Like any blossoming author, Mara Clark is excited. Anxious, even. She has scheduled the requisite book signing and local television appearance to promote the release of her first novel, and has several other pieces in the works, a few of which are almost complete.
In terms of anticipation, she's like any other emerging writer. The comparisons, though, end there.
Clark turns 82 next month.
The Havenwood-Heritage Heights resident will celebrate the beginning of another year with the release of Dee Evans: Special Agent, a Woman Addicted to Danger, a collection of short stories about a government agent, each of which is set in a different locale around the world that Clark has traveled to with her husband, Tom.
The initial spark for the work came in the form of raindrops during a trip to France.
"I was standing on the Odion, which is an old Roman theatre that extends for acres in Lyon, France, and it was raining," Clark said. "My husband had a business meeting, so I was there by myself, and I thought, what a great picturesque story this would make."
The same could be said of Clark's journey.
She grew up in a small town in Massachusetts - where her father ran the town store, gas station and post office and acted as town clerk and treasurer - before diving into community theater, eventually parlaying a theater degree earned at the age of 49 into a career as a character actor that saw her brush shoulders with the likes of Paul Newman, Kelsey Grammer, Vanessa Redgrave, Eva Marie Saint and Anthony Edwards.
The later-than-usual transition to published author? Just another day in the life of Mara Clark.
"I've been lucky, mostly," Clark said. "I just bump into things, or they bump into me."
Her story begins very much that way - on a wrestling mat. It was there, as a high school student, that she found her way into her first ever acting role, wrestling her sister in a school production because "nobody else would."
From there, Clark immersed herself in community theater throughout Massachusetts, playing roles in Fiddler on the Roof, The Music Man, Oklahoma! and The Sound of Music, among many others.
She spent the years after high school attending the now-defunct Berkshire Business College and working in an office setting while taking up the various roles, until the passion for performance ultimately guided her to earn a theater degree from Salem State College.
It was there that she was encouraged to join the Screen Actor's Guild. Clark promptly set out on an audition, earned a role in her first try and quickly began to found regular work in the field.
She had a role as a widow in The Verdict, starring Paul Newman, taking a business card from Newman during her lone scene while adhering to the director's guidance not to make eye contact.
"I was a poor widow who looks off into space and never looks at him," Clark said.
In Three Sovereigns for Sara, Clark inspected a half-dressed Vanessa Redgrave for "witch marks." In the 1989 film Pet Sematary, adapted from the Stephen King novel, Clark had a few lines that were eventually cut out "because the girl I was in the scene with was the cousin of somebody who wanted her in the movie."
Clark did enjoy a few speaking roles. She was featured in episodes of Unsolved Mysteries and America's Most Wanted, and also played the role of Madame Rose in a video-game adaptation of Clue.
Though her interaction with Hollywood stars was often minimal, several such conversations still stand out.
"Eva Marie Saint, I had just a few lines with her in a thing called I'll be Home for Christmas, but what a lovely lady she was," Clark said. "We had a nice chat, went over some lines. And Lindsey Kraus was awfully nice. I was doing a thing with her called Summer Solstice. We were shooting outside and the wind was blowing, it was freezing. My whole role was to take a shall and put it around Lindsey and say something that wasn't comforting at all but was supposed to be comforting. Afterwards she and the other actors had us all inside for coffee." (next page »)