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Fresh off a murder mystery comedy show with Old Town Players, Marla Krohn bounces back into the director’s seat with “Barefoot in the Park.”

Comedic Actress and Director, Marla Krohn

Marla has been performing across metro Atlanta for the last four decades. Beginning her career as a walk-around Witchiepoo at the World of Sid and Marty Croft, she has gone on to direct and perform in a variety of theaters across the Metro Atlanta area, including the Holly Theatre, New Dawn Theater Company, Lionheart Theatre Company, Main Street Theater, Old Town Players, and Merely Players Presents.


We sat down with the veteran comedic actress to get an inside look at her process, her inspirations, and what audiences can expect from this classic Neil Simon comedy.


What drew you to direct "Barefoot in the Park"?

Joanie asked me to direct this production. Normally I direct comedies, and I enjoy comedies. I'm a comedic actress, using comedy bits and making people laugh. I like to make things big but not over the top. I’m still acting – I just finished playing a French-speaking, speakeasy owner in a murder mystery with Old Town Players.


Marla Krohn performing on stage

Who are some of your biggest influences or mentors in the world of theater?

Maggie Smith and Carol Burnett are my idols.


Can you share a pivotal moment or experience that solidified your passion for directing?

I do a lot of directing for middle school and teenagers. My son was a child actor, and I directed him in CYT – Christian Youth Theatre. He was not shy, but when I see a kid come out of their shell, everything that has bothered me up to that point is gone. I think... I’ll keep doing this. I directed a kid who went on to Broadway, performing in "A Raisin in the Sun". When you make a difference in someone's life, it’s worth it.


What’s the most unexpected challenge you’ve faced while directing this or any play?

Well, it's always been to Merely Players Presents' advantage – it’s cozy. My challenge is a positive one - to try to bring the audience live into the show. It's not a bad thing that the audience is so close to the stage in the black box space. It’s just trying to keep my actors from hamming it up too much because they are right there in the audience's face. You don't want your actors to overdo it, but for the audience to feel welcome into that scene.


Do you have a personal philosophy or approach to directing?

I've directed Nancy Powell in several shows – she and I are similar in age and how we both act. I love to direct her. She comes to see me in my shows, and we have the same type of humor. She is so willing to do it.

My lead girl, Anna, I've directed her in several shows. There is something about working with people you know will take direction. And I’m different. I have to get up there and show you instead of telling you – I like to show them what I’m thinking, my visions, how I see it. And when they see it, they grab it – they are very visual people.


Jackson Trent performing as Paul Bratter in "Barefoot in the Park" at Merely Players Presents

How do you keep the rehearsal process fun and engaging while also staying on track with your vision for this play?

I'm known for physical comedy and getting people to do something they wouldn’t normally do. In one scene, I have the lead crawling on a ledge instead of walking because it looks funnier. Actually, he is getting married in less than a month. I have him channeling – remember how it felt when you asked her to marry you. In the play, he has to wear a wedding band, but he won't be using his own wedding band. We couldn't ruin that moment for him.


Stage performance of "Barefoot in the Park" at Merely Players Presents

How do you feel about putting your own spin on such a classic Broadway play like "Barefoot in the Park"?

I feel excited about it. I put my own spin on the funny bits that are in there. I have a scene where two of the actors are trying to turn on the radiator - one is lifting up the other to turn it on and someone walks in. I have them turning around really slowly - like they are caught in the act. In another scene, the mother is supposed to be walking up six flights of stairs. We don't have stairs, but I needed to show how exhausted she is. So, we have her stumbling as if she made that long trip up. Putting something in to make it clean and refreshing, and I hope people get that.


How do you balance honoring Neil Simon’s original vision with bringing your unique perspective to the play?

I've never directed this one. I love Neil Simon. I love old stage shows. But everyone and their brother has done it. My vision is to keep it as close as possible but add a fresh look while staying true to that time period. I used some of my own physical comedy to freshen it up.


What’s one quirky behind-the-scenes fact about this production that audiences would be surprised to know?

In one of the scenes, there is supposed to be snow coming through the roof, through a broken skylight. And I thought, "how am I going to do this?" It's not a tall space. But it's theatre, it's magic, we will make it work. Joanie is the most accommodating, beautiful Artistic Director I've ever worked with. She is so giving. She also has a great crew that will give you whatever you need - within reason. Now, they will try to give me snow!


Anna Leigh Spencer and Nancy Powell performing in "Barefoot in the Park" at Merely Players Presents

What’s one scene in "Barefoot in the Park" that you’re especially excited for audiences to see and why?

What really touches my heart is the mother-daughter relationship. I have a very tight relationship with my adult son, so I relate to the mother part, her comedy. I'd like audiences to see how they help each other in a life-changing moment - the daughter helps her mother come out of her shell, and the mother helps her daughter grow up some, so she is capable of being a good wife.


What do you hope audiences take away from this production of "Barefoot in the Park"?

The thing I love about the couple in this show - and I talk to my two leads about it - they are so opposite. But he gets something from her that he doesn’t have – spontaneity and the ability to enjoy life. She gets from him security. I hope the audience sees how they help each other. There are people in our life that are opposite of us but that is a positive thing. They help with our weaknesses. My husband and I are opposites - he is like Corie and I’m like Paul – we feed each other and our differences. Maybe they can give you what you don’t have.



Marla Krohn as French-speaking speakeasy owner in murder mystery at Old Town Players
Photo courtesy of Old Town Players

Marla sits on the board of Old Town Players where she coordinates the children’s theater programs. A respected acting coach, her students have performed at every level of theater across the country, including Broadway. She currently resides in Duluth with her husband, Doug, and dog, Millie. Their son Jonathan, an international journalist, is the joy of her life.


Catch Marla Krohn’s magic on stage with "Barefoot in the Park" opening this week. Don’t miss out on this hilarious and heartwarming production!

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