Monday, January 25, 2016

PHX STAGES Q/A: Maren Maclean

by Gil Benbrook

Equally at home playing both Shakespeare and farce, Maren Maclean is one of the top actresses in the Valley. Born in New York, Maclean would return to work there during the 90s after studying at Southern Utah University. In between, she lived in Phoenix during her high school years and Maclean would move back to the area after being hired by Southwest Shakespeare Company for their 2001/2002 season.  In the past 15 years, Maclean has also worked with the Utah Shakespeare Festival and has appeared in numerous productions at the top professional theatres in town: Actors Theatre, Phoenix Theatre and Arizona Theatre Company. She also married fellow Phoenix actor Chris Mascarelli and has two daughters.

She opened this past weekend in Calendar Girls at Phoenix Theatre where she is surrounded by an elite group of some of her fellow top Phoenix based actresses. In between Calendar Girls rehearsals, Maclean sat down to answer the PHX Stages Q/A:

Name: Maren Maclean Mascarelli

Where you were born and or raised: All over. Born in upstate New York and moved 21 times before making Phoenix home in 2001

What brought you to Arizona?  Moved here from Jersey in 1989. Went to Horizon High. Left immediately after graduation. I was living with my bestie in NYC when Southwest Shakespeare Company hired me to do their 2001 – 2002 season.

What your parents did/do for a living:   Dad: nuclear engineer and Mom: wonder woman. Thankfully, they are still rockin and rollin in Northern AZ.

Siblings:  none… I know… it explains a lot.

Family/Children: Married to fellow artist Christopher Mascarelli and we have two darling daughters

Day job/part time job: I teach theatre at Scottsdale Community College with an entire team of passionate artists!

First show you ever saw: No, No Nanette

Moment you knew you wanted to perform for a living: Playing Auntie Ostrich in the second grade production of The Elephant Child at Badger Mountain Elementary School in Richland Washington. I was hooked!

The one performance you attended that you will never forget:  Jane Eyre in a little West End theatre years ago. Moved me to ugly cry.

First stage kiss: The Mousetrap as Molly Ralston at Indian Hills High School in Oakland New Jersey. Ken Sheehan played my hubby. It was a good experience… all the way around

with Joseph Kremer in Noises Off
Phoenix Theatre - 2011
photo: Laura Durant
Best stage experience you’ve had so far: Hitting the timing “sweet spot” in Act II of Noises Off.

What has been the most fun or fulfilling aspect of your current/ most recent show?   The trust when good people come together to tell a good story.

Most challenging role you have played onstage:  Lady Margaret in Richard III. Thought I was a wee bit too young for the role and had to get over myself for that one.

Any upcoming or side projects you can talk about? I never have side projects. They are all full
frontal…speaking of which, I am lucky enough to be working on the star studded production of Calendar Girls at Phoenix Theatre, directed by E.E. Moe. There is also a reading of Richard II that my dear friend Quetta Carpenter is bringing to the Valley to join up with Tracy Liz Miller and Brenda Jean Foley and The Bridge Initiative in early spring. AND I have it on good authority that our gorgeous Angelica Howland might have a “ghost of a chance” to produce one of her new works! Lots of fun, female heavy theatre love coming our way.

Leading role you've been dying to play: Any. Although I have always wanted to take a shot at Mercutio in Romeo and Juliet.  

Leading role of the opposite sex you wish you could play: See above!

Cathy Dresbach, Elyse Wolf, Debra K. Stevens. Shari Watts, Patti Davis Suarez,
Johanna Carlisle, Maren Maclean Mascarelli and Debby Rosenthal
in Calendar Girls - Phoenix Theatre 2016
Photo by Erin Evangeline Photography
Pre-show rituals or warm-ups: Coffee, stretching, listening to Limp Bizkit and vocally warming up to Sweeney Todd.

Worst flubbed line/missed cue/onstage mishap:   MISERABLY tried to time a pee break into an actual “bathroom exit” during Phoenix Theatre’s Rumors back in 2002. Left poor Donna Davis and John Sankovich hanging for a wee bit, only to try and cover by entering into the scene saying the Ace Ventura” “Do NOT go in there. WOOOOO!”

Worst costume ever:   All I will say is I have had some. And our beautiful Ian Christiansen and Alexis Green know what they are but I’ve paid them in caramel to keep my secrets.

Best costume ever: I loved my big puffy sleeves (thank you Lois Myers and Haley Larson) in Lisa Wolpe’s Taming of the Shrew in 2004. I also love my combat boots in the tour of Macbeth for Utah
Shakespeare in 1997! Military concept, naturally.

Your go to audition monologue/song: Cannot say I have a favorite right now. They constantly evolve.

Worst audition experience: Aside from sitting for HOURS in the hallways of multiple New York high rises only NOT to get seen at all…. I enjoy auditioning. Keeps me on my toes and reading plays.

If you could go back in time and catch any performer or show, what would they/it be?  I would have loved to be in the live audience for any Carol Burnett Show taping.

Famous past stage or screen star(s) you would have loved to have performed with:  Oh , to sing and dance with Jane Russel!

Actor/actress in the Phoenix area you'd love to perform with: Too many! Allison Sell, Nicole Olsen, Terry Gadaire (in an actual play, though staged readings have been fun), Eric Schoen and how about CHRISTOPHER MASCARELLI!?!?

Your personal acting idols:   Helen Mirren, Julie Andrews, and Derek Jacobi
Performer you would drop everything to go see:  see above. I also love Matthew Harris in drag.

Current/recent show other than one of your own you have been recommending to friends: Anything Orange Theatre does.

with Kyle Sorrel and Jason Barth
A Midsummer Night's Dream
Southwest Shakespeare Company - 2005
photo: Laura Durant
Favorite play(s):  A Midsummer Night’s Dream, hands down

Favorite musical(s):  Godspell and Five Guys Named Moe

Some favorite modern plays/musicals: Disgraced, Hamilton and Calendar Girls!

Favorite showtune(s) of all time: “I’m Just a Girl Who Can’t Say No” and “One Night In Bangkok”!

Most listened song/music on your iPod/Phone? Prince, Prince and Prince. Although Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” is main jam.

First CD/Tape/LP you owned:    I bought “Thriller” with my own money in 5th grade

Last good book you read:  "The Hangman’s Daughter"

Must-see TV show(s): Downton Abbey

Guilty pleasure binge watching tv show: American Horror Story and Inspector Lewis

Last good movie you saw: Star Wars, The Force Awakens

Favorite movie: Beautiful Girls

Music/book/movie that makes you cry: Shakespeare in Love

Favorite restaurant in the Valley:  Fuego Bistro

Favorite cities: Jackson Hole Wyoming for skiing and white water rafting, NYC for culture and Edinburgh for history and rain!

Sports teams you root for: The Pittsburg Steelers, The Arizona Cardinals, The Duke Bluedevils and the New York Mets

Something about you that might surprise people: Nothing. I’m an open book

with Liam Thibeault
King John - 2014
Southwest Shakespeare Company
Photo: Mark Gluckman
Special skills: Learned to barrel roll for the Greenshow at the Utah Shakespeare Festival. Kinda proud of that.

Career you would want if not a performer:  A Librarian    

Worst non-theatre job you've had: U.S Census taker in 2001. Nuff said

Best non-theatre job you've had: temping for major companies (that went down with Enron!).

Three things you can't live without: dark chocolate, music and my girls

Words of advice for aspiring performers: Develop thick skin. Stay healthy. Surround yourself with people who see you at your worst and love you anyway.

What you love most about theatre in Phoenix: I get to work.

What you think needs to be changed/improved/different about theatre in Phoenix: We need to be more responsible in teaching our audiences that there are really wonderful socially challenging pieces of art out there that they would love if given a chance.

And, the “Inside the Actors Studio” 10 questions:

1. What is your favorite word? Indeed

2. What is your least favorite word? kale

3. What turns you on? When the bass drops. A sub-woofer, in general.

4. What turns you off? Entitlement

5. What sound do you love? When doves cry

6. What sound do you hate?  That vacuum-y sound in a car when only one window is open

7. What is your favorite curse word? Shit

8. What profession other than yours would you like to attempt?  Flight Attendant

9. What profession would you not like to do? Grant Writing

10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates? “Your Grandad is waiting for you right over there”


  1. Verrrry interesting! Now I know to bring dark chocolate instead of an apple for the teacher!

  2. Verrry interesting! Now I know to bring dark chocolate instead of an apple to class!