Barbara Lebow, author of A Shayna Maidel, premieres her biographical play, Lurleen, March 23-July 24 at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival in Montgomery. Frank Wittow directs the piece, which officially opens March 26.
Lebow got the idea for Lurleen when she was in Montgomery two years ago, looking in on a production of her best-known play, A Shayna Maidel. Lebow spoke with friends and family of Lurleen Wallace, wife of controversial Alabama Governor George Wallace. The play follows Lurleen from her early years in Northport to the Governor's controversial (and later, reversed) stands on segregation, to her own term as Governor of Alabama. She died in office, of cancer, in 1968.
According to ASF spokesperson Kay Green, the play is as much about 1950s-60s Southern society as it is an overview of Lurleen's life. Monica Bell stars as the title character.
Other plays by Lebow include The Left Hand Singing, The Adventures of Homer McGundy and Tiny Tim is Dead. Even before Lurleen opens, she had another world premiere, The Empress of Eden, at Seattle's Empty Space Theatre. That show started previews Feb. 26 for an opening March 3 and a run through March 27.
Playwright Lebow is currently serving as an 18-month, playwright in residence at ASF, thanks to a TCG and NEA grant. Oddly enough, Lurleen is the second play centering on George Wallace to make theatre news this season. Months ago, speculation had Cornelia, a drama about Wallace's second wife, by Mark Victor Olson, coming to Broadway. Those plans remain in limbo. Wallace married a third time, but so far those nuptials have not been dramatized.
Tickets to Lurleen, at ASF's Carolyn Blount Theatre, are $20-$29 and available by calling (334) 271-5353.
-- By David Lefkowitz & Christine Ehren