Richard Thomas as Jimmy Carter and Ron Rifkin as Menachem Begin in Camp David at Arena Stage. (Photo by Teresa Wood)

It doesn’t happen every day — not even when you’re a former president. But from Row F at the Arena Stage Thursday evening and in the midst of a star-studded Washington crowd, former President Jimmy Carter was given a rare glimpse of himself and his presidency during the premier of “Camp David.”

The new play revisits the 13 days of negotiations in 1978 that led to an accord between Egypt and Israel. But it was the first time a president and his wife came to the Arena, said Molly Smith, the theater’s artistic director and the play’s director. Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, watched themselves portrayed on stage as two of the four main characters. Journalists and politicians, including Andrea Mitchell, Bob Schieffer, Chris Matthews, Judy Woodruff, Nancy Pelosi and former Congressman Dan Glickman flooded the audience.

When the 90-minute performance ended and the cast received a standing ovation, the Carters did too. Then they were escorted to the stage to embrace the actors (Richard Thomas of the Waltons and Hallie Foote) who played them. All four became emotional on stage. Earlier the former president and his wife were feted at a dinner of rack of lamb and lemon meringue tart in Arena’s smaller Kogod Cradle stage.