LADY AND THE GIRL
An Original Stage Play.
Premieres on Friday, December 6, 2019, at 7:30 PM in North Richland Hills, Texas. Tickets are free but require pre-registration at this site, and spectators are asked to consider seriously a love offering or donation so this show can make it to London in March 2020.
Creative Director: Daniel Dudley; Acting Leader: Tammy Lucero
The first stage play to be produced by Drama Club at Southwestern will be Lady and the Girl, an original three-act play about the stormy friendship between Mary Todd Lincoln and a woman almost forgotten to history: freed slave, dressmaking impresario, and political leader ELIZABETH KECKLEY. It is structured around one key passage from the Gospel of Luke: “Consider the lilies in the field, they neither spin nor toil, yet Solomon in his glory was never dressed so finely.” Lady and the Girl depicts the rising and falling fortunes of two women who must find peace with–and love and obey–God even though their ups and downs were so tragic and seemingly unfair.
Many people have no idea that a woman named Elizabeth Keckley was born into slavery, suffered abuse under the antebellum plantation system, and literally sewed her way to freedom. Her stunning skills at dressmaking won her acclaim and investors, allowing her to purchase freedom for herself and her son. She came to Washington DC as a freedwoman and business owner with employees of her own, just before the Civil War.
When “Lizzie” Keckley met Mary Todd Lincoln, they were two ambitious and driven women living in a time when ladies had to exercise power through their husbands. The problem for both Lizzie and Mary was that their husbands and they often had clashing views. Lizzie separated from her husband and never remarried him. Mary got herself in trouble by scheming and plotting, in an attempt to sidestep President Lincoln’s rules about how the White House should be run. Mary also fell into terrible mishaps over money.
Both Lizzie and Mary could be faulted, even harshly criticized. Mary will forever go down in history as a conniving, fanatical, and often crazy White House figure, who got along with almost nobody. She is often cited as the worst First Lady in American history. On the other hand, Lizzie did not leave behind a sterling reputation. In the few historical sources that mention her, she is remembered as an overly ambitious woman who sought to get into the White House by any means. She published the secret goings-on in the White House after Lincoln died and Mary was destined to be committed to an insane asylum. Lizzie and Mary seem, based on objective history, not to have treated each other perfectly, and both ended up as outcasts in a society that judged them harshly.
But Lady and the Girl tries to give complex and three-dimensional pictures of Lizzie and Mary. In a time period of upheaval, civil war, and racial injustice, they were an exceptional pair: a black woman and a white woman with authentic friendship, including both moments of mutual affection and times of alienation.
Some license is taken with history (for instance, Alex Todd in real life was much younger than the play casts him, while the stories of Lizzie’s shop girls Isabel and Harriet are imaginary.) But some of the plot looks at historical details that have largely not been considered: For instance, what was the reason for Mary Todd Lincoln’s vicious feud with Julia Grant? What went so drastically wrong in Lizzie’s marriage to George Keckley that caused her to turn so coldly against him?
The plot twists in Lady and the Girl will keep you guessing, with lots of intrigues involving the Civil War, espionage in a dress shop, a stolen letter that might have destroyed the Republic, money schemes, family betrayals, the Grants and Lincolns’ political twists and turns, love triangles, and so much more!
One truth shines eternal through it all. Even when a nation is at its lowest point–whether it is angst over the status of women, racial division, political strife, or simple lack of character–the Lord is faithful. When one learns to trust in the Lord, the meaningless and chaotic make sense and turn into peace.
Lady and the Girl is an original stage play, authored by faculty adviser Robert Lopez with the editorial assistance of Matthew Broker, Kara Tisher, and Thomas Wreay. Cast members including understudies: Tenecia Gaines, Virginia Ward, Glenn Melvin, Daniel Dudley, Symone Dudley, Hildah Masango, Konley Boughan, Jamie Massie, Brittany Clubine, Hannah Arnold, Tammy Lucero, Abraham Prado, James Sorah, Dillon Forbes…. and a few more to be announced soon.
It will play in London in March 2020. Plans are in motion for it to have a premiere in Fort Worth, hopefully in December 2019. Check back for more details.