First Lady of the Theater
Last month, the Sundome was visited by Bully, a touring show with John Davidson, solus, as Teddy Roosevelt. This weekend, Scottsdale Center for the Arts hosts another one-person show, about another Roosevelt: Eleanor--Her Secret Journey. The famed first lady is played by Jean Stapleton, beloved for a more blue-collar role, that of Edith Bunker of TV's All in the Family.
"I was privileged to play the part in Eleanor, First Lady of the World, about her post-White House life as a delegate to the U.N.," explains Stapleton. The 1982 TV film was the first major post-Bunker project for the actress. The solo theater piece is by Rhoda Lerman, an adaptation of her book Eleanor--A Novel.
"The text was drawn from that, and made into an actable presentation," says Stapleton. "We open when [Eleanor] is out of the White House, and she's very glad to be out of the public eye; and then Mr. Truman calls and asks her to be a delegate to the U.N." She refuses at first, but as the show progresses, she chats with the audience as to a guest, discussing her past and the world's problems, and eventually decides to accept the challenge. Unlike the theatrically elaborate Bully, however, this solo show is sparely produced. "We have a very simple set, with a few projections on a screen behind. Not literal projections, just suggestions of [Roosevelt estate] Val-Kill."
Stapleton, who cites Eleanor--along with Edith Bunker--as among her favorite roles ever, hopes that Eleanor--Her Secret Journey will eventually land on Broadway. The show has played at three regional theaters in the East, after a most unusual premiere: on a Theatre Guild cruise ship.
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"It's wonderful to have debuted it on the Black Sea, just as we left Yalta," says Stapleton. "It's very appropriate for Mrs. Roosevelt, who loved to travel so much."
--M. V. Moorhead
Eleanor--Her Secret Journey is performed at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 1; and the same time Friday, April 2; and Saturday, April 3; at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street. Tickets are $30 and $34. 994-2787 (SCA), 784-4444 (Ticketmaster).
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