Tazewell Thompson's world premiere drama Mary T. & Lizzy K. throws open the doors to the Lincoln White House at Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater. As one woman's skilled hands work overtime, creating the most beautiful garments of her career, the other's reality continues to slip ever further from her grasp. Old wounds and new recriminations explode in this riveting drama about loss, love and the importance of promises, both kept and broken. A commission between Thompson (Arena directing credits include Caucasian Chalk Circle, M. Butterfly and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom) and Arena Stage, Mary T. & Lizzy K. stitches together an insider's look at the unique friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and her talented dressmaker, the successful freed slave Elizabeth "Lizzy" Keckly. Written and directed by Thompson, Mary T. & Lizzy K. runs March 15-April 28, 2013 in the Arlene and Robert Kogod Cradle.
Mary T. & Lizzy K. stars D.C.-area actress Kathryn Kelley (Round House Theatre's Next Fall) as Mary Todd Lincoln and Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris (Urban Stage's ReEntry) as Elizabeth Keckly. They are joined by noted local actors Thomas Adrian Simpson (last seen at Arena Stage as Col. Pickering in My Fair Lady) as Abraham Lincoln and Joy Jones (Studio Theatre's Invisible Man) as Ivy.
"Tazewell Thompson has written a beautiful play about powerful women in our country's history," shares Arena Stage Artistic Director Molly Smith. "It's fabulous to see the fruition of this commission and to be working with Taz as a playwright again. He has a glorious gift with language and helps us to see the humanity in these remarkable people."
"For the time, the nineteenth century, Mary Todd Lincoln and Elizabeth Keckly were individually uncommon women, but as a team, their relationship was unconventional and formidable," adds Thompson. "They were independent, ambitious, outspoken and strong-willed women living during the most seminal period in American history. Possessed with their own sense of fashion, personal style and politics, they were intelligent, assertive and proactive. While these traits were understandable for Mary Todd Lincoln, given her privileged upbringing, for Elizabeth Keckly, they were absolutely extraordinary, considering her life as a slave until she was able to buy her freedom."
Mary T. & Lizzy K. is the first production of Arena Stage's American President's Project, an initiative investigating the lives and legacies of our nation's Presidents and their families. Arena Stage is committed to illuminating the broad canvas of the American experience by delving into the history of Americans of all backgrounds and walks of life, including the first families who have resided here in our nation's capital and have shaped our country's narrative.
Tazewell Thompson (Playwright/Director), who, since 1988, was an artistic associate and resident director under Zelda Fichandler and then with Doug Wager, and now as a guest artist with Molly Smith, has directed close to two dozen productions at Arena Stage, including Caucasian Chalk Circle, Playboy of the West Indies, Glass Menagerie, Fences, Bloodknot, M. Butterfly, Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, On the Verge, Yellowman and his own play, Constant Star. He has directed numerous productions in theaters across the country, including several world and American premieres. His international opera credits in select cities include work in Milan, Madrid, Paris, Tokyo, Vancouver, Los Angeles and San Francisco, directing Carmen, Death in Venice, Dialogues of the Carmelites, Norma, Patience, The Tender Land, Street Scene, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Don Giovanni, The Second Hurricane and Pearl Fishers. His New York City Opera production of Porgy and Bess received Emmy nominations for Best Director and Best Classical production. Most recently, he directed Kurt Weill's Lost in the Stars for Cape Town Opera and Glimmerglass Festival.