Get to Know Your Actors: Mary Shaw (Lisa)

Mary Shaw began her theatrical career in junior high and high school, and followed that up in college at Penn State, No Refund Theatre. Over the last ten years, her theatrical focus has been has been the CoMo theatre scene—in fact, this will be her twenty-third time appearing onstage in Columbia. Here at Talking Horse, she was in Truffles and Nougat last summer and the Talking Horse/Maplewood Barn collaboration The Red Box this spring; you may have also recently seen Mary at the Maplewood Barn and CEC, or in the Memorial Day event at the Columbia Cemetery, playing Luella St Clair Moss.

Offstage, you might see Mary around town, trying new restaurants and problem-solving her way through escape rooms. Much of her free time outside of the theatre is spent with the Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA). Mary says, “I really enjoy the research and historical recreation aspects of the group. My area of focus is Henry VII’s England, and most of my work tends to be in clothing.” Mary has also costumed several shows at Talking Horse, including Violet, The Last 5 Years, and Over the River and Through the Woods, and volunteers in the Maplewood Home during the Heritage Festival.

Here are some more thoughts from Mary about her deceptively complex character in The Lyons and life as a theatre person in Columbia.

What was the first play you remember seeing? What was memorable about it?

The first play I saw was The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, which was also my favorite book at the time. I think I was around five years old, and I was mystified by how they kept producing hats out of nowhere on stage.

What do you want the audience to know about the arts community in CoMo?

The arts community definitely has something for everyone, whether you’re looking for family-friendly or edgy. And there’s always something going on, the arts community is extremely active. It’s always exciting to see the collaborations and the exciting things they produce.

What is your favorite thing about the rehearsal process for The Lyons?

I really enjoyed the challenge of finding the right emotional balance in Lisa, the right presentation. She’s on an emotional rollercoaster throughout the show, and most of her problems are issues I haven’t dealt with in my life. At the beginning of the rehearsal process, some lines seemed weird and forced, and I realized that it was because I didn’t have the character right. I wasn’t letting her flaws show enough, because as soon as I let her selfishness, insecurity and impulsivity out full force, her words made sense, she became more real, and I was a lot more confident with her. Characters with big emotion swings are so much fun to play, and Lisa has probably been my most challenging role to date.

What similarities & differences do you see between yourself and Lisa?

We’re both passionate and high strung, although Lisa has much larger doses of both. I think that is our main similarity, and it actually went a long way towards helping me understand her. We’re definitely more different than similar. My life is much less volatile than hers. She’s had a lot happen and hasn’t coped with it very well.

What do you hope the audience comes away from this play thinking about, talking about, or asking themselves?

I often drive home thinking about the odd ways we find happiness with each other. Every person in the show ends up in a completely difference place by the end, and none of them are where they expected to be, nor are they with who they expected. It’s very much like life in that way – you find happiness in the most unexpected places.

What is your #1 karaoke song?

I usually default to ‘Part of Your World’ from The Little Mermaid.


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