Spotlight on Mary Stout

by Nancy Rosati   

NR:  How long did it take you to get to New York?

MS:  I taught at a childrenís theater down in Nashville for a couple of years. I was able to do some performing there, and some teaching. Even though I felt that I enjoyed teaching to a certain extent, the performing bug was much stronger so I started doing anything I could. I did a lot of commercials. I did a pilot of a TV show down there.

As Veta Louise in Harvey with Paul Klapper - Nashville, TN, 1977
NR:  Really? In Nashville?

MS:  It was hysterical. It was called Big Alís Doggs. We did three pilots over a year. First we did it on film. Six months later we did it at the studios in the Grand Ole Opry House. We did it on tape and then they went back and redid it again. It was all the same pilot. They went from film to tape, and then the last was done back again on film.

NR:  Three times? The same actors and the same script each time?

MS:  (laughing) Not really. It was terrible. It starred Al Lewis - Grandpa Munster. He was a really sleazy talent agent who discovers this rock Ďn roll band. A TV station wanted to do a Saturday dance show and it was all about him booking this band. (laughing) It was SO awful! It was actually aired during the TV strike in 1979 and it was terrible. I had one nice little scene from it that I can put on a reel. I played the secretary at the TV studio.

NR:  (laughing) So that was basically what made you come to New York?

MS:  Yeah, I guess so! I had done everything in Nashville that I was right for. I said, ďThatís it. Iíve got to go to New York.Ē Everybody said, ďOh sure. You are always saying youíre going to New York.Ē Iíd visited and seen shows before, but finally I came to New York in 1979.

NR:  That means it took you two years to get to Broadway - not bad.

MS:  It wasnít bad at all. I came to New York with my first Equity contract already signed. I didnít have the card, but it was nice that I had the contract. It was for The Sound of Music at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre. There were all these interns and Burt was there, and Sally [Fields] was around. While I was there, Dom Deluise directed Carol Burnett and Burt in Same Time, Next Year so they were around. It was quite a star-studded little time period. It was kind of fun to be there. I was a nobody.

NR:  What did you play in that show?

MS:  I was Frau Schmidt the housekeeper and I played a nun and I played a prize winner at the end, so they used me a lot and I got my [Equity] card. It was great to move to New York and get it so soon.

NR:  What happened when that job ended? Did you get another one right away?

MS:  Yeah. I got Bloody Mary at a dinner theater in the south. Then I got The Sound of Music at Jones Beach where I played the ďthird nun from the left.Ē

NR:  And Iím sure I saw you because I never missed those shows.

MS:  You probably did. After that I did Grease in what was then called The Elmsford Dinner Theatre. Then I went to Syracuse and did The Comedy of Errors and then I got my Broadway show. I had to get out of a tech rehearsal to fly to New York for my final call back.

With Evan Matthews in Copperfield in 1981
  Then you did Copperfield on Broadway. How long did that run?

MS:  Three weeks? Four weeks? It was one of those, but it was a great show. It was, again, another big novel that they had to cut way down. It had some lovely music. The guys who wrote the music and lyrics had also done Peteís Dragon so it was a little on the family theater side, at a time when there was very little family theater. If they had marketed it that way, people would have loved it.

NR:  How did that feel - the excitement of getting a Broadway job, but then in a very short period of time it was gone?

MS:  It was very hard. Itís interesting to mirror it twenty years later. Iím playing exactly the same kind of role. She was a nanny. I didnít have that much; I was more of an observer. I had great stuff nonetheless, and I was watching all of these older character people work. I still remember - they posted notice on Easter Sunday and then they took it down.

NR:  That sounds familiar.

MS:  Yeah. I think we got an extra two weeks out of it. They kept trying, but it just got so-so reviews. It was never recorded, which was a shame because there was some really nice music. I remember being depressed but I rolled with it and then things started clicking again.

That summer I did Oliver in Kansas City at Starlight and played Mrs. Bumble. Christian Slater played Oliver; he also was the little understudy for Evan Matthews in Copperfield.

About a week ago, a young man walked up to me outside the stage door and said, ďThe last time I saw you, you were my nanny.Ē It was Evan Matthews who played David Copperfield. I hadnít seen him in 20 years. He was 11 years old then and now heís a young man.