Jean Stapleton’s significant role on stage in Franklin County

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Legendary actress, Jean Stapleton, may be best known for her role as Edith Bunker on “All in the Family.”  But it’s her summer stage theatrics in Central Pennsylvania that helped boost her iconic career.

For more than 40 years, Paul “Pablo” Holmes has worked with a wide array of talent both on and off stage at Totem Pole Playhouse.  But he says Stapleton takes center stage.

“She knew everybody’s name before we could introduce ourselves,” says Pablo.

Jean walked into Pablo’s life in 1971.  It was the start of his career at Totem.  He was an actor in the chorus, alongside theater veteran Jean, in “Hello Dolly.”

Pablos says, “She has a very sly sense of humor, she could be really nice and wicked about it.  And she loved to laugh.”

Jean was wrapping up the middle of her first season as Edith in “All in the Family,” when she starred as Dolly on the summer stage.

Artistic Director, Ray Ficca, says, “She was sensational.  She was a draw.  When I hear folks tell about her on stage, they don’t say I saw Edith Bunker, they say Jean was so good in that.”

For the first time, the playhouse performed to a sold out crowd.

Pablo says, “You couldn’t get a seat anywhere.  Standing room, folding chairs on the sides.”

The playhouse eventually added 50 seats.

Jean’s an inspiration for young actors who are getting their start at Totem.

Ficca says, “Stories of Jean coming here and having no heirs or graces and working just like everyone else.  Using the same dressing room, no special treatment and being kind and giving to everyone.”

Pablo says, “An old broadway type, she knew the ins and outs of theater which is great.”

“It gives us an extra sparkle and twinkle in eyes to do our best for one of us who has gone before us,” says Ficca.


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