New at the South Carolina Repertory Co. is an intimate portrayal of an American icon who helped millions of people with their personal issues.
Local actress Sheila Kadra will portray the famous Esther Pauline Friedman, better known as Ann Landers, in "The Lady with All the Answers" in 13 performances starting Dec. 11.
The play follows Landers' struggle as she deals with her divorce after spending decades adamantly advising others against it.
Through an interactive, and sometimes humorous, format, the play sets out to entertain and educate audiences, Kadra said.
"She's very conflicted during the course of this because the 35 years that she was happily married, or so she thought, were wonderful years," Kadra said of her character. "To find out that all of a sudden it's over? It's very wrenching, and yet she's a very strong woman."
Kadra said she expects local audiences to be nostalgic about their days of reading Landers' column.
"A lot of these people are people who read Ann Landers when they were younger, and they will be familiar with her brashness," she said. "She doesn't mince words, and she has very high principles."
Director Blake White said the audience will not only see Landers' intelligence in the writing, but will appreciate the way Kadra portrays the columnist's inner struggle on stage.
"There's nothing more interesting for me than to see someone on stage who is conflicted and trying to do the right thing and has no idea what the right thing is -- and trying to be funny at the same time," he said.
White said he was impressed with the work Kadra has put into the show.
"It's a one-woman show, 90 minutes," he said. "She had her lines memorized before the first rehearsal, and I've never seen that in my life. She's been wonderful."
Kadra said she had been reading biographies and letters to get to know Landers better, and she learned the script before the first reading because it was sent to her so early.
"I think in retrospect, I probably would not do that again," she said. "I was definitely getting ideas for the character without talking to the director."
Kadra has performed with other groups in the area, including the May River Theatre Co. and the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina.
Each performance of "The Lady with All the Answers" promises to be slightly different depending on the audience.
"So much of the play is interacting with the audience and their responses," Kadra said.