With everything related to Abraham Lincoln back in vogue thanks to Steven Spielberg's Oscar-nominated movie, a new play about the seamstress who worked for Mary Todd Lincoln is set to open in March in Washington.
"Mary T. & Lizzy K." tells the story of the relationship between the first lady and Elizabeth Keckly, a former slave who became a close friend. The drama, written and directed by Tazewell Thompson, is set to begin performances March 15 at the Arena Stage at Washington's Mead Center for American Theater.
The play is the first commission of Arena Stage's American Presidents Project, an initiative to present one play a year about an American president.
Keckly, also sometimes spelled Keckley, has been an object of historical fascination for decades. She was born a slave in Virginia in 1818, but eventually bought her freedom from her owners in 1855. Keckly, who was of mixed race, worked as a seamstress in Washington and was hired by Mary Todd Lincoln. The two women became personal confidantes.
In 1868, Keckly wrote her memoirs, "Behind the Scenes, Or, Thirty Years a Slave and Four Years in the White House."
In Spielberg's movie "Lincoln," the role of Keckly is played by Gloria Reuben, who is perhaps best known for her role in the NBC series "ER." The first lady is played by Sally Field.
"Mary T. & Lizzy K." will have a limited run at the Arena Stage through April 28.
Thompson has written and directed numerous stage productions. His play "Constant Star," about Ida B. Wells, has toured the U.S., including a stop at the Laguna Playhouse in 2004.