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Leading Lady

Mary Beth Fisher, a familiar face on the city's stages, takes on two enormous roles this season.

It’s not uncommon for Mary Beth Fisher to take the bus to and from the Goodman Theatre when she’s performing there. “After a show, people will recognize me, talk to me,” says the much-decorated Chicago actor, who first graced the Goodman stage in 1993. “It’s always fun because audiences have been looking at you for hours and feel like they know you, but of course you don’t know them.”

With the challenging theatrical doubleheader Fisher is undertaking, she may not recognize herself. Through June 7, she’s appearing as Birdie, the fragile, alcoholic sister-in-law in a revival of Lillian Hellman’s 1939 Old South drama, The Little Foxes. Then, June 20 to July 26, she returns as over-the- top fading Hollywood star Masha in the Chicago premiere of Christopher Durang’s outrageous comedy Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.

“I’m playing two women who couldn’t be more opposite,” says Fisher, who performs in theaters from coast to coast. “They’re both living in a fantasy of what their perfect world would look like, but when you strap yourself into a corset and put a wig on [as Birdie], you immediately feel the difference.”

A New Jersey native, Fisher worked in New York theater for many years before marrying Roche Schulfer, longtime executive director of the Goodman. “He wasn’t going anywhere,” she says, laughing. The move was providential.

“The great thing about Chicago is the artistic opportunities are in the theater,” Fisher says. “There are so many theaters here, so many talented artists. It certainly has helped me grow as an actor in ways I probably wouldn’t have if I’d remained in New York.” An avid golfer, Fisher says she’s learning fly-fishing this summer. “I hadn’t really thought about it before, but most of my activities are outside. Maybe it’s because I’m in a dark theater all day.” 

FISHER’S HOTS
A hot dog at a White Sox game, farmers markets, shows at The Den Theatre and Chopin Theatre, the Alfred Caldwell Lily Pool (“It’s a little hidden gem.”)

FISHER’S NOTS

Litterbugs, bicyclists who ignore traffic laws, declawed cats