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Anne B. Mulligan


Mulligan, from the Spotlighter's 2001 production of The Beauty Queen of Leenane

By John Barry | Posted 1/25/2006

When asked to describe the life of Baltimore actress Anne B. Mulligan, local director and playwright Miriam Bazensky digs deep into her verbal repertoire. “OK, I’ve got it,” she says. “Glom. She glommed on to you.” Bazensky laughs when pressed about what she means by that. “Well, when I can’t think of a word to describe somebody, I make it up.”

Like many of the pillars of community theater, Mulligan—who passed away from a heart attack Jan. 8—was much more than an actress: She was a mentor and a moral force for a theater community where commitment is a common bond. And Mulligan’s commitment to the stage only intensified with age. For three decades she appeared on Baltimore stages; then, at the age of 64, after raising five children, she entered the UMBC theater program. She graduated in 1990.

Director Barry Feinstein, who directed Mulligan in Martin McDonough’s Beauty Queen of Leenane, remembers how their collaboration on that play began. He comes up with a portrait of a woman who was outspoken but, when convinced, deferential. “As a personality, she was very strong,” Feinstein says, “She always let you know what she thought. And if you were a director, and you told her where to step, she let you know whether she agreed with you or not. And when you explained, she gave it her all.

“She came to me and told me she wanted the role of Mag [in Beauty Queen of Leenane], so we did it at Spotlighters,” he continues. “She was incredible. At the time, because of a lung ailment, she needed oxygen. Mostly, she got that in the rehearsal room. But she never complained.”

It was the sort of commitment, Feinstein says, that really gets to the heart of Baltimore’s unpaid community theater scene. “She was dedicated to whatever she did,” he says. “She wanted to learn as much as she could and be the best she could. In community theater, we don’t get paid, it’s a passion. She gave her soul to it.”

Director Kimberly Lynne remembers Mulligan as a respected elder and an inspiration. She traveled with Mulligan through Maryland with an education play Lynne wrote for children titled Last Battle of the American Revolution. Early on in the production, as her lung condition worsened, Mulligan was forced to take oxygen tanks onstage.

“She asked me whether it was the right thing to do,” Lynne says. “But watching her go out onstage with her oxygen was probably as much of a lesson to those children as anything about the American Revolution.”

In any conversation about Mulligan, her dedication to the battle against AIDS arises. Lynne remembers Mulligan organizing and participating in dozens of AIDS fundraisers, and persuading friends and colleagues to donate as well.

“Back in the early ’90s, a number of her friends in the Baltimore theater scene were being demolished by AIDS,” Lynne says. “That’s when she started to do walks for AIDS and campaign for children affected by AIDS. Whenever there was an AIDS walk, she made us support her.

“She was our moral voice,” Lynne sums up. “Without getting too didactic, whenever she asked you to help others out, it was like getting the call. You had to do it.”

Local playwright Joe Dennison remembers Mulligan as one of his frankest and most admired critics. “Sometimes she liked your stuff and sometimes she didn’t,” he says. “And she would tell me exactly how she felt. One of the finest, grandest, unpretentious ladies of our community—always, always told it like it was. She had grit, talent, and heart.”

And that, as Dennison puts it, explains why Mulligan’s Jan. 14 life celebration at the Red Maple was packed with members of the Baltimore arts community. “As I was walking up Charles last Saturday, I could hear a lone bagpipe playing in the distance, and I knew then that was where Annie’s memorial service would be and I wouldn’t need to look for the address. She will be missed always but never forgotten.”

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