Cowan Palace: A Play, A Pregnancy, A Passion for Broccoli Tacos, And Other Chats with Mary McGloin

March 4 2015

This week, Ashley Cowan chats with actress, Mary McGloin!

In an already exciting season for Custom Made Theatre Co., I recently had the opportunity to see their latest production of How The World Began and not to get into “review territory” but I thought it was fantastic. Aside from catching Theater Pub’s February contribution, I sadly haven’t been up for a lot of theatrical viewings these days. Unfortunately, it’s been difficult to sit longer than an hour without having to pee or put my feet up so seeing anything away from my couch has been tricky. And to be honest, when I entered Custom Made’s space last week, I was already uncomfortable and achy.

But in true theatre healing style, I sat down and was immediately brought to another place. Where I could watch three characters, one of which was suffering through pregnancy pains of her own, explore the divide between religion and biology.

In this Bay Area premiere, written by Catherine Trieschmann and directed by Leah S. Abrams, we meet Susan (played by Mary McGloin), a high school science teacher, her student Micah (played by Tim Garcia), and Micah’s “guardian”, Gene (played by Malcom Rodgers) who are all fighting for a chance to be heard and understood. I had the opportunity to ask Mary McGloin a few questions regarding her experience with the production and gain some additional insight into this piece about the universe’s origin story.

picture by Anne Livingston

AC: What first drew you to How The World Began and helped you to accept a role three thousand miles away from home?

MM: I first discovered How The World Began back in 2011 when I went on an acting retreat in Costa Rica with casting director, Alaine Alldaffer. She runs the retreat and assigns each actor a role and a play to work on for it. She assigned me Susan. I immediately fell in love with the play and the role and dove into working on it. I will always remember doing the 3rd scene on a beach.

When I saw the Off-Broadway production at the Women’s Project in 2012, I fell in love with the play again and hoped to one day play Susan. Back in April of 2014, Leah, our wonderful director, announced that she was going home to SF to direct this play in Winter of 2015, I immediately said, “I’m right for that role.” Lucky for me, she agreed enough to cast me, which led me home to the Bay Area for this production. (Missing winter in NY notwithstanding.)

AC: What is the biggest thing you have in common with your character, Susan?

MM: That’s funny you should ask. My little sister and brother in law came to the show and said, “Oh my God, she’s exactly like you, did they write this role for you?” I definitely have a very strong sense of justice, fairness, and a desire to stand up and stand by what I believe in, even if it makes me unpopular. That said, I think I personally am a bit more hypersensitive to other people’s feelings and beliefs and would probably have not ended up in the same situation exactly. I tend to apologize more. Though we are eerily similar.

AC: What’s been the biggest surprise challenge in playing Susan?

MM: Surprise challenge? I am not sure what was a surprise exactly but – when I initially read the script, some of the way she talks seemed foreign to me, I don’t say things like “willy-nilly” and “doing my darndest” but it was surprisingly easy to get that once I saw where she was coming from. The first scene sets up quite a tone for the play and I knew that I had to answer a few questions internally to know where to start from. It’s also important I think not to get angry or frustrated with Micah early on as he’s a kid who’s clearly hurting and she’s really trying to do the best she can, that and there’s a long way to go and if you start there you’ve no where to end up.

AC: As the play centers around discussions of faith and biological origin, did conversations of this nature infuse the rehearsal process as well?

MM: This is San Francisco, after all, so no, not really.

AC: What do you hope audiences leave thinking about after they’ve seen the show?

MM: About how easy it is to mis-characterize what other people believe – maybe how they would feel in the situation, how we as a country might be able to be a bit more tolerant of one or another’s views, whether we agree with them or not. Maybe especially when we disagree.

Picture by Jay Yamada

AC: How has your acting preparation process been influenced by playing a character who is pregnant?

MM: I’ve never been pregnant, so I read “What to Expect When You’re Expecting” and asked friends who have been for their experiences. I also did a lot of people watching.

AC: What has been your favorite part about being back in the Bay Area theatre scene?

MM: Oh, God, I miss home. This is my home. I have a lot of friends and family here. I come home typically at least twice a year to visit. Before I moved to the East Coast, I had been living in SF and other parts of the Bay Area for 15 years. I have worked at theatres all around the Bay. Everyone is nice, welcoming, supportive and you can really get to know the community and be seen for roles when they’re casting – New York is so huge and so competitive – it’s hard to keep on keepin’ on but it’s what we do. I was broken-hearted when I had to leave SF. But ultimately, I believed after understudying 12 times at Bay Area Theatres – mostly to women who lived in NYC and had MFA’s – that if I wanted to compete with that I needed to get my MFA and move to NYC, so I did. Was that accurate? I guess I’ll never really know. I would love to come back here at any time and do shows. Eventually, I’d love to be so well situated in my career that I could live anywhere and work consistently, and not just on stage but in TV and Film as well.

AC: What do you miss most about Brooklyn and the New York artistic scene?

MM: New York is pulsating and alive. It’s like being on a train that never stops. There is a great amount of opportunity there to succeed and in a very big way – but it also comes with a big price tag. It’s because of the support of my friends and family here and there that I can get up and do what I do everyday.

To be honest, though, I miss my friends and family in Brooklyn and NY (though if I were there I’d miss you guys here, doh!) , I miss the constant auditioning, I miss the willingness of everyone to bust their butt to make something happen. Brooklyn, itself, I miss Prospect Park, I miss broccoli tacos, I miss finding new and unexpected places to go.

AC: Tell us about where we can see you next and any upcoming projects!

MM: I am busy writing 2 web series in NYC. One is called Lines & Asides and I shot a pilot that got into a few film festivals. It will probably be re-shot when we shoot the whole season. The show revolves around a classically trained actress (typecasting) struggling in NYC and the people she knows – it’s really a story of the life of most of the actors I know in NYC – the idea and the humor are kind of a cross between Slings & Arrows, Waiting for Guffman and The Office. It’s been fun to write – I’ve written 2 seasons, I want to write a final third and then do some re-writes before trying to get it shot.

The other series is about 2 women who work at a startup tech company. My day job has been as a QA Engineer for many years and both me and my co-creator, Amanda Van Nostrand, are taking stories from our lives in this word to make a short (3-5min) episodic. This one is all set in an office and I hope to shoot much sooner than Lines & Asides.

AC: In twelve words or less, why should people come and see How the World Began?

MM: It’s a powerful script that will give you something to talk about!

How The World Began Runs has four shows left and will close on March 8th. To get tickets, please go to: and catch this show while you can!

Interview about GOODLY ROTTEN APPLE’s PRODUCTION of THE WATER CHILDREN by Wendy MacLeod q&a preview by Mary McGlointhewaterchildrengraphic
September 4, 2012
What is your job on this show?

When did you know you wanted to work in the theater, and why?

When I was a little girl, I couldn’t decide what I wanted to be. I knew I didn’t want to do anything practical. Early career choices were international woman of mystery (spy), rock star, or writer. They changed often but were always either about art or saving the world or protecting it from injustice. Then, at 8 years old, my father, who was the principal of the high school, took me to the school musical, Once Upon A Matress. I saw this girl playing Winnifred and I thought, “I can do that” and I realized that if I were an actress, I could be anything, play anyone, tell people’s stories — and that was just about the coolest thing ever. 8 years later, as a junior in high school, I played Winnifred in Once Upon a Mattress on that same stage. There’s a VHS tape lurking somewhere………..

Complete this sentence: My show is the only one opening in NYC this fall that…?

Takes on the topic of abortion when women’s reproductive health concerns and women’s right are under attack daily by dueling political parties. It reminds audiences that independent theatre has the potential to alter the conversation and get people talking and thinking about current issues.

How did you meet your fellow artists/collaborators on this show?

I have long since had a dream to create a production company that would take the talents of all the different artists I’ve known of all different mediums and utilize their talents to create works of art. Goodly Rotten Apple Productions is the start of that dream. John Philip Hamilton (Producer) and I work together at Tremor Video. John is a playwright from SF and we had often talked about how surprising it was we hadn’t crossed paths when we were both in SF. We were talking about how we wanted to do more theatre here in NYC and John said why don’t you produce a show, I’ll help you. Then I did an acting retreat in Costa Rica with Alaine Alldaffer and after that retreat our group organized a scene night and one of the scenes she assigned me was from The Water Children by Wendy MacLeod. We talked about how the play seemed like it was written today and Alaine told us the story of how the first production was well received, but didn’t get it’s accolades until too late in the run and said, you should produce this, it’s a really great role for you and I don’t think it’s been done in NYC since. So I set off to put it together. J. Paul Nicholas (Director) is a friend and fellow alum from my MFA program, The Shakespeare Theatre’s Academy for Classical Acting at The George Washington University in DC. I ran into him while doing a reading for another alum and I told him about the show. He told me he was interested in directing and I had him read the play and tell me his vision for the show and that’s how he came on board. The actors Katherine Barron, Tom Frank*, Molly Garber*, Carson Lee*, Mary McGloin*, Jennifer Terrell*, Ramón Olmos Torres, and Taylor Valentine* came from a combination of places, we put a call for actors out via AEA and Actor’s Access, then it got syndicated all over the place. We had over 1500 submissions for the 8 slots. We were only able to actually audition just over 100 people. I was acting casting director and whittled down the number by type and role then by: 1. people we knew 2. people who knew people we knew 3. training and experience. It was very hard to whittle down. It was even harder to cast once we auditioned everyone. There’s a lot of talented people in NYC, we could have cast it a few times, a few different ways. But we’re very happy with the cast we found, some we’ve worked with before, some were completely new faces, and one was recommended by the playwright. Summer Lee Jack (Costumer) and Kevin Brouder (Sound) were both found through Paul’s network of people, Molly Cohen our Stage Manager was found through my network on Linked In, and Jim Langan (Technical Director – Set and Lighting Designer) is a friend of mine through my friend Jennifer Terrell (Liz).

Which “S” word best describes your show: SMOOTH, SEXY, SMART, SURPRISING?

Can I pick all of them? SMART if I have to settle on one.

Can theater bring about societal change? Why or why not?

It can and it does. Theatre and it’s storytelling is one of the oldest professions. We’ve had theatre since the beginnings of civilization. Theatre is a communion with the artist and the audience. When it’s live it’s immediate. It’s intimate. It is urgent. It is necessary. And it is personal. People come to the theatre to be entertained, moved, laugh, cry, and reflect upon or forget about the troubles of their daily lives. It’s what we lean on in hard times and look to for fun in good times. Art in all it’s forms has not only the potential but I believe the responsibility to create change by asking big questions and fulfilling big dreams. Support your local theatre artist. Go see a play.

EXCERPTS  FROM:  WBAI’s RADIO Building Bridges:
The Diminished Fifth:  An  International Working Women’s  Day Special

WBAI’s Radio Building Bridges: Your Community & Labor Report
Thursday, March 8, 2012,  6 AM – 7 AM EST, over 99.5 FM
An International Working Women’s Day Special by Mimi Rosenberg
“The Diminished Fifth”
Discussion and Readings from a new play about 5 distinguished women
who were Blacklisted during the McCarthy era and its lessons for today
Julie Halpern – Playwright and Director
And Actresses
Elaine LeGaro – portraying Margaret Webster
Stacey Scotte – portraying Lillian Hellman
Mary McGloin – portraying Jean Muir