Mary T. & Lizzy K.
written and directed by Tazewell Thompson
WE WERE MEANT TO MEET.”
Writer-director Tazewell Thompson (dir. M. Butterfly, Yellowman) stitches together an insider's look at the unlikely friendship between First Lady Mary Todd Lincoln and her talented seamstress, the successful freed slave Elizabeth Keckly. 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. This world premiere drama is the first commission of Arena Stage’s American Presidents Project.
Mary T. & Lizzy K. is a recipient of an Edgerton Foundation New American Plays Award.
Additional funding is provided by the National Endowments for the Arts.
“[Naomi] Jacobson’s galvanizing portrayal … commands the stage …
Her thoroughly natural performance makes Mary remarkably touching …
[Sameerah] Luqmaan-Harris proves equally marvelous.”– Baltimore Sun
“Wrenchingly poetic … Outstanding performances.”– Washingtonian
“A compelling portrait of history.”
“Naomi Jacobson offers a moving portrayal.”– Washington Examiner
“Engaging … Compelling.”
“[Sameerah] Luqmaan-Harris is wonderful.”
“[Tazewell] Thompson is adept at moving the action along at a fresh tempo.”– DC Theatre Scene
“Naomi Jacobson in a bravura performance.”
Sameerah Luqmaan Harris delivers “an accomplished performance.”– The Georgetowner
“A beautifully poetic work.”
“Gorgeously written … potent.”
“A powerful acting quartet – Jacobson, Luqmaan-Harris,
Jones, and Simpson all deliver.”– We Love DC
“‘I consider you my best living friend.’ They were uncommonly ambitious, intelligent and successful mid-19th Century southern women. Their friendship, marked for its warmth, trust, intimacy and loyalty, was remarkably unconventional for its time. One: tough, industrious, uncompromising Elizabeth Keckly; the mixed race self-made seamstress to Washington’s elite, was a former slave who bought her own freedom. The other: Mary Todd Lincoln or "Mrs. President" as she preferred, was very much a pivotal force behind her husband’s ascent to the presidency. Aristocratic, needy, vain and shrewd, Mary T. would hire away Lizzy K. from her social and political competition to become her private dressmaker. Their relationship —a partnership and sisterhood really— would prove to be a formidable alliance noted throughout Washington society and even in the national press.
My play gives a voice to their story; their version as seen through their own eyes. They are up front and center stage sharing their inner torments, wistful dreams and intimacies. Women of their time would reserve such feelings for their diaries, capitulating to men to record, from a 19th Century male perspective, the roles women played in the dynamic that is the American story. Not here. No intermediaries. These women, MARY T. & LIZZY K. speak for themselves. True American voices.”
— Tazewell Thompson, playwright/director