Sally Edmundson takes on Mame at Stages

Categories: Stage

Mark Lipczynski
David Heaton as Patrick Dennis and Sally Edmundson as Mame Dennis
Houston actress Sally Edmundson is about to take on Mame in Auntie Mame - the first time the actor-heavy play (38 roles) has been performed in 25 years she says - and she guarantees a timelessness to the story that makes it relevant today (think recession.)

In 2002, Edmundson portrayed Vogue editor Diana Vreeland in Full Gallop at Stages and once she'd finished it, friends and colleagues told her she was going to have to do Mame next.

It took her eight years to figure out a way to do that.

First hurdle: Stages Repertory Theatre is known for edgy works. How was Edmundson going to sell doing a story that originated with a novel written in 1955, was adapted for the stage and retold in a 1958 movie with Rosalind Russell (in the clip above), then turned into a musical in 1966 with Angela Landsbury and Bea Arthur and then retold again in a 1974 movie with Lucille Ball and somehow argue that it was fresh?

"I thought, isn't there some way we could do this and put our stamp on it? It's so timeless.
the soul of it, the spirit of it is extremely current down to the recession," she said.

Second, there was the sheer size of the cast. "It's cost prohibitive; you just can't" she said explaining why other theater companies haven't tackled it. "It's so iconic; you can't cut any characters."

What happened was that Stages Artistic Director Kenn McLaughlin "re-imagined" the story. 14 actors share the 38 roles. "I'm always Mame and little Patrick is always little Patrick, but other than that, everybody's playing three to four roles," Edmundson said, adding that there's a lot of costume changes going on backstage.

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