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The original item was published from 1/18/2019 3:44:36 PM to 2/3/2019 12:00:03 AM.

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Leisure Services

Posted on: January 18, 2019

[ARCHIVED] CPAC Backstage: ‘Tea For Three’ sheds light on historic first ladies

Tea For Three

COOKEVILLE – Lady Bird Johnson sits alone in the family quarters of the White House – preparing tea for Pat Nixon, the next first lady of the United States.

She defends her husband’s quirks but confides that “politics is his oxygen.”

A few years later, Mrs. Nixon, on the eve of her husband’s resignation, readies herself to pass the torch to Betty Ford. She drinks her tea alone while remembering happier times – then explodes in anger about Watergate and the political world.

Then it’s Mrs. Ford’s turn to prepare tea for Rosalyn Carter. She reads TIME magazine in her bathrobe, feeling apprehensive about life after the White House.

It’s an intimate, witty and even humorous look at the life of a president’s wife – and it’s coming to Cookeville Performing Arts Center for Cookeville Leisure Services’ Backstage Series production of “Tea For Three: Lady Bird, Pat and Betty.”

Show times are Jan. 25, 26, 29 and 31 and Feb. 1 and 2 at 7:30 p.m. A tea time matinee is scheduled for Jan. 27 at 4 p.m.

“It’s the end of their tenure, and these women, their accessories and their vibe are constantly changing,” Jennifer Williams, director, said. “That’s the way it is when the White House switches over. It’s an amazing transfer, and we’re doing that on a tiny scale.”

Cast members include Holly Mills as Lady Bird Johnson, Samantha Raper as Pat Nixon and Sarah McDonald as Betty Ford.

“We were so lucky to get some intelligent, strong women to play these intelligent, strong women,” Williams said. “I think it’s necessary to do that, to do them justice.”

Each woman, in her own scene, confides her feelings to the audience.

Mills said audience members will see a different side of the first ladies.

“With any celebrity – in politics or otherwise – you think you know them,” she said. “But it’s when you get to see them in these kinds of settings and hear all these personal details that they’re more human and more relatable.”

Raper noted that it’s exciting and “a bit daunting” to portray an actual person.

“But the more I learn about Pat Nixon, the more I love her,” she said. “She was such a strong and amazing woman, and very human. I hope to do her justice.”

McDonald said “Tea For Three” is great for people interested in history as well as those looking to enjoy a night out.

“I’ve learned so much about these women we are portraying,” she added. “Of course, I knew of Betty Ford, but I’ve learned so much more about her and what’s asked of the first lady. It’s really opened my eyes.”

Backstage productions are selected especially for presentation in the intimacy of the backstage theatre setting, with audience members seated in chairs on the stage, “up close and personal” with the actors.

“You’re part of what’s happening, particularly in this play because the actors are speaking directly to the audience,” Williams said. “It’s a visceral experience that you don’t get in a larger venue.”

“Tea For Three,” written by Eric H. Weinberger and Elaine Bromka, is being produced by special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing.

Tickets are $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and $7 for students.

CPAC is located at 10 E. Broad St. For more information, call 931-528-1313.

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