I was about 21 years old and was appearing as Kim Carter on the television series Here’s Lucy. It was several years into our six-year run when Vivian Vance was making her second guest-star appearance with us. She had always been a mentor to me and she was aware that theatre had always been my first love. (I put on plays in my backyard, chose my high school because it had the best drama department in Los Angeles, etc.)
So, Viv inquired about how I was spending my “hiatus” from the show. When I finished listing all of the fabulous vacation spots I’d managed to visit in the past several years, she gently reprimanded me, reminding me that I was a “theatre person” and that, every chance I got, I should find a way to get back to the stage; that I shouldn’t “get type cast on some situation comedy.”
Coming from her (forever to be known as Ethel Mertz, even though she had a full stage career before I Love Lucy), I took her words to heart. I auditioned that summer for the San Bernardino Civic Light Opera’s production of Cabaret to play Sally Bowles. I got the part! David Westberg was my leading man. It was glorious. I was so proud to finally have an official card as a member of Actors’ Equity. I now have been an Equity member for over 30 years. Theatre is still, and will always be, my first love.