ALBANY – Harbinger Theatre will close out its 2023 season on Thursday, Dec. 7 with the debut of Mrs. Packard, a play written by award-winning playwright and director Emily Mann, known for her research-driven documentary “theater of testimony”.
Publicist for Harbinger Theatre, Maureen Aumand, says that Mann’s theater pieces aim to make a difference and give a voice to individuals who are often not heard or recognized.
Mrs. Packard is based on the real life story of Elizabeth and Theophilus Packard, a married couple with six children living in Illinois during the Civil War era. Theophilus, a Congressionalist minister and his wife had opposing views over freedom of thought, religion, and politics. Wanting to silence Elizabeth and her views, he sent her to the Jacksonville Insane Asylum against her will.
After three years at the asylum, Elizabeth was released. She fought her husband in a trial to prove her sanity.
The jury found her to be sane.
“I do not call people insane because they disagree with me…we need more women like her,” a theologian physician who was a witness at Elizabeth’s trial said
In her later years, Elizabeth became a writer and activist reformer, founding the Anti-Insane Asylum Society and eventually regained custody of her children.
Harbinger Director Chris Foster wanted to showcase Mrs. Packard because its contents that relate to women’s rights are still in question and relevant in the present day. The play, Aumand noted, celebrates a woman’s triumph over oppression.
“The patriarchy is still writing off female behavior and claiming jurisdiction over their autonomy,” Foster stated. “Issues of basic human rights for all, the guarantee of freedom of thought and expression, the challenges of determining truth in a ‘post truth’ society of maintaining hard fought and won legal precedents, provide guarantees around these issues are of great importance at the present moment.”
Last year, members of the Harbinger play reading committee agreed unanimously that Mrs. Packard was the perfect play to end the season.
According to Aumand, the Harbinger production of Mrs. Packard has a cast of 16. Several participants are new to the Harbinger family, and join other cast members who have a long and stalwart history on area stages.
The Play will feature Kathleen Carey (as Elizabeth Packard) and Richard Roe (as Theophilus Packard) with Cindy Campbell, Jean Carney, Michael Gialanella, Kerry Kazmierowicztrimm, Robin Leary, Tiffany McWilliams, JJ Paul, Sara Paupini, John Quinan, J Scala, Michael Schaefer, Jennie Sinnott, Monet Thompson-Young, and Victoria Vine.
A new Gala
According to Harbinger founder Patrick White, the play reading committee was so inspired by the subject of Mrs. Packard that the theater family will throw a gala honoring women. Harbinger’s first ever Ladies’ Night event to be held Saturday, Dec. 9 at their regularly scheduled performance held at Albany Barn beginning at 6:30 p.m., an hour before the play begins. The celebration will be led by actress Laura Graver.
For $15, women spectators will be treated to a small fare, sweets, mulled cider, and can enter to win a dozen prize packages.
Theater goers can attend a preview of Mrs. Packard on Wednesday, Dec. 6 and the play will officially open on Thursday, Dec. 7, with $15 general admission. The play runs through December 16. Mrs. Packard will also include talkback events on December 8 and 15.
Go to the theatre site at actingclasswithpatrickwhite.net for ticket information.