the National Theater events.
Over the years, the theater has welcomed stars of stage and screen, while surviving fires, scandals, and hauntings. If you're interested in knowing more about this one-of-a-kind history, consider taking one of the backstage tours. Available during the day, as long rehearsals are not taking place, these tours are led by volunteer guides who know the ins and outs of the National Theater Washington DC. You'll hear about the familiar names who graced the stage—Helen Hayes, Cab Calloway, Spencer Tracy, and Katharine Hepburn have all appeared in works here. Before the brother-and-sister team of Warren Beatty and Shirley MacLaine were famous, each worked at the theater—Warren as a stage doorman and Shirley as an usher.
On these tours of the National Theater DC, one of the lesser-known fun things to do in the capital, the guide will also talk about the aspects that going into staging a production. It takes a lot of people working together to stage a Broadway-style production, including actors, directors, lighting technicians, and other experts who make the National Theater events success. The tour guide also tells a ghost story about the actor John McCullough who met an untimely end backstage. Shot by a fellow actor after an argument, McCullough is rumored to roam the theater to this day, in spirit at least, and has been seen in the audience on opening nights.
After dark, you'll have the chance to see a professional, full-scale production while you're enjoying the nightlife at the National Theater DC. This elegant theater, with orchestra, mezzanine, and balcony seating, is both a comfortable and elegant setting to see a show. The most popular and exciting shows take to the stage, including Dreamgirls, Les Miserables, and Doubt in the past. The schedule of National Theater events also includes entertaining community Vaudeville shows and summertime cinema events. Tickets can be purchased in advance or at the box office.
On Monday evenings and Saturday mornings, you don't need a ticket to enjoy the entertainment at the National Theatre Washington DC—and who isn't looking for some free things to do? After the first business day of the week, people gather at the National Theatre to enjoy a dance performance. Saturday morning events are much more eclectic. Marimba players, snake trainers, magicians, and folk singers are just some of the performers who have taken to the stage on Saturday morning. Although these shows are free, tickets are still required. Seating can fill up quickly, so you will want to arrive at the theater in plenty of time to pick up tickets.