Mary Testa Shares Her Broadway Scrapbook: The Government Inspector, In Trousers, Chicago & More
August 7th, 2017
by Mary Testa
Two-time Tony nominee, OBIE winner, and Drama Desk recipient Mary Testa is cracking up off-Broadway audiences with her signature brand of comedy as the grandiose, horny, and corrupt mayor's wife, Anna Andreyevna, in the must-see comedy The Government Inspector.
Scroll on as Mary shares with BroadwayBox just a sampling of photos and stories from her illustrious stage career.
Oklahoma! at Bard SummerScape (Aunt Eller), 2015
Well I got a call from the director, Daniel Fish—and I worked with Daniel a long time ago. At the time, I was doing a workshop with Sally Struthers, and Sally had not seen the Tonys or the Emmys or something, and I had taped it, so I said, "Sally come over and watch. I'll make dinner." She was in my living room when I got a call from Daniel explaining, "I'd like you to play Aunt Eller. We are doing this thing at the Bard, we'll rehearse in the city." Now I hate working out of town so I was like, "Ehh, out of town? Well, alright. Hang on a second, I have Sally Struthers in my living room." And he went, "Sally Struthers...is...in your living room!?” It was really funny. So I had a conversation with him, and I said, "Yeah, I’d love to!" I am so glad I was a part of it because, first of all, I love working with him (he’s hilarious!) and I think he's just a genius. It was a great experience.
Chicago (Matron Mama Morton), 2005
Photo by Jeremy Daniel
This was for the 20th or the 89th anniversary or whatever it was for Chicago just recently. Broadway.com brought us to a gambling school on East 23rd or something and I just love all of those ladies. It was great fun and just a great group of women. It was nice to see everyone. They are all peers; they are all friends. You don’t see your friends all the time in theater—you usually go long periods of time without seeing people—so it was nice. I’ve been a very lucky person in what I've been involved in is usually wonderful with great people. That was a very fun photoshoot.
Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! (Sarah Jackman), 1992
Oh my god! This is from 25 years ago. It was a big hit (they had to remind me of this) off-Broadway at Circle in the Square when Circle in the Square was on Bleecker Street.
Queen of the Mist (Anna Edson Taylor), 2011
Photo by Carol Rosegg
Queen of the Mist is that show that is really my heart. Michael John [LaChiusa] wrote it for me, and it was Jack Cummings’ idea. It was an extraordinary experience, and it always will be—always will be. I just love that show. It would be wonderful to do it again but I don’t really know that anyone's that interested in it. I mean the people who saw it loved it, but you know with some art nobody gives a shit. But that show will always have heart. I can't hear it or think about it without weeping.
This is from the concert version we did just a while ago to celebrate the fact that it was five years ago we did Queen of the Mist. There’s a finale number (that’s about 10 minutes long) that’s actually her going over the falls, and she tells you what the experience was like. It’s staggeringly beautiful. I’m a huge fan and devotee of Michael John—I think he’s extraordinary—and every time I hear the first note, I just start sobbing. It’s really incredible.
In Trousers (Miss Goldberg), 1979
Well first of all, we’re all like 21—which is incredible. The hilarious thing is Chip Zien and I have the same hairdo. It's not my favorite picture of me, but it's an extraordinary picture of the four of us.
In Trousers was tremendous. I met Bill Finn when I was in college. He had come to do a show and he picked me to be in it. I was 19 when I met Bill, and when I moved to the city at 21, Bill got me, Alison [Fraser] and a woman named Kate together and we just started singing his stuff. That was how In Trousers came about. It was us; we created all the harmonies. We had sort of a list of songs, and he would invite people. We would just do these versions for everyone. We would clean his apartment and put out grapes and wine and that's how In Trousers happened. It was a very exciting time. It was a new voice no one had ever heard before. It set Bill on his path and all of us on our paths.
Scapin (Zerbinette), 1993
I can't believe that was in the nineties! I was doing Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! and I had just done Scapin at Yale Rep and they were bringing it to CSC. I put my notice to Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh! on opening night to go do Scapin because that was my heart—another one of my hearts. It was written by the late great Rusty Magee, and Rusty is in that shot—he's in the dapper wig and coat on the end. He was a great friend and tragic loss. He was really extraordinarily talented. It was an incredible experience...and that’s all my own hair.
Broadway by the Year, 2017
That was Broadway By the Year at Town Hall. This was taken in our dressing room. It’s a great group of women, and I thought we look really cute.
Jack in the Box (The Mother), 2010
That is our dear and exceedingly talented Michael Cyril Creighton's web series Jack in the Box. I played Michael's mother and Alison played my sister. You know, [Alison and I] have been friends for 41 years, and she's an extraordinary talent and a dear friend. We don't always get to work together but we had a ball working on that series. It's wonderful when you know someone for a very long time and they're a good friend.
The Caucasian Chalk Circle (The Governor's Wife/ The Mother-in-Law/ The Old Lady), 2013
Another CSC show, which I did about four years ago. That starred Christopher Lloyd and Elizabeth Davis, and that is Jason Babinsky in the photo with me. I just love that photo—it’s very evocative. She was an asshole (the character I was playing) but again it was great fun.
The Electric Company, 2009
That's from a TV show called The Electric Company that was many years ago. I played a president or commander or a ruler of another planet, and I had to speak in a completely different language, so I had to learn these gibberish lines. They had made a portrait of me. I thought that was hilarious—I didn't even get to keep the portrait, but I do love that picture.
My Brilliant Divorce (Angela), 2013
That is from a solo show I did at Asolo Rep called My Brilliant Divorce. I worked at Asolo Rep two years in a row. It turns out I did the first regional production of Love, Loss, and What I Wore there, and I was apparently a very big success with Asolo audiences, and they asked me to come back to do another play. I had a very nice time. It's an interesting thing doing a solo show out of town. It was sort of lonesome—I mean I didn't know anyone and I would do this show every night and the stagedoor was not connected to where the people came out and so no one came back. It was really weird but I had a good time doing it. It was kind of a titanic task because it was an hour and a half show and just me. And I love working at Asolo Rep because the condos they let you stay in are fantastic. I would do another show there for the condo.
Have Faith, 2015
I thought I’d include my album. It came out two years ago and Michael [Starobin] and I are exceedingly proud of it. It's really of a piece—you can listen to any of the songs individually but trust the whole thing makes sense.
The Government Inspector (Anna Andreyevna), 2017
Photo by Carol Rosegg
I love this photo! First of all, this is a spectacular group of people; everyone is at the top of their game; everyone understands this kind of comedy; and we’re all on the same page so that's number one. Michael [Urie] is a delight. He’s spectacular and he's just the greatest guy—he's always happy and he's always smiling. It's an extraordinary experience. We’re all very lucky. No one thought it would move. We all thought, "Oh this is just what it is. It’s Red Bull, we're going to do this time and then we're done." But it seems to be going on. It's a great experience. It's so much fun, and when the audience is delighting in it, there's nothing like it.
Don't miss Mary Testa in 'The Government Inspector' at off-Broadway's New World Stages through August 20, then see her in MTC's 'The Portuguese Kid' beginning in September.