The latest offering from the Mid-Ohio Valley Players features two historical figures - one well-known, one less familiar.
"Look Away" is a drama written by Jerome Kilty, based on the book "Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters" by Justin G. Turner and Linda Levitt Turner. It takes place on the former first lady's last night in a mental institution and focuses on her relationship with Elizabeth Keckley, an educated, freed slave.
"She was Mary's rock and confidante," said David Offenberger, who is directing the production. "This relationship these women had was wonderful, and yet history doesn't remember Elizabeth Keckley."
Keckley worked as a seamstress, providing clothing to Washington's elite. That's how she met Lincoln, in the White House. The two developed a friendship that lasted beyond the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln. Keckley even wrote a book after his death to help her friend earn money - "Behind the Scenes: 30 Years as a Slave and Four Years in the White House."
Offenberger said he first read the script about five years ago and submitted it for consideration by the Players for this year, the first year of America's observance of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
"I was just really fascinated by it and loved the context of it," he said.
If you go
* What: "Look Away," a drama based on the book "Mary Todd Lincoln: Her Life and Letters."
* When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan 14-15, 21-22 and 28-29; 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23.
* Where: Mid-Ohio Valley Players Theatre, 227 Putnam St., Marietta.
* Cost: $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students and $5 for youth; available at midohiovalleyplayers.org and Marty's Print Shop.
Offenberger noted that the first performance of the play, in 1973, was directed by actor Rip Torn and featured his wife, Geraldine Page, as Mary Todd Lincoln and poet Maya Angelou as Keckley.
"I thought, wow, with two powerhouse actresses like that and the voices they had, it had to be something to catch their attention," Offenberger said.
The roles in the local production will be played by Marlene Somerville (Lincoln) and Heather Hepburn (Keckley). Offenberger said he's been working with the actresses on the production since October.
"It involves everything that a full-scale play with a large cast would involve, except you've got two people doing it all," he said.
For example, instead of having lines divided among eight or 10 actors, Somerville and Hepburn are each responsible for memorizing about 50 percent of the script.
Because they're playing historical figures and not imagined characters, Offenberger said he gave his leading ladies plenty of "homework," having them read books and letters by and about the women.
"They soaked it up like a sponge," he said.
"Look Away" opens on Friday and will be presented at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays through Jan. 29. There will also be a 3 p.m. Sunday matinee on Jan. 23.
Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students and $5 for youth. They are available at midohiovalleyplayers.org and Marty's Print Shop.