Return to Roots: TV Actress Swaps Small Screen for Small Stage during Strike

Published: Sep. 20, 2023 at 7:32 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - You might recognize Mary Hollis Inboden from any number of her scene-stealing roles in series on ABC, AMC, Lifetime, HBO, Starz - the list goes on and on.

And for the next three weekends, she’s taking center stage in Midtown Memphis in Quark Theatre’s production of “The Wasp” - a twisty, psychological thriller written by Morgan Lloyd Malcolm.

The Wasp” is the story of two women who haven’t seen each other since they were in middle school and one bullied the other one relentlessly,” Inboden told us ahead of rehearsal Tuesday night.  “They’re now 40 years old and they’re meeting up and the one who was bullied has a question for the other one.”

No spoilers here - but you’re going to want to see how this ends!

Inboden’s return to the stage is a return to roots for the actress who grew up outside Jonesboro and cut her chops at Memphis’ Circuit Theatre before Hollywood came calling.

“The first casting office I went in out there, they would say ‘You do theatre, right?  We’re gonna need you to bring down your Ethel Merman vibes and pull it all in’, Inboden says with a laugh.  “So I’ve worked on doing that over the years.”

When members of the Writers Guild and then SAG-AFTRA went on strike earlier this summer to call for increased pay and rethinking of residuals, the use of AI, and more - it shut down U-S television and film production and brought Inboden’s steady on-screen work to a screeching halt.

“I had momentum going. I had shows behind me and under my belt that I loved and were promising to come back and I have to trust that that will still be there and that work will come back when we have a fair wage,” she said. “I’m pro-strike and I do see that this is going to go our way, but it is not going to come quickly.”

Since the strike specifically targets TV, theatrical-release feature films, and streaming—not stage work—the door opened for Inboden to not only return to Memphis but also her first love—theatre.

“I am so lucky that I bought a house in Arkansas in the last couple of years. I am not in Los Angeles currently. I don’t have to be there. I can not imagine being physically in LA and trying to take care of rent there right now while this industry is shut down,” she said. “This opportunity, ‘The Wasp’, landed in my lap.”

Memphis-based Quark Theatre’s production will mark “The Wasp’s” American premiere, following successful runs in the United Kingdom and Australia.

“It’s a great way to fill my time, put my reps in, and do the exercising I think all actors should be doing right now while we live out this strike,” she said but added that she’s both thrilled and nervous to be returning to the Memphis stage for the first time in 17 years.

“Isn’t that what we all want as artists? To come back to a home and show our leaders and our teachers and our mentors, and icons? It’s a true gift to be able to come back and say ‘I made it and I wanna do this for you and with you’ and I think that’s gonna be really exciting and probably the thing that makes me the most nervous.”

“The Wasp” premieres Friday, September 22nd in the Theatre South space inside First Congo in the Cooper-Young neighborhood.

Tickets are available through the Quark Theatre website for shows Friday, Saturday, and Sunday through October 8th.

Click here for tickets.

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