by Rachel Williams
“Ghosts of Mary Lincoln” premiered to a full house in the Townsend Center for the Performing Art’s Dangle Theatre on Thursday, October 17. The room was packed well before the show’s 7:30 p.m. start. The play was written by Tom Dugan, who has also penned other historical works including “Wiesenthal,” “Robert E. Lee -- Shades of Gray” and “Frederick Douglass in the Shadow of Slavery.” Award-winning actress Michele Tauber masterfully performed the entire one-woman show. Afterward, Tom and Michele answered questions from the audience.
Although historians in the audience were impressed by the accuracy of the play, Tom says that’s standard for every play he writes. “Before I write any of my plays, I read like a lunatic,” he says. “I read for over a year before I ever even wrote one word of this one. I read dozens of books, documentaries, original sources. I condensed a few conversations, but everything that’s in the play is historically accurate.”
Far from making light of Mary’s struggles or demonizing her negative traits, Tom’s play portrays her as a sympathetic, nuanced woman with both strengths and weaknesses. “Mary Lincoln struggled with bipolar disorder, which is now a treatable mental illness, but in the 19th century, it doomed a person to a life of torment,” explains Tom. “That being said, Mary was an extremely intelligent, colorful eccentric, whose passion for shopping, séances and gossip provides for a highly entertaining evening of theatre. My initial impression of Mary was a tough one, and that’s one of the reasons why it took so long to write the play. She seemed self-involved, cruel, egotistical, and I couldn’t find the way in. And then I saw evidence of the great effort she went through to overcome these obstacles in her personality, and the empathy started to come to me, to the point where I learned to love Mary.”
For more information about upcoming shows and ticket information please visit www.townsendcenter.org.