We had a potluck dinner between performances of Shlemiel the First this past Sunday – everyone brought their speciality and we had a nice sit-down in the old lobby of the DCJCC. This has been a really nice cast and we’ve had a lot of fun, in spite of the anxiety of switching directors midstream and mixed reviews (which means, in the words of the late George S. Kaufmann, “good and lousy”).

For me, one of the highlights of Shlemiel has been working once again with Amy McWilliams, whom I’ve known since 1983 when we appeared together in a community theatre production of Grease. She was just out of college and played Sandy; I was 27 and played Rizzo. We’ve worked on a double handful of shows together over the years: I was Annie Sullivan to her Helen Keller in the Fairlington Players’ 1985 production of Monday After the Miracle; we both made the jump to professional theatre in the nineties, during which I played her mother in the fairly awful and unlamented production of The Pirate at American Century Theatre; we were in Working and Urinetown and The Fix at Signature Theatre.

In all these shows and more, Amy has delivered consistently honest and solid performances. She serves no temperament; she comes in and gets the job done; she makes intelligent, thoughtful choices and basically does the director’s work for him/her. She makes real, meaningful contact with her fellow cast members, onstage and off. She’s considerate to the crew and basically self-sufficient. And she’s a riot to work with – you might think that the photo above was just Amy showing off for the camera, but no: she was amusing herself while waiting for her contribution to the potluck to heat in the microwave, and I happened by with camera in hand.

It’s somewhat embarrassing to me that over the years, I’ve got a buttload of Helen Hayes honors for showy performances in showy roles while Amy quietly does her excellent work and has yet to receive a single nomination. I love her and admire her. I think she’s the most underrated actress in town. And I consider myself extraordinarily lucky to have had the chance to work with her again.

‘Til next time, Amy.


  1. Armchair Actorvist

    I couldn’t agree with you more about Amy McWilliams, whom we all have seen many times on various stages in a wide variety of roles. She never disappoints. Her recent performance at Theatre Alliance was one of the reasons “Ambition Facing West” remains one of my favorite productions of 2007. This city is host to dozens of extraordinary talents, like McWilliams, who do great work, but get little fanfare.

  2. Howard Stregack

    I heartily second! I had the most wonderful time working with Amy (and you, Donna) on Shlemiel. Both on and off-stage, I enjoyed working with such generous, talented artists AND such warm, giving people.

  3. Jeff

    I also agree about Amy McWilliams. But don’t be modest. I’ve seen you perform many times, not always in showy roles, and sometimes in virtual cameos. The Highest Yellow comes immediately to mind, where, despite brilliant performances from all the “internationally famous” principals, YOU were the one I couldn’t take my eyes off.

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