BY KAREN GERHARDINGER | MIRROR REPORTER — For Mary Boyer, returning to her hometown after 45 years of acting and directing in New York City has been nothing short of glorious.
“It’s been a great ride. I’m not ready to be done,” said Boyer.
On Thursday, September 22 through Sunday, October 2, Boyer will star as “the first lady of the sliding scale,” Florence Foster Jenkins, in Lakeside Theatre Company’s comedy Glorious at the Maumee Indoor Theater.
Based on a true story, Glorious is about a young woman in the 1920s who wanted to pursue her passion as a professional singer but was forbidden by her father.
“She had a beautiful voice,” Boyer said.
After eloping with an older man who cheated on her, Florence contracted syphilis and the treatments damaged her hearing – and her ability to hear herself sing. She didn’t give up on her dream, but instead warbled and screeched her way through charity recitals, balls and all the way to Carnegie Hall.
“This delusional and joyously happy woman paid little attention to her critics. Instead, she surrounded herself with a circle of devoted friends who were almost as eccentric as she was,” Boyer said. “She showed that if you have a dream, don’t let anyone stop you.”
St. Clair Bayfield, Florence’s loving companion and a theatrically over-the-top Shakespearean actor, will be played by visiting New York actor Tony Triano, whose film Love in Kilnerry opened in the United States in August.
Cosme McMoon, Florence’s pianist, is played by Paul Leland Hill, who performed this summer for the Utah Opera after completing his master’s degree in vocal performance at the University of Michigan.
Other performers include Mary Aufman, Melanie Miller, Victoria Rinker and Gloria Wang
Boyer and Aufman formed Lakeside Theatre Company and produced three shows in 2019 before the COVID-19 shutdown.
With its museum, symphony, ballet and opera, Toledo could be a phenomenal arts mecca, so adding a theater company with more equity actors made sense, Boyer said.
“Toledo has a lot of wonderful non-equity actors, but we’re bringing actors who have done quite a bit of film and TV and worked at bigger theater companies around the country,” she said. “It’s also an opportunity for young students to come do workshops and learn about next steps for pursuing this as a career.”
As one of 10 children growing up in Toledo, Boyer graduated from St. Ursula and headed to the University of Detroit on a journalism scholarship but within a month was immersed in theater. Soon after earning her degree in theater, she was in New York City, where she was a cast member on a dinner theater tour and involved in the off-Broadway scene. Later, she did film and TV shows. She jokes about the commercials that she did in those early days.
“I was the wife mopping the floor or cleaning my teeth to look good for my husband,” she laughed.
In the 1970s, she was police officer Blanche Billings in the daytime soap, All My Children.
“You show up at 5:00 a.m. and you’re handed the script for the day. You have to memorize it in two hours and start filming, because a new episode aired every day. Say what you want, but working in soaps was more challenging than my experience of working with film,” she said.
Her film career included a performance as a woman with a brain tumor in You Don’t Know Jack, which starred Al Pacino, John Goodman and Susan Sarandon.
“I had to get my head shaved … back before it was a thing,” she said. “I had long, curly hair and I watched it falling on the floor.”
She also worked in Woody Allen films before his scandals and recalls him as a wonderful director.
Her most notable role has been in HBO’s Orange Is the New Black as the mother of Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren, played by Uzo Aduba.
Boyer is also a director with many stage plays on her resume and is the owner, artistic director and master acting teacher at MTB Studio in New York City.
As she rehearses daily with the cast of Glorious, the small theater at Maumee Indoor reminds her of the little black boxes off Broadway, she said. The staff has been great to work with as the show prepares for opening this week, she said.
Next up for the Lakeside Theatre Company is Christmas in Connecticut, in which a food writer who has lied about being the perfect housewife must try to cover her deception when her boss and a returning war hero invite themselves to her home for the traditional family Christmas. The show will be held at the Maumee Indoor on Wednesday, November 30 through Sunday, December 4.
Tickets for both shows are available at www.thelakesidetheatrecompany.com