With a captivating onstage presence and a wicked set of acting chops, it’s no surprise that this very dear friend of mine is a wonderful stage actress who will do nothing but delight you with her big voice and impish sense of humour. After lighting up South African stages two years ago, Mary-Anne decided to pack up her humble beginnings and Honours BA Dramatic Arts Degree from the university of Witwatersrand, and move to New York City to further her studies and begin a career in musical theatre. Since her time in the Big Apple, along with belting out a few famous numbers in NY favourite, ‘Cranky Cabaret’, she has also become a member of the theatre company “Theatre For The People” and performed in Isaac Byrne’s ‘Hazard a Little Death’ (Which ran as a part of the Planets Connections Festivity.)
Her journey has been no walk in the park, but Mary-Anne wouldn’t change her job for the world.
1. How does the entertainment industry in NYC differ to the work back at home?
The theatre world back home is a lot smaller than in NYC. When I walked into an audition in South Africa I expected to know at least someone behind the desk because it is such a close knit community. NYC is a little different. It is very big and almost every person you meet is an actor or an aspiring actor. It can be a little daunting at first but it helps to remember that everybody feels that way and what is true for both communities is that, despite the outside appearances, they both have a strong sense of love, a shared passion for the craft.
2. What onstage character would be your dream part, and why?
I have a few, generally I gravitate towards roles in darker or more dramatic musicals/plays because I love their raw honesty. I feel like we spend so much of our lives hiding our truth/ darkness from the world because we have been taught by society to feel like those parts of ourselves are not beautiful or worthy but in these roles you have to be honest, vulnerable, real and exposed. The magical thing is that on stage somehow that vulnerability can be appreciated as beautiful. Some of these roles would be: The Mother in Next to Normal (for when I’m older), The baker’s wife in Into the Woods, Violet in Violet, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth and Alison in Look Back in Anger.
3. Besides performing, you are also a keen playwright. Tell us a little about that.
Yes, in South Africa I wrote and Produced a show called ‘Once Upon a Boundary Line’ which was performed at POPart Performing Arts Center and I am currently working on two plays and a possible mini-series. My main project writing wise at the moment is a play called ‘In the Wake’ which I am hoping to premiere in NYC later this year and also possibly take it back to South Africa. I have always loved writing. I think most actors could be great playwrights because those that do the work know how much imagination and emotional preparation goes into preparing to perform a character; you build lives and scenarios that aren’t part of the script all the time. I spent most of my youth daydreaming and creating these stories that I loved and at one point I thought maybe it is selfish of me not to share them.
4. Any advice to young actresses wanting to make a move to the Big Apple?
Take it one step at a time. Always be humble, friendly and courteous (even though those aren’t the common traits for NYC). One of the big things I realized is that, that guy/girl that looks a little run down and is irritating you on the subway may just be a top producer or director. That woman you are bragging to may just be performing on Broadway. We are never greater or less than anyone else I really think that is an important thing to remember. Connections are important, the life is hard, there will be a lot of rejection don’t take it personally. You have to want it more than anything because you will have to sacrifice a lot to reach your dreams but if you can not exist without getting on that stage, if you can’t sit in a Broadway show without tearing up purely because of your overwhelming passion for it, then this is the life for you and there will always be a way.
5. Where can we see you perform next?
FANS OF NY THEATRE: Keep an ear out for this lovely lady’s voice, and go watch one of her shows. You can thank me later.