"Lydie Marland in the Afterlife" Reinterprets the Life of Ponca City's Controversial First Lady

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[[Image:Ponca Playhouse Lydie Afterlife Ads 02 aa 06-02-2017.jpg|thumb|right|550px|'''Ponca Playhouse Presents "Lydie Marland in the Afterlife".''']]
 
[[Image:Ponca Playhouse Lydie Afterlife Ads 02 aa 06-02-2017.jpg|thumb|right|550px|'''Ponca Playhouse Presents "Lydie Marland in the Afterlife".''']]
 
==Introduction==
 
==Introduction==
In 2009 poet and playwright Isabella Russell-Ides and her husband were returning to Dallas after visiting family in Kansas. “We saw a sign on I-35 advertising the Marland Mansion,” says the playwright. “We visited the mansion and fell in love with its beauty and its history.” The result was a play written about  Lydie Marland that reinterprets the life of Ponca City's iconic and controversial first lady. "Russell-Ides said it was the broken marble statue, one made in Lydie’s youth that had been supposedly destroyed before she disappeared, that made her fall in love with the story," says Mary L. Clark. “She called it 'a case of broken identity.'”
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"Lydie Marland in the Afterlife" Asks the Audience to Reinterpret the Life of Ponca City's Controversial First Lady
  
Ponca Playhouse will be presenting the premier of a two-act version of Russell-Ides play "Lydie Marland in the Afterlife" this summer as part of the "Oklahoma Pride" series. Ponca Playhouse's production will be the world premier of an expanded version of the original play presented at "The Festival of Independent Theatres" in Dallas, Texas in May, 2013. This expanded version was written especially for production by Ponca Playhouse by playwright Isabella Russell-Ides. The play will be sponsored and produced by Hugh Pickens and Dr. S. J. Pickens.
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In 2009 poet and playwright Isabella Russell-Ides and her husband were returning to Dallas after visiting family in Kansas. “We saw a sign on I-35 advertising the Marland Mansion,” says the playwright. “We visited the mansion and fell in love with its beauty and its history.” The result was a play written about Lydie Marland that reinterprets the life of Ponca City's iconic and controversial first lady. "Russell-Ides said it was the broken marble statue, one made in Lydie’s youth that had been supposedly destroyed before she disappeared, that made her fall in love with the story," says Mary L. Clark. “She called it 'a case of broken identity.'”
  
==Who Was Lydie Marland?==
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Russell-Ides' visit to the mansion inspired her to write the play “Lydie Marland in the Afterlife” that Ponca Playhouse will be presenting this summer as part of the "Oklahoma Pride" series. This will be the world premier of the two act play which was written especially for production by Ponca Playhouse and will be sponsored and produced by Hugh Pickens and Dr. S. J. Pickens.
The basic facts of Lydie Marland's life are not in dispute. Lydie was born in poverty in Flourtown, Pennsylvania in 1900, the second child of Margaret Reynolds (Collins) and George Frederick Roberts. In 1912 the family visited their mother's sister, Mary Virginia (Collins). The pair of children stayed with their maternal aunt and uncle, Virginia and Ernest Whitworth Marland and started school in Oklahoma. In 1916, the Marlands adopted Lydie and George, then 16 and 19. Her parents decided to give Lydie and her brother George up for adoption as teenagers to the Marland who were both childless and fabulously wealthy from his success in the oil business in Ponca City, Oklahoma.  
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Lydie subsequently attended the local Catholic school, but her adoptive parents soon sent her back East to private boarding schools. She finished her education at the Oaksmere School in New Rochelle, located in Westchester County, New York on a property overlooking Long Island Sound.
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Loosely based on the life of Lydie Marland, as told in the book “The Marland Tragedy,” by Kim Brumley, the play follows Lydie as she returns to consciousness after her death and retraces her life as a debutante, wife of oil magnate E. W. Marland, first lady of Oklahoma, and as a vagabond who went missing for almost a quarter of a century. In the play, “Old Lydie” meets her younger self in the afterlife and comes to terms with her life as the niece and adopted daughter of Marland who later married him in a love affair that scandalized Ponca City as her life changed from a fairy tale of riches into a Greek tragedy.
  
When E. W. Marland's first wife Virginia Marland became ill and died in 1926, Lydie took on the duties of mistress of the house at Marland Grand Home on Grand Ave. Two years after Virginia Marland died, E. W. annulled Lydie's adoption and E. W. and Lydie married in 1928. Lydie was 28 and E. W. was 54. Lydie Roberts Marland enjoyed volatile times and drastic changes in fortune with her husband: he lost much of his money in 1928; she accompanied him to Washington, DC after he was elected to the US Congress in 1932, and to the Oklahoma governor's mansion as his First Lady in 1934.
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The cast and crew of “Lydie Marland in the Afterlife” have come to have a new appreciation of the many facets of Lydie Marland as they have developed their characters for the play.
  
After his gubernatorial term, they lived in the chauffeur's cottage of their former mansion and sold the big house and grounds. Following E. W.'s death in 1941, Lydie Marland became more reclusive. In the 1950s, she disappeared from Oklahoma for more than a decade. From wife of one of the wealthiest men in the world to wayward bag lady, she was lost for twenty-two years in the landscape of America. She returned to Ponca City in her later years, and succeeded in having the Marlands' Palace on the Prairies purchased and preserved by the city.  
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Ryan Brown, director of one of the play's two casts, has a personal connection to Lydie through his father. "When my father was a teenager he worked at Miller's Market on Highland and Lydie would go to the store and buy a penny's worth of grapes because that's all she could afford and my father was the one to sell her those grapes. She would come in and she would put a penny on the counter with a handful of grapes and my father would say no ma'am you can just take them and she would insist on paying for them,” says Brown. “What I find so cool is that my father does not remember a statue, he does not remember a princess, he remembers a woman that couldn't afford to feed herself and feeling pity on her. It was my grandmother that eventually told him after she passed that Lydie was the former first lady of our state and he was just baffled. My father had no idea and he thought it was just a shame that that sad lady had to starve the way she did and that's how my father knows her.
  
In  the play ''Lydie Marland in the Afterlife,'' based largely on the ''The Marland Tragedy'' by Kim Brumley, Isabella Russell-Ides postulates a relationship with sculptor Jo Davidson that resulted in a child that was given up for adoption. In this version of Lydie's story, EW marries Lydie to help cover up the scandal. "Lydie was no gold-digger," writes Christopher Stephen Soden. "Ides makes it clear that from the time Lydie (and her teenage brother George) were adopted by their aunt and uncle, they were treated to extravagance beyond comprehension, after a life of struggle and impoverishment. It’s implied she simply wanted her dazzling, blissful new existence to continue, without interruption. Her doting uncle ushered her into a completely different milieu, filled with parties, travel, luxury and pleasure. Lydie Marland makes it easy to understand why she was willing to wed her adoptive dad and uncle."
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Morgan Ham, who plays “Old Lydie” in one of the casts, remembers Lydie as a princess. “For me growing up in Ponca City she was the girl we all wanted to be. My friends and I would go to the mansion during Oktoberfest and I remember all my friends just wanting to be Lydie wearing her beautiful white dress. We all loved her bedroom so she was kind of like a Disney princess and every girl wanted to be Lydie Marland in her mansion back in the 1920s.
  
==Cast and Directors==
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Faith Greenhagen, who plays “Young Lydie” in one of the play's two casts, says that the play demonstrates that Lydie was much stronger than people give her credit for. “I think what's so incredible about Lydie is she's more than just a pretty face. I think a lot of times she's just reduced to this beautiful socialite, the wife of E. W. Marland but she was more than that,” says Greenhagen. “She was so much stronger than I think a lot of people give her credit for because she went through so much and she just kept going when she could have just quit and given up. She just kept going and she was strong the whole way through.
In a first for Ponca Playhouse, the play will have two casts and two directors who will each present their own interpretation of the play with separate casts of two actresses who will appear in performances on alternate days.
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Sam Stuart is directing Cast A with "Old Lydie" played by Meghann Borum and "Young Lydie" played by Faith Greenhagen. Cast A will perform on Thursdays and Saturdays.
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Shelby Cargill, who plays “Young Lydie in one of the casts, says there are lessons to be learned from the play. “I didn't really know before that Lydie left Ponca City and then came back in such terrible conditions,” says Cargill. “I hope the audience takes away the idea of how “Old Lydie” in the play dealt with her demons by looking back at her life and putting her demons to rest and feeling at peace and moving forward. I hope that's something that everyone can do in their own life. It's a really difficult thing to look at your past and know that everything happened for a reason.
  
Ryan Brown will direct Cast B with "Old Lydie" played by  Morgan Ham and "Young Lydie" played by Shelby Cargil. Cast B will perform on Fridays and Sunday matinees.
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Meghann Borum who plays “Old Lydie” in one of the play's two casts, says she respects the way Lydie made a life for herself after Mr. Marland died. “I always thought of Lydie as a sad character when I was growing up and she really isn't. The more I learned about Lydie, I learned that some sad and terrible things happened to her but she made her own life. She made choices for herself especially after Mr. Marland died,” says Borum. “It might not have been what all of us would have chosen but she chose a life for herself and that's what I respect.
  
==About the Play==
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Sam Stuart who directed one of the play's two casts, says that the play shows that Lydie tried to get out from under E. W.'s shadow and be her own person and in this she succeeded. “When I was asked to direct the show I did some research on my own trying to find out who Lydie was based not on people who were in love with her. I tried to find some some relatively neutral people to do my research from and what I've discovered is that she was just a person,” says Stuart. “She was a woman who was in some ways a victim of the men in her life. In many ways Lydie was flawed, she was human, she wanted to be loved, but she wanted to be her own person and I think one of the things that this play will bring out is the fact that she was her own person at the end. She did finally get out from under Mr. Marland's shadow and become somebody whether it was the person she envisioned herself being or not. She became somebody who was Lydie Marland instead of Mrs. E. W. Marland. There's a big distinction there.
In the play the lights come up on the heroine returning to consciousness shortly after her death. Lydie had been a vagabond for decades after the economic downfall and death of her oil-baron husband. As she begins to recall her glorious early days, her younger self enters, an apparition in her marcelled hairdo and white frock. The playwright Russell-Ides takes a novel approach to the mystery of what awaits us on the other side and constructs a believable journey that leaves room for hope, redemption, and reflection on a life lived.
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Playwright Russell-Ides makes clear that Lydie was no gold-digger. But from the time Lydie (and her teenage brother George) were adopted by their aunt and uncle, Mary Virginia and E. W. Marland, they were treated to extravagance beyond comprehension, after a life of struggle and impoverishment. It’s implied Lydie simply wanted her dazzling, blissful new existence to continue without interruption. Her doting uncle ushered her into a completely different milieu, filled with parties, travel, luxury and pleasure. “Lydie Marland in the Afterlife” makes it easy to understand why she was willing to wed her adoptive dad and uncle.
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“Young Lydie makes a comment at one point in the play about how people can come through the mansion and see her wallpaper and judge how she lived,” concludes Meghann Borum. “If you didn't know her, it's easy to walk through the mansion and judge her or walk through the Grand Home and judge her. I hope people will take away from the play that Lydie was a real person who had hopes and dreams and desires that none of us will ever know and that's a beautiful thing.
  
Russell-Ides’ play, in which the older, dead Lydie confronts her younger self, is a fascinating rumination on choices and tries to answer the question, “'If you could give yourself advice from years of experience, what would you say?” but really it answers, “What would your younger self say back?” And would you even trust old-you?
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"Lydie Marland in the Afterlife" will be presented at Ponca Playhouse at 301 S 1st St. in Ponca City and will be performed on July 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22 at 730 pm and on July 16 and 23 at 2 pm. Tickets are on sale for $20 at the box office of Ponca Playhouse. The box office is open Monday - Friday from 11 am to 3 pm. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 580-765-5360 or purchased online at www.PoncaPlayhouse.com.
  
“Lydie Marland in the Afterlife” is an engrossing, amusing, richly depicted portrait of a woman who was flawed, and just as subject to the cruelties of fate as the rest of us. More than just creating a sympathetic case for Lydie Marland, Isabella Russell-Ides draws us into her exhilarating life, revealing a woman who jumped in headfirst, whether she was on a European spending spree, fox hunt, protest march or cleaning motel bedrooms. Whatever the outcome she embraced the world with sentience and verve.
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“The story of the E. W. and Lydie Marland is a big part of Ponca City's history,” says Hugh Pickens. “Everyone knows the dry facts of the Marlands' lives but sometimes it takes a playwright or a poet to help us understand those facts. I hope everyone who comes to see this play will leave with a new recognition of the role E. W. and Lydie Marland played in our community, a new understanding of the decisions they made in their lives, and a new appreciation of the influence the Marlands continue to have on Ponca City right up through the present.
 
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Caption: The world premier of the two act play “Lydie Marland in the Afterlife” will be performed at Ponca Playhouse on July 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22 at 730 pm and on July 16 and 23 at 2 pm. Photo: Lowell Sargeant
==About the Playwright==
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Isabella Russell-Ides is an American playwright who received the 2008 Critics Forum Award for her play Coco & Gigi. Russell-Ides has also received critical acclaim for her works, Leonard's Car ("Outstanding New Play", 2009 Nora's Playhouse, NYC), Fortune Cookie Smash (2007 Best of Fest, Frontera). Russell-Ides is noted for the poetic and heightened language of her texts. Russell-Ides is also a published poet, having written Getting Dangerously Close To Myself (Slough Press).
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Revision as of 16:15, 30 June 2017

Ponca Playhouse Presents "Lydie Marland in the Afterlife". Russell-Ides’ play, in which the older, dead Lydie confronts her younger self, is a fascinating rumination on choices and tries to answer the question, “'If you could give yourself advice from years of experience, what would you say?” but really it answers, “What would your younger self say back?” And would you even trust old-you?
The play will be presented at Ponca Playhouse at 301 S 1st St. in Ponca City, OK. Tickets will go on sale in June at the box office of Ponca Playhouse and will be $20. The box office is open Monday - Friday from 11 am to 3 pm.
Playwright Isabella Russell-Ides. Russell-Ides got the idea for “Lydie Marland in the Afterlife” eight years ago while she and her husband were returning to Dallas after visiting family in Kansas. “We saw a sign on I-35 advertising the Marland Mansion,” says the playwright. “We visited the mansion and fell in love with its beauty and its history.”
Ponca Playhouse Presents "Lydie Marland in the Afterlife" In the play the lights come up on the heroine returning to consciousness shortly after her death. Lydie had been a vagabond for decades after the economic downfall and death of her oil-baron husband. As she begins to recall her glorious early days, her younger self enters, an apparition in her marcelled hairdo and white frock. The playwright Russell-Ides takes a novel approach to the mystery of what awaits us on the other side and constructs a believable journey that leaves room for hope, redemption, and reflection on a life lived. Photo: Lowell Sargeant
Ponca Playhouse Presents "Lydie Marland in the Afterlife".

Introduction

"Lydie Marland in the Afterlife" Asks the Audience to Reinterpret the Life of Ponca City's Controversial First Lady

In 2009 poet and playwright Isabella Russell-Ides and her husband were returning to Dallas after visiting family in Kansas. “We saw a sign on I-35 advertising the Marland Mansion,” says the playwright. “We visited the mansion and fell in love with its beauty and its history.” The result was a play written about Lydie Marland that reinterprets the life of Ponca City's iconic and controversial first lady. "Russell-Ides said it was the broken marble statue, one made in Lydie’s youth that had been supposedly destroyed before she disappeared, that made her fall in love with the story," says Mary L. Clark. “She called it 'a case of broken identity.'”

Russell-Ides' visit to the mansion inspired her to write the play “Lydie Marland in the Afterlife” that Ponca Playhouse will be presenting this summer as part of the "Oklahoma Pride" series. This will be the world premier of the two act play which was written especially for production by Ponca Playhouse and will be sponsored and produced by Hugh Pickens and Dr. S. J. Pickens.

Loosely based on the life of Lydie Marland, as told in the book “The Marland Tragedy,” by Kim Brumley, the play follows Lydie as she returns to consciousness after her death and retraces her life as a debutante, wife of oil magnate E. W. Marland, first lady of Oklahoma, and as a vagabond who went missing for almost a quarter of a century. In the play, “Old Lydie” meets her younger self in the afterlife and comes to terms with her life as the niece and adopted daughter of Marland who later married him in a love affair that scandalized Ponca City as her life changed from a fairy tale of riches into a Greek tragedy.

The cast and crew of “Lydie Marland in the Afterlife” have come to have a new appreciation of the many facets of Lydie Marland as they have developed their characters for the play.

Ryan Brown, director of one of the play's two casts, has a personal connection to Lydie through his father. "When my father was a teenager he worked at Miller's Market on Highland and Lydie would go to the store and buy a penny's worth of grapes because that's all she could afford and my father was the one to sell her those grapes. She would come in and she would put a penny on the counter with a handful of grapes and my father would say no ma'am you can just take them and she would insist on paying for them,” says Brown. “What I find so cool is that my father does not remember a statue, he does not remember a princess, he remembers a woman that couldn't afford to feed herself and feeling pity on her. It was my grandmother that eventually told him after she passed that Lydie was the former first lady of our state and he was just baffled. My father had no idea and he thought it was just a shame that that sad lady had to starve the way she did and that's how my father knows her.”

Morgan Ham, who plays “Old Lydie” in one of the casts, remembers Lydie as a princess. “For me growing up in Ponca City she was the girl we all wanted to be. My friends and I would go to the mansion during Oktoberfest and I remember all my friends just wanting to be Lydie wearing her beautiful white dress. We all loved her bedroom so she was kind of like a Disney princess and every girl wanted to be Lydie Marland in her mansion back in the 1920s.”

Faith Greenhagen, who plays “Young Lydie” in one of the play's two casts, says that the play demonstrates that Lydie was much stronger than people give her credit for. “I think what's so incredible about Lydie is she's more than just a pretty face. I think a lot of times she's just reduced to this beautiful socialite, the wife of E. W. Marland but she was more than that,” says Greenhagen. “She was so much stronger than I think a lot of people give her credit for because she went through so much and she just kept going when she could have just quit and given up. She just kept going and she was strong the whole way through.”

Shelby Cargill, who plays “Young Lydie in one of the casts, says there are lessons to be learned from the play. “I didn't really know before that Lydie left Ponca City and then came back in such terrible conditions,” says Cargill. “I hope the audience takes away the idea of how “Old Lydie” in the play dealt with her demons by looking back at her life and putting her demons to rest and feeling at peace and moving forward. I hope that's something that everyone can do in their own life. It's a really difficult thing to look at your past and know that everything happened for a reason.”

Meghann Borum who plays “Old Lydie” in one of the play's two casts, says she respects the way Lydie made a life for herself after Mr. Marland died. “I always thought of Lydie as a sad character when I was growing up and she really isn't. The more I learned about Lydie, I learned that some sad and terrible things happened to her but she made her own life. She made choices for herself especially after Mr. Marland died,” says Borum. “It might not have been what all of us would have chosen but she chose a life for herself and that's what I respect.”

Sam Stuart who directed one of the play's two casts, says that the play shows that Lydie tried to get out from under E. W.'s shadow and be her own person and in this she succeeded. “When I was asked to direct the show I did some research on my own trying to find out who Lydie was based not on people who were in love with her. I tried to find some some relatively neutral people to do my research from and what I've discovered is that she was just a person,” says Stuart. “She was a woman who was in some ways a victim of the men in her life. In many ways Lydie was flawed, she was human, she wanted to be loved, but she wanted to be her own person and I think one of the things that this play will bring out is the fact that she was her own person at the end. She did finally get out from under Mr. Marland's shadow and become somebody whether it was the person she envisioned herself being or not. She became somebody who was Lydie Marland instead of Mrs. E. W. Marland. There's a big distinction there.”

“Young Lydie makes a comment at one point in the play about how people can come through the mansion and see her wallpaper and judge how she lived,” concludes Meghann Borum. “If you didn't know her, it's easy to walk through the mansion and judge her or walk through the Grand Home and judge her. I hope people will take away from the play that Lydie was a real person who had hopes and dreams and desires that none of us will ever know and that's a beautiful thing.”

"Lydie Marland in the Afterlife" will be presented at Ponca Playhouse at 301 S 1st St. in Ponca City and will be performed on July 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22 at 730 pm and on July 16 and 23 at 2 pm. Tickets are on sale for $20 at the box office of Ponca Playhouse. The box office is open Monday - Friday from 11 am to 3 pm. Tickets can be purchased by calling the box office at 580-765-5360 or purchased online at www.PoncaPlayhouse.com.

“The story of the E. W. and Lydie Marland is a big part of Ponca City's history,” says Hugh Pickens. “Everyone knows the dry facts of the Marlands' lives but sometimes it takes a playwright or a poet to help us understand those facts. I hope everyone who comes to see this play will leave with a new recognition of the role E. W. and Lydie Marland played in our community, a new understanding of the decisions they made in their lives, and a new appreciation of the influence the Marlands continue to have on Ponca City right up through the present.” Caption: The world premier of the two act play “Lydie Marland in the Afterlife” will be performed at Ponca Playhouse on July 13, 14, 15, 20, 21, and 22 at 730 pm and on July 16 and 23 at 2 pm. Photo: Lowell Sargeant

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