Can a photograph capture a ghost? That is one of many questions posed in Arlitia Jones’ historical-fiction-mystery based on real life spirit photographer William H. Mumler (1832-1884). While a New York detective is keen to prove Mumler is a fraud, Mumler’s wife, a clairvoyant, is digging into the detective’s past. Under the direction of Tom Byrn, who directed last year’s ELTC production of Silent Sky, this is only the third production of this riveting play. Summerland premiered at the Cincinnati Playhouse in 2017.
After the bloodshed of the Civil War, survivors searched for any form of hope, including seeking out clairvoyants and seances. When Mumler declared himself a “spirit photographer,” people, including Mary Todd Lincoln, flocked to his studio to have their pictures taken to see which ghost of a spouse, family member or friend would appear with them. “Summerland” is another name for the afterlife - a land of eternal summer, with grassy fields and sweet flowing rivers, where there is no more pain or suffering.