The Tale of Many Marys Seacole

Mary Seacole was a remarkable woman. Her life's work can be seen mirrored through many women throughout time. The tale of Marys Seacole deserves to be heard.

Your Chicago Guide’s tickets for two to the press viewing of Marys Seacole courtesy of Griffin Theatre Company.

Griffin Theatre Company launched its 33rd season with the Midwest premiere drama Marys Seacole by Pulitzer Prize winner Jackie Sibblies Drury. The play is directed by Jerrell L. Henderson and Hannah Todd. Marys Seacole is currently playing through November 6, 2022 on Raven Theatre‚Äôs Schwartz Stage.

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

Marys Seacole is a dazzling tribute to the 19th century British-Jamaican nurse who crossed battle and race lines to chart her own course in history. Moving from past to present, through space and time, the play follows one woman’s extraordinary journey from the battlefields of the Crimean War to a modern-day nursing home. From the winner of the 2019 Pulitzer Prize for Fairview, the play challenges us to question the notions of sacrifice and selfishness. Marys Seacole also forces the audience to more closely examine the perception of women as caregivers. 

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

In her 1857 autobiographical travel narrative, Wonderful Adventures of Mrs. Seacole in Many Lands, Jamaican-born British nurse Mary Seacole recounts her life experiences. Among them is racism she experienced from the Americans when traveling and working on the Isthmus of Panama. Known as “Crimean Heroine,” she documented her distaste for Yankee aggression. Who was this remarkable woman? And who may she be seen as in the US today?

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

Independent go getter, Mary Seacole was proud of her medical expertise. She was born in Kingston, Jamaica, to a Scottish soldier and Creole woman. Seacole followed in the footsteps of her mother, a respected healer in Kingston. Eventually she left Jamaica and opened a hotel in Panama. Seacole traveled to England to join Florence Nightingale in caring for the Crimean War wounded. However, her applications were rejected. Seacole wrote: “Was it possible that American prejudices against colour had some root here?b Did these ladies shrink from accepting my aid because my blood flowed beneath a somewhat duskier skin than theirs?”

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Production photo by Michael Brosilow

Nevertheless, she persisted. With the assistance of a distant relative, Seacole funded her journey to Crimea. She opened the British Hotel a couple miles away from Balaclava and sold provisions to British soldiers. Her unique experiences illuminate the possibilities and challenges of how we might care for one another today. This time bending play offers up the notion that women like Mary exist and struggle for acceptance in and era. From the battle lines of Crimean War to the nursing homes of today, the impact of many “Marys Seacole” cannot be underestimated. They are the heroines of time past, present and future. A worthwhile lesson for any viewer.

Griffin Theatre Company’s Marys Seacole is now playing at Raven Theatre Schwartz Stage, 6157 North Clark, in Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood.

Tickets are available at www.griffintheatre.com or by calling (773) 338-2177.