When I was researching my one-man show, Stonewall Jackson & the Reunited States of America, I ran across a fascinating story about Mary Todd Lincoln. She was almost lost at sea, but saved by the actress, Sarah Bernhardt who was on her way to her first American tour. The book end to that was that Mary Todd Lincoln was nearly run over by Sarah's carriage when they arrived in NYC. The irony of an actor, John Wilkes Booth, assassinating Abraham Lincoln and an actress, Sarah Bernhardt, saving Mary Todd Lincoln's life opened me up to the world of these two women. In the light of the famous actress's friendship and attention, Mary's tragedies begin to be seen in a new way. Tumbling at 400 feet per second the bullet that John Wilkes Booth fired did not strike home for Mary Lincoln until 15 years later. Some things happen in God's time.
Sarah Bernhardt kept a journal in which she recorded what happened onboard the French ship, L'Amerique. She and the former First Lady only saw each other that fateful first morning, but what if Sarah had taken Mary back to her suite. Mary had seen Sarah perform in Paris and Sarah loved her admirers. What if Sarah were able to pull Mary away from her Widow'sWeeds for the afternoon, and after a few glasses of champagne, they had been taken to a place where the magic of theatre and the grace of God blurred and for a moment were indistinguishable? Mary was obsessed with the tragedy of her life. That obsession had the form of one, John Wilkes Booth. Her husband had been killed right in front of her, and when the assassin escaped he passed between her and her husband as he prepared to jump from the Presidential box. What if, as a true Southern gentleman, he had excused himself as he walked in front of her? What if their eyes had met? What if she had excused him? The action of the novel jumps back and forth between the events onboard L'Amerique as it makes its way across the North Atlantic and Booth's preparation for and carrying out of the assassination. The Rev. Jack R. Bonham has an MFA from the Yale School of Drama in playwriting. Of his four published plays, Medicine Men, a full-length historical play about Albert Schweitzer and the founder of Macrobiotics, George Ohsawa, is best known. The Hollywood actor/director Alan Arkin had this to say about that play: "Medicine Men is about devotion and teaching - that's the way it should be - there needs to be more writing like this."