Jean Stapleton has been making the rounds of regional theatres with Rhoda Lerman's solo play about Eleanor Roosevelt, Eleanor: Her Secret Journey, since 1998, and in September she'll land where Roosevelt was First Lady for more than a decade — Washington, DC.
Arena Stage's Kreeger Theatre hosts the 80-minute production Sept. 28-Nov. 18 as a replacement for the previously-announced Full Gallop. Stapleton, beloved for playing Edith Bunker in TV's "All in the Family," won an Emmy Award for playing Roosevelt in a 1982 TV movie, "Eleanor: First Lady of the World." The new play, which had its world premiere in Nyack, NY, under the direction of John Tillinger, is drawn from Lerman's 1979 book, "Eleanor" (as was the TV movie). Stapleton performed a monologue from the book in 1992, and that evolved into the current play.
Stapleton has appeared as the First Lady in Norfolk, VA, San Francisco, Beverly Hills, Hartford, CT, Dennis, MA, and Miami. There has been talk that the production may find a future on Broadway.
According to past production notes, "Eleanor follows Roosevelt through her key years of 1918-1922 and deals with the impact of the brutal battlefields of World War I on the socialite wife and mother of five. The play also reveals her yearning for the love that her husband chose to share instead with Lucy Mercer, and traces her transformation into the activist, feminist and idealist that most people now recognize."
— By Kenneth Jones