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Edinburgh Festival 2014: From advertising chief to one-woman show


A high-flying American businesswoman who quit her job after the death of her mother has brought her story to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Mary Lou Quinlan was the first female chief executive of the advertising firm NW Ayer, and became a judge on American Inventor, the US version of Dragons’ Den. But it all changed in 2006 following the death of her mother Mary Finlayson. She subsequently found a series of “God boxes”, which were filled with hundreds of notes and prayers about her family dating back 20 years. This led to her “unravelling” – and eventually to her delivering The God Box: A Daughter’s Story at the Assembly Roxy at the festival.

As Ms Quinlan struggled to deal with the loss, she wrote an article that she then developed into a best-seller. Three years ago she adapted it into a one-woman play.

She said: “I used to be behind a desk and now I’m pouring out my guts on stage about the most important thing that ever happened to me. I walked away from the advertising industry. I’m starting from scratch. I’m not going back to my old life.”