May 6, 2015
From the Top
With her petite figure, blonde locks, and angelic voice, it’s hardly surprising that Mary Fishburne is often cast as the soprano ingénue. And although she’s certainly capable of much more (read on!), those roles have been good to her.
After graduating from Vanderbilt, the native of Rock Hill, South Carolina, acted in New York City for three years, also traveling to perform with groups around the region. But in 2009, Fishburne’s sister, Anne, grew very ill, and she left the Big Apple to be with her in Charleston. Today, she’s settled in for good and—despite welcoming her first son, Cotesworth, with husband Geoff Hayden last December—keeping up a dizzying schedule of teaching and performing. This month, she takes the stage in Village Repertory Co.’s The Explorers Club (through May 24); Divas in Distress, in which she impersonates 23 famous singers (May 14, 15, and 17); and UNED!TED’s Cabaret Madre: A Musical Salute to Mothers (May 19). She fills us in.
Finding her style: I played violin and sang classically growing up, and once I got to Vanderbilt in Nashville, the violin became a fiddle, and my singing got to be more of belting, kind of musical theater-ish. College was also the setting of my first acting class.
On teaching: I would call myself a teacher first. I teach from home, which is a great gig with the baby; he hasn’t started singing along yet! My youngest student is in seventh grade, and my oldest is 53.
Leading a new generation: The thing I’m most invested in is the Village Teen Troupe, which I’m coaching at Woolfe Street Playhouse. I started the group two years ago with Keely Enright, and it’s gotten a reputation for doing progressive theater and doing it really well. These teenagers have a lot of talent and few opportunities. I had little talent and many opportunities.
Divas in Distress: I impersonate everyone from Streisand to Spears. My collaborator, Manny Houston, chimes in with Ray Charles, Louis Armstrong, and Michael Jackson—complete with dance moves. It is never my intention to mock, but when you are doing Kristin Chenoweth or Edith Piaf, it can get funny.
Balancing work & baby: I often take Cotes to rehearsals for The Explorers Club. Keely Enright, the producing artistic director, is very understanding, having raised three children during a career in the theater, and the cast of men are funny, passing and bouncing the baby. It’s the best child-care imaginable.
Catch one of Fishburne’s shows! To find details on The Explorers Club at Woolfe Street Playhouse, May 1-24, click here; Divas in Distress at Woolfe Street Playhouse, May 14, 15, & 17, click here; and Cabaret Madre at The Mezz, May 19, click here.
To read more interviews with area artists, click here.