An Interview with Scott Greer and Mary Martello
Philadelphia actors Scott Greer and Mary Martello have performed in more than 30 Arden productions, >medicine and they were last seen on the Arden stage together in the 2008/09 season’s Candide. This season, they will be playing Mr. and Mrs. Peachum in The Threepenny Opera. Despite so much shared theatrical history, when Gigi Lamm, the Arden’s Director of Marketing and Public Relations, invited them to participate in an interview, they each claimed not to know the other. The interview that follows occurred after Lamm introduced the pair.
Gigi Lamm: In total, how many shows have you two done together?
Scott Greer: It feels like 1,000.
Mary Martello: If we’ve done five at the Arden, we’ve probably done five Walnut shows, and some 1812 shows.
SG: 11 shows, I think.
GL: Are you sick of each other yet?
SG: What? Oh, no!
MM: How could we be sick of each other?!
SG: We don’t have to share a dressing room, so that might be the saving grace.
MM: That’s why we still like each other.
GL: Have you ever played husband and wife before?
SG: Every time, right?
MM: The most recent show we did together was Oliver! and we did play husband and wife. But I think [Threepenny] might just be our second time.
SG: Oliver! was really long, I guess.
GL: Do either of you have a preference for performing in musicals?
SG: Me either. It’s all about the material. A good show is a good show. And an interesting role is an interesting role.
MM: I agree completely.
GL: Do you two always agree?
MM: That was the correctly husbandly answer!
GL: How familiar with The Threepenny Opera were you before being cast?
MM: I was actually cast in it many, many years ago at the Boarshead Theater in Michigan, but when it came time, I was too pregnant to do it.
SG: When I was in college, we did Brecht on Brecht and we added some material from [Threepenny] and I sang the Tango with a classmate. That was my first exposure to Brecht and this piece.
GL: This is such an iconic work in the history of musical theatre, how do you feel about performing it?
MM: I try never to think about things like that. I’m just going to take Mrs. Peachum one line at a time and try to figure her out.
SG: I agree with Mary! I think there’s a big pitfall when you do Brecht because you’re supposed to do a style, a special thing when you play Brecht and you have to really avoid that and find the truth that these characters are in. Brecht writes about social problems and it’s like playing Shaw in that you really have to invest in the ideas and these ideas are a part of the fabric of the character. It’s a human being that wants things and fears things and that’s what you start with.
GL: What are your thoughts on the show’s message about morality and humanity?
SG: My seven year old daughter is very interested in whatever plays I’m working on, so I was trying to tell her about this and playing the music for her and as I described everybody in the play, she said, “oh, so he’s a bad guy,” and I said “yeah, he’s a bad guy” and then I described Tiger Brown, and then MacHeath, and then Peachum, and they’re all basically bad guys. But I was trying to explain Peachum’s world view and it was very hard to do, not because my daughter isn’t bright, but because it’s a very bleak way of looking at humanity.
MM: I think that it’s a fine time to be doing this show because all of the characters are in it for what they can get. They’re trying to survive or trying to save their own asses, or trying to get ahead, and everyone is using everyone. However, I like that nobody really pretends that they’re not doing that. As opposed to society today where we all pretend like we’re altruistic.
SG: And there is an interesting hypocrisy in that the Peachums don’t want Polly [their daughter] to marry MacHeath because he’s a criminal and they’re really not any better. But they, of course, believe that they are.
MM: We’re just holding a mirror up to society.
GL: Speaking of Polly, are there any skills and experiences you’re bringing to playing Polly’s parents?
SG: The Peachums feel about their child the way any parents feel about their children. They want the best for her. You know, there’s the practical thing that’s true: “Look, you say you love him, honey, but he’s in his third band since college and he delivers pizza and you’re going to be paying his rent! Don’t marry him!” They’re doing the exact same thing that any concerned parent does. They’re great parents! Or certainly, identifiable parents that care about education and a good job—I’m firmly in their camp! I’m a little more optimistic and less coldly practical but who doesn’t want that for their children?
MM: Mrs. Peachum wants the best for her child, but she also wants to make sure that Polly gives them the best that they deserve as her parents.
GL: What are you most looking forward to about the show and your roles?
MM: Doing them! I love the music. I love Kurt Weill and I’ve sung him plenty before and I can’t wait to get in that world.
SG: That music is so down and dirty. It doesn’t sound like anything else. It’s really fun. It reminds me of a street version of Sweeney Todd. It’s so tawdry, it’s great. And the role is irresistible.
MM: And the opportunity for learning is going to be great because even though I may have sung some of these songs before in a cabaret, when you’re doing a role in a show, it gets in your bones in a way that is much more grounded and then you have that at your disposal for the rest of your life.
SG: I also look forward to working with this Marty Minello person. She sounds interesting.
MM: I heard there was a Scott Beer in this show and I can’t wait to meet somebody with that name.
SG: Me either!