Dianemarie Collins, host of The DM Zone, interviews actor, author and motivational speaker Mara Purl, the star of the play ‘Becoming Julia Morgan’ – the story of Julia Morgan, the architect of over 700 buildings including the Hearst Castle.
“If we think history is irrelevant, nothing could be further from the truth,” Purl remarked. “Julia Morgan was breaking glass ceilings even as she built them. She was such a key trail blazer that, frankly, female architects, and women in general would not be where we are today were it not for pioneers like her. She gave up having a personal life and devoted herself to her work. For her, ‘having it all’ meant designing, building, and also mentoring others with every fiber of her being.”
When Purl was approached by Director Linda Wilson about taking on the lead in “Julia,” she recommended Christopher Law for the role of Hearst. The director agreed, and Law was delighted.
“I’m thrilled at the opportunity to portray someone who made such an indelible mark on the region. He was just as much an icon as Morgan, and together they created something amazing.”
Morgan and Hearst were never romantically involved. But their professional friendship was of key importance to both of them, and lasted through decades. Purl and Law also enjoy a friendship that spans many years and always enjoy performing together.
The production also features veteran actor Dan Murry, adeptly portraying Morgan’s key mentors Bernard Maybeck and Professor Chaussemiche, as well as a descendant of Jerry Mac, a fictional character who worked hard to become Julia’s biographer. David Rosenblatt plays Jerry Mac, a Hearst reporter bristling with ambition, and possessing a keen insight into what makes Miss Morgan tick. Rosenblatt, who just co-starred in “The Murder Room” for the By the Sea Productions Theatre Company in Morro Bay, played Avery Morgan and Roman God Janus in last autumn’s production of “Becoming Julia Morgan,” and now assumes the second-lead role. Ailish Dermody, with Broadway and Television credits, will portray movie-star Marion Davies, close friend both to Julia and to Hearst; Roman Goddess Vesta, as well as Julia’s mother, Eliza Morgan. Sharee Hallman, a frequent presence on Central Coast stages, will portray four key people in Julia’s life: Phoebe Hearst, her benefactor; Cecile, her best friend in Paris; Elizabeth, her office assistant; and Irene, the wife of her would-be biographer whom Julia later mentors. Zachary Johnson, a SLO Little Theatre regular in both drama and comedy, takes over as Avery Morgan, Janus, Jake the Hearst gardener, and a hilarious French waiter.
Director Linda A. Wilson is a well-known director and performer in the San Luis Obispo region, with a thirty-year career including production at SLO REP, (SLO Little Theatre), PCPA (Pacific Conservatory for Performing Arts), PLOT, Canzona Women’s Ensemble, and many others. A legacy member of The Monday Club, she has become an expert in Julia Morgan’s career, and loves bringing Belinda Taylor’s play to new audiences.
Belinda Taylor was a veteran journalist before penning her play, which pits a determined journalist against the equally determined and reclusive Morgan. The Sacramento Bee reported, “Like a Julia Morgan-designed building, the new play about California’s first female architect … is a beautiful and intelligently designed creation. And also like her buildings, it is pleasing to the senses, with fine attention to detail and outstanding craftsmanship.”
Mara Purl, who has appeared on stage and on-camera since childhood, played the recurring character “Darla Cook” on NBC’s “Days of Our Lives.” She then founded a production company and created “Milford-Haven U.S.A.”, a serial drama loosely based upon Cambria. The show, co-starring a well-known L.A. based cast including Erin Gray, Linda Purl, Ed Begley, Jr., Michael Horse, and several others, became the first American radio drama to air on BBC radio, where it enjoyed a following of 4.5 million listeners. Purl’s story later came to the attention of New York publishers, who began publishing her novel series in hardcover in 2011. Since then, Book one “What the heart Knows” and book two “Where the Heart Lives” have both become national best-sellers, as have her novellas, “When Hummers Dream” and “When Whales Watch.” and her latest, “When Otters Play”. Her Milford-Haven saga has won more than 30 book awards.