Not every presidential visit to the theater is as famous as Lincoln's last night at Ford's, but American presidents attended the theater long before and long after that ill-fated night. As a young man in 1751, George Washington saw his first play, The London Merchant, during a visit to Barbados. John Quincy Adams understood theater well enough to publish dramatic critiques. William McKinley, on the other hand, avoided theatrical performances while in office, on professional as well as moral grounds. Dwight Eisenhower used drama as a vehicle for political propaganda. Richard Nixon took a more personal view of theater, having met his wife at a community theater audition.Surveying 255 years, this volume examines presidential theater-going as it reflects shifting popular tastes in America. To this end, it provides a chronology of theater attendance throughout the lives of all 43 American presidents. Defining theater as a live dramatic performance (including opera but excluding ballet), the book details the attendance habits and theatrical tastes of each chief executive as well as the ways in which his choices reflected the mores and tastes of his contemporary American public. An afterword provides a summary of presidential theater-going preferences.
Thomas A. Bogar has taught theatre for thirty-three years. Currently a professor at Hood College in Frederick, Maryland, a judge for Washington, D.C.'s Helen Hayes Theatre Awards, and a consultant for the American Council on Education, he is also the author of John E. Owens (2002) and numerous journal articles. He lives in Silver Spring, Maryland.