Training Theatre Artists to Make a Difference
Teresa Catherine (M.F.A. Candidate, ’15) reflects on her upcoming one-woman show
I began working in Visitor Services at Ford’s Theatre this summer, and one day while I was closing the museum I stopped to read an exhibit about the items found in John Wilkes Booth’s pocket the day he was killed. Among the artifacts we have are the portraits of five women – four of whom were actresses of the time. The fifth woman really grabbed my attention – Lucy Hale, daughter of a New Hampshire senator, friend of Robert Lincoln, and secret fiancé of John Wilkes Booth. I was so intrigued by this discovery I went and googled Miss Hale right away. The more I unearthed about the mysterious young love of J.W.Booth, the more I left my original solo show idea (which I’m certain would have been really boring) behind in favor of a piece focusing on Lucy.
And so I am, to you, A Stranger was born. In my research, I’ve actually found there isn’t a ton of research that can be done on Lucy. Her father worked diligently to shield her after the assassination, and during her courtship with John the nature of their relationship was largely kept secret. I’ve found a Valentine’s Day letter that John sent in 1862, brief accounts of a handful of public interaction (both with John and Robert), and cold, hard historical facts (i.e. her father was appointed the Ambassador to Spain in 1865). My research paired with a lot of historical speculation and my own opinions and imagination have led to the script I’ve written and will perform in December.
We open on Lucy, attempting to pray the rosary. (A discovery I was excited to make was that John had dinner with Lucy the night of the assassination, and upon leaving he parted by quoting Hamlet to her – “Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered.”) The struggle Lucy faces in this moment, and the heart of the piece, is this – how does she ask for John’s forgiveness, when she cannot forgive the act herself? how can she love this man in the face of this horror? It has been twelve days since John shot the President and Lucy’s father is eager to move his daughter out of the country, to his post in Spain. As Lucy packs up her hotel room, she relives memories with her friend, Robert, and her fiancé, John. What will she discover within her memories? What will win out – her heart or her head?