Kathryn Kelley and Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris to Star in Arena Stage's MARY T. & LIZZY K.; Full Cast Announced!


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.

The Cast of Mary T. & Lizzy K. (in alphabetical order)
Joy Jones (Ivy) has performed locally at Studio Theatre, Washington Stage Guild, Theatre of the First Amendment and American Century Theatre. In New York, she has performed in Zaide at the Lincoln Center Festival, among others. Joy's regional acting credits include Ruined and Tantalus at The Denver Center; Well, The Little Prince, Young Lady From Rwanda, Pride & Prejudice, Nicholas Nickleby, Pericles and Romeo and Juliet at PlayMakers Repertory Company; and Romeo & Juliet and The Tempest at Arkansas Repertory Theatre, as well as work at Georgia Repertory Theatre and Playwrights Theatre of New Jersey. Internationally, she appeared in Tantalus with the Royal Shakespeare Company. Her television credits include Homicide on NBC and Tantalus and The Shakespeare Sessions on PBS. Joy holds an MFA from UNC-Chapel Hill/PlayMakers Repertory, a BA in Drama from the University of Virginia and a Certificate in Classical Acting from the British American Drama Academy.

Kathryn Kelley (Mary Todd Lincoln) was last seen at Arena Stage in 1991 in Yerma, also directed by Tazewell Thompson. Kathryn has been associated with Round House Theatre for 20 years, playing leading and supporting roles in classic and contemporary works including The Cherry Orchard, Uncle Vanya, Camille, Our Town, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Orson's Shadow, A Prayer for Owen Meany, All in the Timing and The Weir. Other highlights include The Belle of Amherst at The Bay Theatre, Look Back in Anger at Studio Theatre, Sing Down the Moon at Theatre of the First Amendment, Mad Forest at New York Theatre Workshop and The Glass Menagerie at Source Theatre. Kathryn will be seen next as Lady Bountiful in The Beaux' Stratagem at Everyman Theatre. Kathryn received an MFA from NYU where she studied with Zelda Fichandler.

Sameerah Luqmaan-Harris (Elizabeth Keckly) Off-Broadway credits include The Emperor Jones (Irish Repertory Theatre; Soho Playhouse) and ReEntry (Urban Stages). New York credits include Lady Percy (The Public Theater/Shakespeare Lab 2012), Unheard Voices (American Slavery Project), Fefu and Her Friends (Culture Project), Come Back to Me (Cherry Lane Theatre), A Raisin in the Sun, Jaques in As You Like It, Adriana in A Comedy of Errors and Beatrice in Much Ado About Nothing. Regional credits include ReEntry (Actors Theatre of Louisville; Baltimore Centerstage; Round House Theatre; Two River Theatre), Doubt (Asolo Repertory Theatre; Cape May Stage), Equus and The Constant Wife (Asolo Repertory Theatre). TV/film credits include The Bravest, The Boldest; The Good Wife; and The Bitter End.

Thomas Adrian Simpson (Abraham Lincoln) returns to Arena Stage, where he was last seen as Col. Pickering in My Fair Lady. Other Arena appearances include The Light in the Piazza, The Fantasticks, The Great White Hope, The Seagull, Antigone in New York and The Caucasian Chalk Circle. Tom's recent D.C.-area performances include Ed Earl in The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and Von Golum in The Boy Detective Fails (Signature Theatre); Witherspoon in 1776 and King Louis XVI in LiberTy Smith (Ford's Theatre); and Candide and The Boys from Syracuse (Shakespeare Theatre Company). Regional credits include Candide (Goodman Theatre) and Papa Charlie in Shenandoah and Quixote in The Man of La Mancha (Wayside Theatre). Tom is a graduate of the NC School of the Arts.

The creative team for Mary T. & Lizzy K. includes Set Designer Donald Eastman, Costume Designer Merrily Murray Walsh, Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel, Sound Design & Composition by Fabian Obispo, Stage Manager Scott Pomerico and Production Assistant Kristen Harris.

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.

TICKETS: Tickets for Mary T. & Lizzy K. are $40-$85, subject to change and based on availability, plus applicable fees. For information on savings programs such as student discounts, Southwest Nights, Pay-Your-Page tickets, HOTTIX and Hero's Discounts, visit arenastage.org/shows-tickets/single-tickets/savings-programs. Tickets may be purchased online at arenastage.org, by phone at 202-488-3300 or at the Sales Office at 1101 Sixth St., SW, D.C.

Sunday, Tuesday & Wednesday at 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Friday & Saturday at 8:00 p.m.
Saturday & Sunday at 2:00 p.m.
Weekday matinees at noon on Wednesday, 4/3 & Tuesday, 4/16
Full calendar: tickets.arenastage.org/single/psDetail.aspx?psn=14315

Open-captioned performances: 4/10 at 7:30 p.m. & 4/18 at 8:00 p.m.
Audio-described performance: 4/6 at 2:00 p.m.
Post-show discussions: 4/3 & 4/16 after the noon matinee; 4/2 & 4/11 after the evening show.

METRO: Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is only one block from the Waterfront-SEU Metro station (Green Line). When exiting the station, walk west on M Street toward Sixth Street, and the main entrance to the Mead Center is on the right.

PARKING: Parking is available in Arena Stage's on-site garage. Subscribers may purchase parking in advance for $16. Single ticket buyers may purchase parking in advance for $18 or on the day of the performance for $20 on a first-come, first-served basis. Limited handicapped parking is available by reservation. Advanced parking must be reserved by calling 202-488-3300. The entrance to the Mead Center garage is on Maine Avenue between Sixth and Seventh streets, and the garage closes one hour after the day's last performance ends. Patrons can also park at the Public Parking Garage at 1101 Fourth Street, one block from the Mead Center, for $11. Street parking is also available along Maine Avenue and Water Street.

VALET PARKING: Arena Stage offers valet service at no additional cost to patrons with accessibility needs who call 202-488-3300 in advance to request valet parking. On days when valet parking is being used for accessibility, it is also available to general patrons one hour prior to show time for $25, based on availability. To use valet parking, pull up to the main entrance on Sixth Street.

Arena Stage at the Mead Center for American Theater is a national center dedicated to the production, presentation, development and study of American theater. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Molly Smith and Executive Director Edgar Dobie, Arena Stage is the largest company in the country dedicated to American plays and playwrights. Arena Stage produces huge plays of all that is passionate, exuberant, profound, deep and dangerous in the American spirit, and presents diverse and ground-breaking work from some of the best artists around the country. Arena Stage is committed to commissioning and developing new plays through the American Voices New Play Institute. Now in its seventh decade, Arena Stage serves a diverse annual audience of more than 300,000. For more information, visit arenastage.org.

Follow Arena Stage on Twitter @arenastage or twitter.com/arenastage and mention Mary T. & Lizzy K. with #MaryTLizzyK. Find us on Facebook at facebook.com/arenastage.

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