Sequim actress interviews ex-president, wife for ‘Miss Lillian’ role
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In this photo taken by Jim Dries, Carol Swarbrick Dries, center, discusses “Miss Lillian: Portrait of a Presidential Mother,” her one-woman show about Lillian Carter, with former President Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, in a classroom in Plains, Ga., earlier this week.

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

PORT TOWNSEND — Actress Carol Swarbrick Dries first stepped into the persona of Lillian Carter, mother of former President Jimmy Carter, in spring 2011.

She gave a reading of “Miss Lillian,” a one-woman play by Richard Broadhurst, in Sequim, and sent a videotape of it to the Carter Center in Atlanta.

Swarbrick Dries, co-founder of the local nonprofit Readers Theatre Plus, didn’t expect anything to come of the tape.

But President Carter answered with an invitation: to the actress and her husband, Jim Dries, to visit Plains and “meet more of the family.”

In September 2011, the Dries pair did go to Georgia, where they met Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter along with friends who had known Lillian.

Swarbrick Dries listened to stories of Jimmy’s mother — and incorporated them into the play.

This coming week, she will give three readings of “Miss Lillian: Portrait of a Presidential Mother” at Key City Public Theatre’s Playwrights’ Festival: at 7 p.m. Sunday and Wednesday and finally at 2:30 p.m. next Saturday, March 23.

Since this is a play-in-progress, a discussion will follow each performance. Admission is $10 at the Key City Playhouse, 419 Washington St.

Swarbrick Dries, who lives in Sequim when not performing in theaters around the country, has just returned from another trip to Plains. She and Jim visited with the Carters again, updating them on “Miss Lillian.”

The play is set in the Pond House, a place Lillian’s husband and son Jimmy built for her. The Pond House burned down, and Jimmy and his brother Billy helped rebuild it while Lillian was serving in the Peace Corps in India. She returned home, and lived the last 15 years of her life there.

Rosalynn Carter herself gave Swarbrick Dries a tour of the Pond House, a two-story place. Then “Mrs. Carter asked if we had time to sit and talk a while,” the actress recalled.

“We did, and heard wonderful, endearing and funny stories about Miss Lillian from Miss Rosalynn.”

Swarbrick Dries said this week that she’s looking forward to hearing audience feedback on her Lillian Carter portrayal.

She’ll have time to make script changes for a possible production, fully staged, of “Miss Lillian” at the Key City Playhouse this summer.

“So much will be determined by the readings,” Swarbrick Dries added.

She, with playwright Broadhurst and director James Rocco, have yet to decide where to take the show from here.

“Should it be performed at colleges across the country? At senior centers? Off-Broadway and/or regional theaters? We will know much better after these readings,” Swarbrick Dries said.

For tickets and information about the three performances of “Miss Lillian” and other events at the Playwrights’ Festival now through March 24, phone Key City Public Theatre at 360-379-0195 or see www.KeyCityPublicTheatre.org.

Last modified: March 14. 2013 6:32PM
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