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Jan 20, 2012 Washington, D.C.

“It is not difficult to see a certain parallel presidents might sense between their own specified time on stage as head of state and the slice of life encapsulated in the duration of a play,” said William Seale, editor of White House History. “Part of being president is a performance, in which is conveyed, inescapably, a message; the White House is the president’s stage and always has been.”

For more than two hundred years the president’s White House stage has welcomed scores of singers, actors and other artists, first as celebrity callers and later as scheduled performers. Nearly all presidents have enjoyed theatrical performance and many sought it out. This interest has taken various forms from concerts to plays. Modern times have seen the custom of after-dinner events featuring a not-to-lengthy concert, solo, or reading, first initiated by President and Mrs. Theodore Roosevelt, continue to be popular. Whatever the format, presidents and performers alike have always realized the importance of their audiences and played to them accordingly.

White House History, issue 30, explores The Presidents and the Theater spanning the field from opera to musical comedy to presidents and Shakespeare, with side visits to theater and the youngest first lady; a glimpse of a famously obnoxious theatrical guest; and a comparison between Lincoln’s White House and that other iconic Lincoln place: Ford’s Theatre.

White House History is published twice each year by the White House Historical Association and features articles on White House history, architecture, fine and decorative arts, and gardens, as well as stories about the occupants of the White House and their experience living there.

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About the white house historical association

First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy envisioned a restored White House that conveyed a sense of history through its decorative and fine arts. She sought to inspire Americans, especially children, to explore and engage with American history and its presidents. In 1961, the nonprofit, nonpartisan White House Historical Association was established to support her vision to preserve and share the Executive Mansion’s legacy for generations to come. Supported entirely by private resources, the Association’s mission is to assist in the preservation of the state and public rooms, fund acquisitions for the White House permanent collection, and educate the public on the history of the White House. Since its founding, the Association has given more than $50 million to the White House in fulfillment of its mission.

To learn more about the White House Historical Association, please visit

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