5 Questions with Meg Dooley

It’s a great privilege to write for Nippertown and especially to ask 5 questions of performers who I’ve seen over the years and have a great interest and curiosity for. Meg Dooley is one of them and she is thankfully playing a lead role in the Ghent Playhouse‘s production of “Invitation to a March” by Arthur Laurents, running Feb. 3-19.

Meg Dooley

PW: What’s your background and history in Capital Region theater?

MD: I’ve performed in many shows at The Ghent Playhouse, The Mac-Haydn, The Theater Barn, and with Taconic Stage.

PW: What’s your character and what happens in “Invitation to a March”?

MD: My character is Camilla Jablonksi, a free-spirited woman of a certain age who lives with her 20-year-old son, Aaron, on a stretch of dunes on the south shore of Long Island in the early 1960s. Camilla inherited the beachfront property from her father who, in Camilla’s words, had been “hoodwinked into buying a half mile of these dunes sight unseen” 35 years earlier. The beach is now Camilla’s refuge as well as a good source of income for her and Aaron–they’ve built a new and modern house on the dunes, while renting out her father’s house. During the 24-hour period covered in the play, Camilla re-encounters an old lover who is visiting the family who’s renting the old house and many family secrets are revealed, with comic and tragic results.  

PW: How did you keep your interest in theater going during the lockdown?

MD: I took part in very many Zoom play readings organized by a wonderful stage manager at the Heights Players in Brooklyn, where I’ve also performed many times. 

PW: What do you love about working at The Ghent Playhouse?

MD: I love the theater itself–such a beautiful little gem of a theatre, lovingly preserved and cared for by so many dedicated volunteers over nearly 50 years–which reminds me that we have a 50th anniversary campaign underway to make sure the Playhouse will be just as beautiful and perhaps even more so for the NEXT 50 years! And the people, of course–I well remember artistic director Barbara Perry who directed the first show I did there, “Follies,” in 1999, as well as her remarkable successors Tom Detwiler and then Cathy Lee-Visscher, the current artistic director whose talents onstage and off are inspiring!  

PW: What’s the play that changed your life?

MD: Before I say anything about a play that changed my life, I want to say a word about our director, Peter Bergman, and “Invitation to a March.” At our first rehearsal, Peter told us about the first time he saw this play in its original Broadway run. He was in high school and was reviewing the play for his school paper. These “peculiar” characters–to use a word that comes up a lot in the script–clearly made a huge impression on Peter, and he has inspired us throughout the rehearsal period with his passion for this witty, sometimes wicked, and always wonderful play. 

As for me, “Follies” is certainly one play that has changed my life, along with “My Fair Lady”–my first show at the Mac-Haydn. And I would also put “Hay Fever” into that category–not only because it’s a wonderful play that I had the pleasure of performing at The Ghent Playhouse, but also because Carl Ritchie was in the audience one night and came backstage to tell me and Cathy he had an idea for a new play and we should keep the next summer free . . . the result was “The Real (Desperate) Housewives of Columbia County (Musical).” What a blast–from the original run at Copake Lake, we went on to perform it at Mac-Haydn, the Theatre Barn, and even in NYC at the Laurie Beechman. Many, many laughs, all thanks to Carl’s gift for comedy!

“Invitation to a March” runs weekends through 2/19 at The Ghent Playhouse, (518) 392-6264 or ghentplayhouse.org

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