Mammy Memories

What a treat to see the picture of me and Gretchen Evans again [A&E Theater,”Moving On, Trading Up,” 10/8/09]. The Cripple of Inishmaan was such a great experience, the more because it might not have happened for me. Robert [Weiss] wanted me to audition for the play, but I had an engagement out of town. When I returned and called him, he seemed upset. “I’ve cast all the parts but one, and I don’t think you’d want it or would be right for it.” “Give it here,” I said. I read with Rudy Willrich, who played my son, and then with Robert Lesser, who played the doctor. Bingo! I was to play Mammy, the 93-year-old drunk.

Robert was a fine painter, and he painted my face. Yes, he did my makeup! Barbara Lackner made the cap with the long, greasy grey locks, and the rest of the costume was spot on. Then Robert directed the talented cast like one possessed.

On opening night I took special pains to look as glamorous as possible before I exited the stage door. Geraldine Hughes, who played Slippy Helen, had invited Danny DeVito. “This is my friend Christina, she played Mammy.” When Danny did his famous three-way double take, I knew that Robert, Barbara, and I had really succeeded in transforming me into that wonderful character, Mammy. -Christina Clancy Allison

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