Comedic actress, improviser returning to ‘Shear Madness’

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By Ed Karvoski Jr., Culture Editor

Margaret Ann Brady
Margaret Ann Brady
Photo/Joe Mazza, Brave-Lux

Boston/Cambridge – After performing in the long-running comedy “Shear Madness” at Boston’s Charles Playhouse from fall 2017 to spring 2018, Margaret Ann Brady of Cambridge returns this January to once again portray the old-money socialite Mrs. Shubert. Brady is uniquely qualified to present this murder-mystery with humorous attempts to solve the crime by combining scripted material and audience participation. She has built a career performing improvisational comedy shows, as well as scripted plays and musicals.

Originally from Great Neck, N.Y., Brady studied musical theater at Colorado Heights University before moving to Boston in 1980 in search of stage work. In 1987 and ’88, she wrote and performed late-night shows with the now-closed New Ehrlich Theatre’s comedy troupe known as NETWorks at the still-thriving Boston Center for the Arts.

“I was trying to get theater work in Boston – not always having a lot of success,” she acknowledged. “I auditioned for ImprovBoston in 1989 and found that I really love improvising. Our natural tendency is to plan, prepare and protect ourselves by never being

Margaret Ann Brady as Templeton (front) with Wheelock Family Theatre’s “Charlotte’s Web” cast
Margaret Ann Brady as Templeton (front) with Wheelock Family Theatre’s “Charlotte’s Web” cast (back, l to r) Michael Keira Hisamoto, Shana Dirik, John Manning, Julia Paolino and Gamalia Pharms
Photo/Glenn Cook

caught off-guard. Improvisation is all about being caught off-guard and finding that’s the place where creativity is. Doing improv really opened me up to thinking that I could write and perform comedy.”

She performed with ImprovBoston in the early-1990s at various venues including the Back Alley Theater in Cambridge’s Inman Square. The theater’s artistic director, Eileen Sullivan, also organized regional tours of “Women on the Edge” for which Brady wrote and performed. Joining women comedians in the show were some actresses, cabaret entertainers and performance artists.

“Women were able to perform material that we never got the chance to do anywhere else,” Brady explained.

Brady befriended Dorothy Dwyer, a fellow performer with ImprovBoston and “Women on the Edge.” Throughout the 1990s, they wrote and performed comedy sketches celebrating their Irish-American experience for “The Mrs. Potato Head Show,” staged at theaters,

Dorothy Dwyer and Margaret Ann Brady in “The Mrs. Potato Head Show”
Dorothy Dwyer and Margaret Ann Brady in “The Mrs. Potato Head Show”
Photo/Steve Gilbane

clubs, coffeehouses and fringe festivals. More recently, they presented a couple of reunions titled “The Mrs. Potato Head All-New Old Show.”

“Dorothy is my best friend to this day,” Brady shared. “We’re very proud to have influenced a lot of the female comedians now working in Boston.”

Among the stages where Brady has performed scripted plays and musicals in recent years are American Repertory Theatre at Harvard University, Boston Playwrights’ Theatre, Greater Boston Stage Company in Stoneham, Lyric Stage Company of Boston, Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, SpeakEasy Stage Company in Boston, and Wheelock Family Theatre at Boston University.

In 2017, she appeared in an ImprovBoston alumni show as part of its year-long 35th anniversary celebration.

Offstage, Brady has worked since 2008 as an 18th-century costumed tour guide with the Freedom Trail Foundation. She and other guides bring history to life with entertaining and educational storytelling along Boston’s iconic 2.5-mile walkway.

“I like being part of people’s vacation,” she said. “And when it’s a school group on a field

Margaret Ann Brady in her IRNE Award-nominated performance as Miss Tweed in “Something’s Afoot” at Greater Boston Stage Company
Margaret Ann Brady in her IRNE Award-nominated performance as Miss Tweed in “Something’s Afoot” at Greater Boston Stage Company
Photo/Dave Costa

trip, I want to celebrate that they’re not in a classroom. I hope they think the information that I’m telling them is an engaging story. I love Boston and seeing people discover it.”

Her historical connection continues when reporting to work at Charles Playhouse. “Sheer Madness” is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running play in American history.

“In ‘Shear Madness,’ I’m working with some people who have been doing the show for 30 years,” Brady noted. “The precision of their timing is like a school in comedy. It still looks fresh when they’re doing the same gag that they’ve done forever. This show is so much fun!”

For “Shear Madness” tickets and information, visit shearmadness.com.