Actress Mary Martello is back on the Walnut stage in the current production of Blithe Spirit. Martello is playing the quirky medium, Madame Acarti, in the Noël Coward comedy. The Barrymore Award–winner shares some of her favorite moments from her time at the Walnut Street Theatre.
Debra Danese: You’ve been in over thirty Walnut productions. What have been some of your most memorable?
Mary Martello: The amazing people you work with are what makes each show so memorable! Certainly, Blood Brothers, my 1st Mainstage show directed by Bob Carlton, was thrilling. I used to sit backstage before an entrance and imagine all the actors—like John Barrymore—who breathed the same backstage air! I’ll always treasure The Triumph of Love for introducing me to Jimmy Brennan and his wisdom and generosity as an actor and director. So many lasting friendships have been created and though people move on, the friendships last. Beauty and the Beast—that costume! I couldn’t leave the backstage area. Stage management took care that I had a stool on either side along with a little reading light! Also, playing opposite Fran Prisco in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels; “sleeping” around the campfire every night during Les Miz listening to Hugh Panero sing ‘Bring Him Home’; singing ‘Do You Love Me’ in Fiddler on The Roof with Marc Jacobi to the accompaniment of only the fiddler because the power went out and feeling the entire audience hush and lean in; Harvey; Arsenic and Old Lace; Annie; Young Frankenstein. I have to say that all the shows have moments and people I’ve come to cherish. There’s not enough time to list them all. I’ve learned so much from each experience.
DD: Your character, Madame Arcarti, is a medium. How fun is it to play her?
MM: Remember when you were a little kid and you went outside and played made up games with your really good pals? Like that!
DD: If you could contact any one person through a medium, who would it be?
MM: My mom. She died at 58 and I still wish I could talk to her about stuff.
DD: You’ve done everything from Shakespeare to musical comedy. What’s your favorite genre?
MM: All of them! I miss plays when I do a spate of musicals and vice versa. Shakespeare is like doing a musical with just talking! I hope that I get to keep doing all the genres until I drop dead!
DD: You’ve accumulated quite a few awards over the years. Which one meant the most to you?
MM: I am very pleased and grateful to have been honored with the Barrymore a few times. And thrilled to have received the Lunt/Fontanne Fellowship. I do have a special fondness for my “Barnie,” which I received when I was 27, for my performance of the Mother in Amahl and the Night Visitors before I moved away from my home state of Michigan.
[Walnut Street Theater, 825 Walnut Street] May 31-July 3, 2022; walnutstreettheatre.org