Meet Mrs. Cunningham, Lori Hammel
Lori Hammel plays Mrs. Cunningham in our production of Happy Days.
I grew up in North Dakota. I started competing in talent shows when I was 12 and I was in a country-western band by the time I was 15. It was a great place to grow up. We lived in New Salem (population 1,000) during some of those years – a small town where people all knew each other. I wanted to be in every group I could join.
I always liked entertaining other people. When I was in first grade, I put on my snowsuit when it was hot outside and made my mom laugh. Then I walked down the block and knocked on the door of our neighbors so they would see it and laugh too. I continued performing - my mom would have me sing in the living room for relatives. I did the school plays and had a fabulous junior high teacher, Mrs. Beckman, who let me act and write and be myself. She was so encouraging and I really felt seen and heard, and she gave me hope that I could do it all. We moved back to the big town of Bismarck, North Dakota late in my high school years and they had a lovely new theater. Again, I dove in and did the shows. It felt like home to me. Eventually, I wanted to legitimize my passion for acting by going to college to learn more about it.
Being in this show has been a great experience. I loved watching Happy Days as a kid, so I can say that it is the greatest show and so much fun. The values and the true heart felt relationships made me want to be a part of that family.
It has been a blast to play these wonderful TV characters. I was always such a TV junkie and still am. I loved playing Mrs. Brady from The Brady Bunch because she handles having so many kids with such grace and wisdom and she is the perfect wife who still has ideas of her own. Ethel Mertz from I Love Lucy is so fabulous to play because she is the voice of reason - always trying to help Lucy be wise to the trouble she is getting into – yet in spite of it all, Ethel goes along with her best friend and usually gets in trouble too. Mrs. Cunningham is the voice of reason and such a loving soul – she is someone I would love to be able to get comfort and advice from.
I am totally into “Last Tango in Halifax” – a British TV show that has multi-generational families dealing with life’s problems and challenges. It is ultimately about loving people for who they are, no matter what they are going through. It has the fabulous stage actor Derek Jacobi and the ever graceful Anne Reid – two characters in their 70’s who find love again. It’s a current TV family. My dream role is to play a beloved series regular on a hit TV show. Maybe that’s why I like playing them so much on stage! Speaking of television shows, be sure to watch for me on the upcoming season two of "Difficult People" on Hulu!
I love getting together with my friends and talking about life and art and creating. I love to write, and I co-authored a guidebook for young actors called “Minding the Edge – Strategies for a Fulfilling, Successful Career as an Actor”. Another actor friend and I are writing a new web series, so I like to keep busy!
I like fun 1970’s music that makes me feel good!
as Carol Brady as Ethel Mertz
as Ethel Mertz