Ponca Playhouse Presents "The Broken Statue"

Ponca Playhouse Presents
See photos from our 2012 production.

A limestone statue of a striking young woman is buried and lost for nearly forty years - a broken statue representing shattered lives and shattered dreams. The story of the statue is one of love, greed, power, and lost aspirations. The statue symbolizes what was and what could have been - a tale of a great oil empire betrayed, destroying the lives of the family who built it.

Ponca Playhouse announces that "The Broken Statue," a play by Bob Perry based on the real-life story of oil-baron E.W. Marland, who made and lost a fortune in the oilfields of northern Oklahoma, and the tragic story of his adopted daughter and later wife Lydie Marland, will be presented in Ponca City, Oklahoma in an exclusive run of nine shows that will be performed on July 18, 19, 20, 21 and 25, 26, 27, 28, 2013. Performances start on Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays at 8 p.m. and on Sundays at 2 p.m.

"Although partially fiction,'The Broken Statue' helps provide the public with an insight that feeds their curiosity of the life and times of E W, Virginia, George and Lydie Marland and their contemporaries. The play gives a glimpse of the extravagant glory days of the nineteen 'teens' and 'twenties' as they existed in Oklahoma," says David Keathly, executive director of the Marland Mansion."It's heartwarming, insightful, and clever," adds Jayne Detten, President of Ponca City Main Street. "Most of all, a delight to the senses and a respectful tribute to the Marland Family."

Oil Magnate E. W. Marland

In 1908 E. W. Marland came to Oklahoma after losing his fortune in the Pennsylvania oil fields in the panic of 1907 and by 1920 had reestablished himself and started the Marland Oil Company in Ponca City with a fortune estimated at $85 million (roughly $910 million in modern dollars). Marland was a visionary and not only pioneered the use of geophysical techniques in the oil industry but was years ahead of his time as an employer providing housing, loans, medical care, and other benefits for the thousands of employees who worked at his refineries and pipelines.

But misfortune would strike Marland and in 1928 his oil empire was destroyed by J.P. Morgan's banking interests. Marland was forced out of the oil company he had founded when bankers merged it with Continental Oil Company and renamed the company Conoco.

Although he lost his fortune, his company, and his home, Marland had something more important - the love of his wife Lydie and the high esteem of his fellow Oklahomans who elected him Governor. "The Broken Statue" reveals the determination, grit, successes, and frustrations of Marland and the tragic challenges he left for his young widow, Lydie, in an intriguing story that captures the wild risk-taking, broken lives, and the lavish lifestyles of the gilded age of the early oil industry. "Ponca City is defined by its history and our rich history could not be told without a long discussion of E.W. Marland. "The Broken Statue" provides the theater goer a deep understanding of the life and times of E.W., his family and the people of Ponca City," says Brian Hermanson, President of Ponca Playhouse. "All the people of Oklahoma should make a point to see the play to become educated and entertained."

Lydie Marland, First Lady of Oklahoma

In 1908, Marland came to Oklahoma with not much more than belief in himself and a letter of credit. Marland and his first wife, Virginia, made their home at the Arcade Hotel, and E.W. set out to explore for oil. Mr. and Mrs. Marland had no children of their own so they invited two of her sister's children to come from Pennsylvania for a visit, and they stayed. The nephew, George, and the niece, Lydie, shared in the wealth of their aunt and uncle, being sent to the finest private schools and enjoying lavish parties with their friends in the home on Grand Avenue. In 1916, E.W. and Virginia adopted George and Lydie.

In 1926, Virginia Marland died after a long illness and in 1928, E.W. and his adopted daughter, Lydie, traveled in his private railway coach to Flourtown, Pennsylvania where he had her adoption annulled and married her. The girl who was first his niece by marriage, and then his adopted daughter, became his wife, the second Mrs. Marland and the "first lady" of the new Marland Estate Mansion. They went on an extended honeymoon and in September 1928, they moved into their new home, E.W.'s gift to his bride.

When Marland was elected governor of Oklahoma in 1935, Lydie became first lady of the state. After Marland's death in 1941 and with the mansion sold to the Carmelite Fathers, Lydie lived a quiet, reclusive life and some people even thought she had died. Then, in 1953, she loaded her Studebaker with paintings and tapestries and left Ponca City, not to be seen again locally for 22 years. For most of that time, very few people knew where she was and once again, some even thought she had died. The Saturday Evening Post ran an article in November, 1958 titled "Where is Lyde Marland?" However, while she was gone, she was in touch with her attorney and continued to pay taxes on the little cottage and property that Marland had left to her in his will. She lived on the west coast for a while and in New York City near Central Park. In the 1960's, during the unrest that surround the Vietnamese War and civil rights, she participated in peace marches in Washington, D.C.

In 1975, Marland's mansion was put up for sale and Lydie came home and wrote a letter to the editor of the Ponca City News, asking the citizens of Ponca City to support the purchase of the mansion and to save this wonderful treasure. Following her return to the city in 1975, Lydie moved back into her cottage on the estate grounds, and she lived there until her death in 1987. Again, she lived a very reclusive life and was very shy when people approached her. She only went into the mansion, or the "big house" as she called it, a few times.

Playwright Bob Perry Brings Their Story to Life

Playwright Bob Perry's attraction to the Marland story began in 1999 when he came to Ponca City and stayed a week at the Marland Mansion during a conference. Perry took the mansion tour and when he saw Lydie's refurbished broken statue, he called his wife and said, "I know the title of the book I want to write - The Broken Statue." Perry tried to start the story several times, but didn't get serious about writing the first manuscript until 2006.

"At first, I thought E.W. Marland must have been a scoundrel to marry his adopted daughter," says Perry. "I was more intrigued by Lydie's story than E.W.'s at first. Through the process I have become a great admirer of E.W. Marland. He served as governor during one of the state's most trying times and I think did a good job. E.W. Marland had many opportunities to take his fortune and leave, but I believe he truly loved Oklahoma."

Perry began by writing a novel based on the Marlands' story and it took him less than a year to complete the novel once he got started. Then Perry started working on the play just to see if he could do it. "At first I took the dialogue from the novel and added a few things to get a first draft. The original script did not take long to write, but it was three acts and would have been about a 4 hour play. With a lot of help and guidance, I've done several rewrites to condense the story into a workable script."

"I think we've been able to tell the Marland story in an entertaining and concise way," says Perry. "In the novel, I was able to tell the story with imagery and words. On stage, it has forced me to tell the story with dialogue and rely on the actor's performances to get the audience to experience the story."

"The monuments left by E.W. Marland are everywhere in the state he helped form. The image of Lydie's statue was carved when she was the princess of the Marland Empire. The restored statue graces the entrance to the Marland Mansion to greet visitors that still come to marvel at the remarkable house and story. Lydie Marland always saw E.W. Marland as an exceptional man-we can only hope Lydie understood how special she was. I hope the play version of "'he Broken Statue' will motivate others to explore and get to know this extraordinary Oklahoma family."

Ponca Playhouse to Recreate the Marlands' Story

"The Broken Statue" was first produced at the Jewel Box Theatre in 2011 and a number of residents of Ponca City traveled to Oklahoma City to see the production. Then in November 2011 a group of Ponca City residents who had seen the show met at Ponca Playhouse including representatives from the Marland Mansion, Ponca City Tourism, and Ponca City Main Street and proposed that if Ponca Playhouse would produce "The Broken Statue" other community groups in Ponca City would support the production. "I took the report from our steering committee to a meeting of the Playhouse's board of directors meeting and the enthusiasm spread to the board and they voted that we should proceed with it," says Ponca Playhouse board member Karen Brown. "I think it's a good fit for Ponca City. It's an opportunity to perpetuate the history of Ponca City and it's an opportunity for community members to get involved with the Playhouse."

Ponca Playhouse is an organization that has been active in the community of Ponca City since 1958 and is one the oldest community theatres in continuous operation in the United States. In 2008 the Playhouse celebrated its 50th anniversary by moving into their new location at 301 S. 1st Street in Ponca City with a new flexible performance space. "The thing is that we wanted to have a design that was not limited," says Ruslyn Hermanson adding that the seating can be reconfigured in 30 minutes. "We wanted something that could be moved so if we want to have a proscenium stage, we can have it. If we want to have a thrust stage like we used in 'Tuesdays with Morrie' we can do that. If we want to do theater in the round, we can do that."

Another feature of the new Playhouse is that everybody has a great seat and that there be a new feeling of intimacy between the actors and the audience. "Nobody is more than three seats away from the production. Everybody has a great sight line. The actors are having eye contact and actually talking to you and you feel that you are part of the play rather than someone who is hiding in the back of the room," says Brian Hermanson. Karen Brown added that "when we had our open house for picking seats everybody wanted to chose seats in front. They couldn't quite get their head around the fact that now you can see the production just as well from the sides." Another practical advantage of the more intimate setting is that members of the audience can see and hear the play better. "The number of people with hearing problems, as you get over 50 is increasing," says Brian Hermanson. "Now people say after our first production 'I can hear everything. I can see everything. Even though I have a seat near the back wall I have a great view.'"

The production of "The Broken Statue" will be a special production of Ponca Playhouse that is not a part of their regular season and will be the first production to take place during the summer fulfilling the Playhouse's need to keep the theatre active year round. "I think that it will turn out to be something that is really positive for Ponca Playhouse and for the community," adds Brown who will produce "The Broken Statue" for Ponca Playhouse. "Its important that this story of Ponca City's history be told."

Get Tickets for this Limited Engagement

The Broken Statue will appear this year in a limited engagement of only nine performances. When the Jewel Box Theatre presented this play in Oklahoma City in 2011, shows were quickly sold out and even though additional performances were added, many people who wanted to see the show were unable to get tickets. In 2012 Ponca Playhouse sold out 11 performances of "The Broken Statue" which is one reason the Playhouse is bringing it back for an "Encore Performance" for 2013. With only 800 tickets on sale for this run, get your tickets now to ensure you can see this once-in-a-lifetime performance that tells the story of the Marland family in Ponca City. "This play will bring alive part of the Marland Story which in essence is the story of Ponca City," says Rich Cantillon, Executive Director of the Ponca City Chamber of Commerce. "People will leave "The Broken Statue" play wanting to know more about the rich history and culture of our great city. "

Tickets are $20 and may be purchased at Ponca Playhouse in person at the box office or over the phone at 580-765-5360 from Tuesday through Thursday – 10 am to 3 pm.

Thursday's, Friday’s and Saturday’s performance will begin at 8:00 p.m. and Sunday’s performance will begin at 2:00 p.m.

Ponca Playhouse to Present

To Learn More

Ponca City Tourism EW Marland The Broken Statue Contact Us
Ponca Playhouse to Present


Jewel Box Newsletter Volume 1, Issue 1 (August 13, 2011)

Jewel Box Newsletter Volume 1, Issue 2 (September 20, 2011)

Brace Books. "The Broken Statue" by Bob Perry.

Amazon. "The Broken Statue: A Play: Jewel Version" by Bob Perry.

Ponca City, We Love You. "Ponca Playhouse Looks to the Future" by Hugh Pickens. September 24, 2009

The Marland Mansion. "Lydie Marland"

Ponca Playhouse to Present

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