It is not often that an Oscar winner has appeared in a play on a Little Rock stage. But in the spring of 1986, Mercedes McCambridge starred in Marsha Norman’s ‘night, Mother at Arkansas Repertory Theatre.
She had moved to Little Rock a few years prior to live full time to be close to family. From time to time, she and Cliff Baker (the Rep’s founder) would have conversations about potential projects. But it was not until 1986, that the stars aligned. By this point, she had moved away from Little Rock, but was still back from time to time to visit family. (In an interview with the Arkansas Gazette, she also praised Fred Poe and noted that he was her travel agent for her many excursions.)
Appearing on stage with McCambridge in Norman’s two-hander was Rep veteran Cathey Crowell Sawyer.
Though noted for her film work, McCambridge had appeared on Broadway several times including opposite Little Rock native Ben Piazza in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? and receiving a Tony nomination for her work in the play The Love Suicide at Schofield Barracks.
Prior to appearing at the Rep, she had recently toured in the play Agnes of God. She related to the Gazette that she had been approached to do that play prior to Broadway but did not feel the character she was to play was believable. When the national tour came about, a conversation with playwright John Pielmeier changed her mind.
Her last Broadway appearance was in Neil Simon’s Pulitzer Prize winning Lost in Yonkers.
2018 marks the 100th anniversary of the first Pulitzer Prize for Drama being given. To pay tribute to 100 years of the Pulitzer for Drama, each day this month a different Little Rock production of a Pulitzer Prize winning play will be highlighted. Many of these titles have been produced numerous times. This look will veer from high school to national tours in an attempt to give a glimpse into Little Rock’s breadth and depth of theatrical history.