Mary Fishburne is a local actor and singer who teaches a local teen theater program called Village Teens. After graduating from Vanderbilt University, she went to New York to pursue a career in musical theater. Three years later with some Broadway experience under her belt, she moved to Charleston to find her niche in the smaller theater market. She spoke with Charleston Scene this week about her local acting and teaching career.
Q: How did you first get into acting professionally?
A: I grew up in Rock Hill, where there was no theater, only music and choir. At Vanderbilt University, I took my first acting class and was enamored with theater, but I was still skeptical about pursuing a career in the arts. My senior year, as a double major in business and music, I received school credit for an internship at an off-Broadway theater company. That was when I knew that I would pursue a career on Broadway.
Q: You’ve explained in other interviews that although you found success in New York’s theater scene, you prefer to be in Charleston. Why is that?
A: I like to know what’s next. That was never a luxury in New York, even for the most successful actors. Furthermore, I like the potential and velocity of the arts scene in Charleston. Being a part of that momentum is exciting as an actor, advocate and as a citizen of Charleston. We all should be excited for the artistic and creative happenings that continue to put Charleston on the national map as an artistic hub. We aren’t there yet, which is the best part.
Q: Is there a certain aspect of your creativity that you want to explore more?
A: I was lucky in New York to make wonderful friends and connections. If budget permits, and if they can fill an artistic void that would further Charleston’s pursuit of creativity, I’d like to help organize projects that excite local audiences and artists while pushing Charleston beyond its four walls of “how things are usually done.” I don’t have the creativity, but I am a pretty good advocate for something bigger.
Q: The last production you performed in locally was “Lungs” at Woolfe Street Playhouse in the spring. Have you taken on any new projects since then?
A: “Lungs” was certainly the most exciting project of my career, and it is and will be hard to follow. Thanks to Keely Enright’s vision to bring national acclaim to the Village Rep. Company, I had the opportunity to work with Noah Brody, co-founder and co-artistic director of Fiasco Theatre in New York City, whose reviews by the New York Times have unanimously been glowing since the company began and grew from nothing.
Since “Lungs” closed in September, I have performed my one-woman show of 28 impersonations at various locations in the state. I am currently almost 7 months pregnant and must either do concerts or “behind the scenes” things. I also directed, musically directed and choreographed the Village Teens’ production of “The Addams Family.” Next up is doing the same for “Rock of Ages,” which opens in April, even though I’m due in March. I’m not quite sure how, but I know that things will be OK.
Q: What do you consider the greatest achievement of your career?
A: This is an easy one. I lead the Village Teens, a group of talented teenagers who are serious about learning different facets of theater. Seeing kids grow as people and singers/actors through Village Teens and through teaching private voice lessons is the most awesome blessing of my life. I didn’t have that growing up, and I like to share with Charleston’s youth some things that I’ve learned down the bumpy and wonderful road of show biz.
I don’t know what it’ll be beyond education, but I hope that my greatest artistic achievement is yet to come. In the meantime, I will be singing, acting, dreaming, learning, teaching and, like all good artists, searching.