Stage Left Productions, 11340 W. Bell Road, Suite 105A, enters the new year with another one-woman play, “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers.”
First presented on Broadway in 2013, the play by John Logan, starring Bette Midler, earned raves from critics. The role is performed here by Tracy Burns, who appeared at SLP last year in “Always a Bridesmaid.” Cody Dull directs her.
“I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers,” premiers at Stage Left at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Jan. 6. Shows will be from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Wednesdays through Saturdays and 2 to 3:15 p.m. Sundays through Jan. 24.
Arriving here in 1941 at the age of 11 as a refugee from Nazi Germany just ahead of purges, Ms. Mengers learned to speak English without accent by watching movies. At 19 she attended acting school in New York City. She realized she couldn’t compete as a performer but was attracted to the idea of getting to know young, successful actors. She was hired as a secretary to a talent agency and quickly grasped the skills needed to represent them to casting directors.
Eventually, she found herself in Los Angeles as the head of her own firm at a time when agency representation was otherwise exclusively done by men. Her first high-profile actor was a then very young Barbra Streisand, who proved to be a magnet for others.
By the mid-1970s, Ms. Mengers was the most powerful agent in Hollywood, representing Faye Dunaway, Ali MacGraw, Gene Hackman, Nick Nolte, Mike Nichols and Bob Fosse, among others.
We meet her in 1981 for a late afternoon of dishing dirt, secrets, and showbiz stories that only she can tell (with a notorious foul-mouthed vocabulary). From the outset, there is an edge of resentment. Hollywood is changing; movies are now being produced independently — with less need for agents to represent high-profile stars. The phone rings less frequently; she can sense the credits beginning to roll on her career.
Ms. Burns has a degree in theater from Queens College in New York. She has appeared in more than 20 professional productions throughout the U.S., Europe, the Caribbean, and Japan — mostly in musical theater. She has also done cruise ship reviews, comedies and even jumped out of boxes for a couple of magicians.
Burns took a 13-year detour to work as a spokesmodel on the auto show circuit. She has been seen in featured roles in series on both ABC and CBS and is a member of the Screen Actors Guild.
Although she now works primarily as a Realtor, a few years ago she could not let herself stay away from performing. Some of her favorite roles include: Frau Blucher in “Young Frankenstein,” and Mama Rose in “Gypsy” at Almost Famous Theater in Arizona; Adelaide in “Guys and Dolls” at Bucks County Playhouse in Pennsylvania; and Lina Lamont in “Singing in the Rain” at Fireside Playhouse in Wisconsin.
When asked by Mr. Dull what she liked about playing the role of Ms. Mengers, she said, “I love that playing Sue allows me to be such a bad ass. I love that Sue wrote her own rules, and was not deterred by ‘no.’
“Sue is a goddess warrior princess. One of my mother’s favorite TV shows was ‘Xena Warrior Princess.’ My mom is pretty conservative, but she knows and respects the power of women. Long live Sue, the goddess warrior who paved the way for others to come. My life is forever changed by her influence.”
Audiences are reminded that seats are limited, and tickets must be purchased in advance.
The outside doors to the theater will not be opened until the house is open. Each patron will be escorted directly to their seat without lingering in the lobby. Masks must be worn throughout the performance.
Tickets may be purchased at tickets@stageleftaz..com. They may also be obtained at 623-285-6321 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Mondays through Wednesdays.