I Remember Mama, John Van Druten's classic drama about a family of Norwegian immigrants living in San Francisco in the early 20th century, is being turned on its ear by Jack Cummings III, artistic director of off-Broadway's Transport Group Theatre Company. Cummings has cast a group of 10 veteran actresses to portray the play's 23 characters, which range from young girls to middle-aged men. With over seven centuries of experience among them, eight of the actresses offered TheaterMania a glimpse into their theatrical pasts, reflecting on their first stage credits, the roles that got away, the parts still to come, and the one piece of information that could have saved them all decades of grief.


Barbara Andres
What/when/where was your first professional acting job?
1958, a three-month tour of South America for the U.S. State Department's "Evening of American One Acts" in Where the Cross Is Made by Eugene O'Neill.

What role do you regret never having the chance to play?
Josie in A Moon for the Misbegotten.

What role are you hoping to have a chance to play in the future?
Nana — at home — with my eight grandchildren nearby.

Name one thing your years of experience taught you about show business that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
Wish I could have laughed at the disappointments, the mistakes, the competition — "tame the terror." Framing work in the right spirit not only makes the project more original and enlightened, but it makes one's life happier.


Heather MacRae
What/when/where was your first professional acting job?
In Kansas City at the Starlight Theatre (outdoors) I appeared with my parents, Gordon and Sheila MacRae, my sister Meredith, [and my] brothers...in Annie Get Your Gun. We played Annie's brothers and sisters.

What role do you regret never having the chance to play?
Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd.

What role are you hoping to have a chance to play in the future?
Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd!

Name one thing your years of experience taught you about show business that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
Sometimes you are just not right for the part and if you don't get the job, just move on. Don't ask why.


Susan Lehman
What/when/where was your first professional acting job?
Kansas City Starlight Theatre (summer of 1961): Seesaw ensemble
First musical: Destry Rides Again: Clara
First Broadway: I Can Get It for You Wholesale: understudy for Barbra Streisand and Bambi Linn; ensemble

What role do you regret never having the chance to play?
Momma Rose in Gypsy.

What role are you hoping to have a chance to play in the future?
Vera Joseph in 4000 Miles. [I] would [also] love to play Maude in the musical Harold and Maude again.

Name one thing your years of experience taught you about show business that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
I wish I'd known that a career in theater is a journey. It is not just the roles won and lost but a life of experience that is ongoing. It is a numbers game. Keep showing up, do the best you can, and go home and feed the cat — and know I am right where I need to be now.


Alice Cannon
What/when/where was your first professional acting job?
First national company of The Sound of Music with Florence Henderson, 1962.

What role do you regret never having the chance to play?
Rosabella in The Most Happy Fella.

What role are you hoping to have a chance to play in the future?
Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful.

Name one thing your years of experience taught you about show business that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
It taught me that one should savor every project one does in the early years because after 70 there ain't as much!


Louise Sorel
What/when/where was your first professional acting job? Sarah Walker in the Broadway production of Take Her, She's Mine starring Art Carney and produced by Hal Prince at the Biltmore Theatre in 1961.

What role do you regret never having the chance to play? Hedda Gabler.

What role are you hoping to have a chance to play in the future?
Hedda Gabler.

Name one thing your years of experience taught you about show business that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
To have confidence when going in for auditions and to just deliver the material. Make them think you're the one focus — although I did that with my first audition for George Abbott.



(© Joe Marzullo)

Lynn Cohen
What/when/where was your first professional acting job?
Summer stock production of Smilin' Through in Plymouth, Connecticut, when I was fifteen years old.

What role do you regret never having the chance to play?
None — yikes.

What role are you hoping to have a chance to play in the future?
Juliet or Mercutio.

Name one thing your years of experience taught you about show business that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
It never gets easier.



(© David Gordon)

Rita Gardner
What/when/where was your first professional acting job?
I started very young on a radio show called Coast to Coast on a Bus, hosted by Milton Cross.

What role do you regret never having the chance to play?
Juliet in Romeo and Juliet.

What role are you hoping to have a chance to play in the future?
Maude in Harold and Maude.

Name one thing your years of experience taught you about show business that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
Never face the facts.


Dale Soules
What/when/where was your first professional acting job?
The Mute in The Fantasticks at the Barn Theatre in Augusta, Michigan.

What role do you regret never having the chance to play?
Frankie in The Member of the Wedding.

What role are you hoping to have a chance to play in the future?
Mother Courage in Mother Courage and Her Children.

Name one thing your years of experience taught you about show business that you wish you knew at the start of your career?
1.) You never know on what criteria you are being judged in an audition — the only power you have is to have done your own preparation and delivery to the best of your ability. For instance, I had many (over twenty) callbacks for the Broadway production of Hair. When I was hired, I found out that I was not hired after a number of those auditions because Hair's astrologer decided that my astrological chart did not coordinate to his liking with the rest of the cast at that particular moment in time.
2.) If you have any inclination and/or talent for creating your own work, do it and keep doing it. This will free you from the relatively powerless position of waiting for someone else to decide [that] you and your creativity have something to offer.