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Oscar nominees Strathairn and McDonnell star in Cherry Orchard at People’s Light in Malvern
Filed Under: Mary, Projects • Posted on February 6th, 2015 by Sophie • No Comments »

SO, A COUPLE of Academy Award nominees are teaming up to do Anton Chekhov’s “The Cherry Orchard.” Big deal, right? You can’t swing a rolled-up Playbill in New York’s theater district without hitting some big-time movie or TV star taking a huge pay cut to hit the boards. (Paging Bradley “Elephant Man” Cooper!)

But when David Strathairn (nominated for “Good Night, and Good Luck”) and Mary McDonnell (“Dances With Wolves,” “Passion Fish”) hit the stage Feb. 11, they will be, according to Mapquest, exactly 114.72 miles southwest of Times Square, at People’s Light & Theatre Company, in Malvern.

That two such august performers agreed to spend most of the winter in Chester County is the result of stars (figuratively and literally) aligning, as well as patience, luck and timing.

There were “so many wonderful routes and pathways that kind of led to the alchemy of all this happening now,” offered Zak Berkman, PLTC’s producing director, who jokingly described himself as the project’s “midwife.”

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Berkman and Abigail Adams, the company’s artistic director and CEO (she is also directing “The Cherry Orchard”), emphasized that their casting of the two top-shelf actors was not a publicity stunt.

“Getting well-known people would be irrelevant to us,” insisted Adams. “It’s these particular people that are really important. And that’s true of any guests we have here. We always hope it will be the beginning of a long-term relationship, and that their values are shared with our values.”

Finding Lubov

The People’s Light honchos wanted to work again with Strathairn – he did “Nathan the Wise,” in 2009, and “Sally’s Gone, She Left Her Name,” in 2000, at the theater – and with McDonnell, whom they’ve both known for many years. They’ve also had a longtime hankering to stage Chekhov’s classic piece about an aristocratic Russian woman, Lubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya, and her family trying to save their estate.

“It’s a play we’ve wanted to do for years, but I felt we did not have a Lubov, and I didn’t want to do it until we had the Lubov,” said Adams, referring to McDonnell’s character. “And Mary was, to me, the best possible choice. So, when that began to emerge as a possibility, there were more and more conversations.”

According to Adams and Berkman, the process began in Los Angeles in 2011, when they had dinner with McDonnell. Strathairn was their choice to play Leonid Andreyevich Gaev, Lubov’s brother. But things had to be put on hold until the actors’ schedules allowed them to put aside the required nine weeks.

“I keep joking, there were many hail Mary passes going along that got caught to make this possible,” said Berkman. “We tried to assemble this [last year]. It almost happened but crumbled apart.”

One major issue has been McDonnell’s “day job” as the star of TNT’s “Major Crimes,” on which she portrays Los Angeles Police Captain Sharon Raydor. But she promised Adams and Berkman last year that this winter would work for her.

Why Malvern?

It’s easy to assess the value to PLTC of having two stars of this caliber perform there. But to hear McDonnell and Strathairn tell it, they’re the ones reaping most of the benefits.

“Why come to Malvern?” asked Strathairn, putting the emphasis on the town name’s second syllable. “Why go to off-Broadway when you can come to Malvern? It’s a place where the development of new and reinvestigation of old dramatic pieces is done in a special way.

“Sure, the nuts and bolts of putting together a production are pretty much the same wherever you go, but it’s the whole aesthetic here that I respond to. To be able to come here is really kind of a privilege, and to be fit into a company that has [survived and thrived for 40 years] is a challenge.”

He added that, in his estimation, the quality of work done by People’s Light is “relatively even” with that of New York productions.

For McDonnell, who spent five years of her childhood living in nearby King of Prussia, PLTC was a perfect place to get back to live performing after 17 years in film and television.

“I’ve been out of [theater] for so long that [it’s a] privilege to step into a company that has synergy and history, support and an environment that is beautiful,” she said. “It doesn’t have the trappings of some of what might be burdensome in New York.

“So you come here and you’re immediately at work with people who trust each other, know each other and have a skill set that supports the exploration immediately. There’s none of that getting to know each other and figuring out who’s on top. The power stuff – it just doesn’t happen.

“So, for me it was like being given support instantly that I frankly needed to reenter the world of theater.”

Another plus, added Strathairn, is simply that Malvern is not New York, which means critical response isn’t really an issue.

“The community here is very forgiving, because this is their theater. They love this place,” he said.

“So, maybe the razor’s edge of criticism doesn’t come as sharply upon productions here. But because of that, there is an allowance here for exploration. It may not be as dangerous, the ice may not be as thin, but you may not be so susceptible to criticism that can make or break you.”



Oscar Nominees Mary McDonnell & David Strathairn Will Lead THE CHERRY ORCHARD at People’s Light
Filed Under: Articles, Mary, Projects • Posted on January 15th, 2015 by Sophie • No Comments »

People’s Light continues its 40th Anniversary Season with The Cherry Orchard. Academy Award nominees Mary McDonnell and David Strathairn join People’s Light company artists in Emily Mann’s acclaimed adaptation of Chekhov’s masterwork directed by Abigail Adams. People’s Light is located at 39 Conestoga Road, Malvern, PA 19355. For tickets, call 610.644.3500 or visit Peopleslight.org.

Playwright Anton Chekhov, one of Russia’s most important literary figures, is best known for his short stories and plays, including The Sea Gull, Uncle Vanya, and Three Sisters. The Cherry Orchard is the most performed Russian play in the world and, written in 1904, it was Chekhov’s last play. It is the story of Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya (Mary McDonnell) and her brother Gayev (David Strathairn) who return home to their ancestral estate just as it’s about to be auctioned to pay a delinquent mortgage. Lopakhin (Pete Pryor), an emancipated serf-turned-merchant, tries to convince Ranevskaya to cut down her family’s beloved cherry orchard and build rental villas, but she will not surrender the symbols of her past, be they beautiful or haunting. Instead, she throws a party for her family and friends and awaits a miracle.

Director Abigail Adams is pleased to bring this play to People’s Light as part of the 40th anniversary season. Adams says “This is the kind of writing that interests me most. The mix of detail on the surface and a powerful feeling underneath. Chekhov’s characters rarely speak what needs to be spoken or hear what needs to be heard. It asks the questions about what is home? How do we accept loss? How do we let go? What ultimately sets us free”?

Former King of Prussia resident Mary McDonnell returns to her Pennsylvania roots for her debut at People’s Light. Widely known from film and television including her Oscar nominated performance in Dancing with Wolves and starring in Major Crimes and Battlestar Galactica, this is McDonnell’s first appearance on stage in eighteen years. Mary is thrilled by the opportunity to perform in a play adapted by her longtime friend, Emily Mann, alongside her daughter, Olivia Mell (Anya), and frequent collaborator, David Strathairn. On screen McDonnell and Strathairn previously co-starred in Passion Fish and Sneakers. On stage they performed together in Emily Mann’s production of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House at Hartford Stage. David Strathairn last performed at People’s Light in 2009 in Nathan the Wise.

The production also reunites McDonnell with People’s Light Producing Director Zak Berkman who has known McDonnell for three decades. “On my first day working at People’s Light in 2011, Abbey and I talked about how to make this project happen.” Berkman recalls. “It is a once in a lifetime occasion to have our remarkable resident company with David and Mary, all these extraordinary artists with such rich histories, exploring together this play that dances such an exhilarating dance with the past”. People’s Light resident company members involved in the production include Peter De Laurier, Andrew Kane, Mark Lazar, Stephen Novelli, Pete Pryor, and Mary Elizabeth Scallen. They are joined by Sanjit De Silva, Claire Inie-Richards, Teri Lamm, and Luigi Sottile. Melissa Dunphy rounds out the ensemble performing live music in her debut as sound designer and composer.

The creative team reunites Tony award winner Tony Straiges (Set Design), Barrymore winners Marla Jurglanis (Costume Design) and Samantha Bellomo (Choreographer/Fight Director), and Drama Desk winner Dennis Parichy (Lighting Design). Lee Devin and Gina Pisasale are the dramaturgs for the production.



Major Crimes Creator Previews “Trial By Fire”
Filed Under: Uncategorized • Posted on December 15th, 2014 by Sophie • No Comments »

“Trial By Fire,” (it’s first few moments excepted) begins in a courtroom and objectively explores the finite limits of our justice system. Those of you who follow this blog know how fascinated I am by our civilization’s orderly attempt to deal with injury and conflict resolution. It is important to remember, though, that the justice system is a human construct, an evolutionary philosophy filled with all the flaws of our species; it is not designed to work properly for individuals, but only in the aggregate. While filled with our most fervent and idealistic hopes for a better world, the courts and its officers must still manage a form of rational pragmatism that can disappoint us in daily life.

Oh, I know what you’re thinking! I’m about to invoke Ferguson or Cleveland or Staten Island! I honestly can’t do it. Like many others, I have questions about how the justice system worked in those particular cases, but this episode was written and shot long before the above listed incidents occurred. And, in keeping with our place in the world, Major Crimes avoids politicizing murder and rape. Captain Sharon Raydor believes, as do most LA police officers, that her job is to make the arrest and push the case to a conclusion, but then yield her own sense of right and wrong to the lawful verdict of the courts.

How people react to the loss of hope says a great deal about them. Will they despair and give in to bitterness? Will they falter and turn away? Will they succumb to rage and violence? Or will they pick up and try to do better when the next opportunity comes along?

Our detectives believe in the honor of their jobs, even if, in practice, they often lie and misrepresent themselves to suspects, or think up creative ways to employ the Miranda warning. In “Trial By Fire,” the justice system requires them to investigate the homicide of someone they openly despise. To put them further in the dumps, their chief suspect is represented by Jack Raydor, Sharon’s ex-husband, who (in his person) represents many of the failed hopes in the Captain’s life. It says something, then, about the quality of Sharon’s heart, that she never considers doing anything less than solving the riddle of a mysterious 911 call, finding its connection to a charitable trip to Disneyland and, ultimately, linking it all to the murder of a young black man, shot to death while waiting for a bus. Skillfully written by Ralph Gifford & Carson Moore and directed by the force of nature we call Stacey K. Black, “Trial By Fire” is almost pure mystery, even after the last murder is solved and the deal is put on offer.

Oh. And did I mention that Flynn may resign? Hope can fail in the strangest places.

And now! Finally! Next week the Santa robbery/flash mob/Raydor children home for the holidays special. We have some fun things packed under the tree and in the trash, just for you, Lt. Provenza and Buzz’s new Christmas sweater.

Until then — James Duff

Sounds like it’s going to be a fantastic episode! Happy Holidays from all of us here at Mary McDonnell Online :)



Mary on KET Documentary
Filed Under: Uncategorized • Posted on October 4th, 2014 by Sophie • No Comments »

Since its founding in 1964 by a group of young, passionate, and dedicated stage enthusiasts, Actors Theatre of Louisville swiftly earned local acclaim before gaining, and holding, international attention with what would become the organization’s signature: the annual Humana Festival of New American Plays.

Two local theater companies merged to become Actors Theatre of Louisville when it was clear that the city wasn’t large enough to financially sustain separate playhouses. Under the direction of co-founders Ewel Cornett and Richard Block, the new non-profit company relied on a host of volunteers working on and off the stage during its fledging years.

Their efforts paid off, though, and Actors Theatre quickly outgrew its original space on South Fourth Street. For a new theater, the group renovated the abandoned Illinois Central Railroad Station and turned it into a 350-seat venue. On opening night, audience members took a train to the auditorium, only to be victims of a staged “train robbery” with the pillage going to the company’s coffers.



Antagonist/Protagonist – Both Sides Now: A Conversation with Major Crimes’ Mary McDonnell
Filed Under: Articles, Interview • Posted on September 1st, 2014 by Sophie • No Comments »

Actress Mary McDonnell has once again returned to Dragon Con after a few years away. While she may always be Battlestar Galactica’s President Laura Roslin to many fans, I’m really enjoying her work on TNT’s Major Crimes where she plays Captain Sharon Raydor. McDonnell always brings a quiet power to the roles she plays, often embodying women who are commanding and unquestionably in charge without having to raise her voice above the seemingly tranquil tone that’s become her hallmark.

In addition to her two panels, McDonnell is also signing autographs on the Walk of Fame. She’s donating all of the money she collects to Sinte Gleska University, and that was the first thing she wanted to talk about when we sat down for this chat. Read the rest of this entry »



EXTRA Shoot HQ
Filed Under: Gallery • Posted on June 6th, 2014 by Sophie • No Comments »

I have added 13 UHQ images from the EXTRA Interview ‘Shoot’ They can be found here! Enjoy!



TNT Drama. BOOM. Promo including Mary!
Filed Under: Major Crimes • Posted on May 14th, 2014 by Sophie • No Comments »

TNT DRAMA BOOM from TNT on Vimeo.

Awesome new promo fro TNT dramas including Mary. Take a look :)



Major Crimes to start June 9th!
Filed Under: Uncategorized • Posted on May 11th, 2014 by Sophie • No Comments »

Major Crimes will be back on our screens in just under a month. I will be adding pictures of Mary on set today. Make sure to get caught up with earlier seasons in preparation for Season 3!



Major Crimes starts shooting!
Filed Under: Uncategorized • Posted on March 26th, 2014 by Sophie • No Comments »

Major Crimes has starting shooting Season 3. Pictures of the cast have been put out on Twitter as well as a first look at the promo shoot. All of these can be found on Twitter and Tumblr. Updates will be more regular on the site now, the more we get from the shooting of Season 3!



Mary McDonnell: At 60, Stardom Strikes. Interview with “Life Reimagined”
Filed Under: Articles, Interview • Posted on January 16th, 2014 by Sophie • No Comments »

“There’s babe, district attorney and Driving Miss Daisy,” fumes Goldie Hawn’s character in The First Wives Club, uttering the much-quoted line lamenting the three stages for actresses. Mary McDonnell says that line speaks the truth.

In the 1990s, the flame-haired beauty played babe roles in Dances with Wolves where she snuggled with Kevin Costner and Independence Day where she was the brave First Lady. A few birthdays later she wondered: Is my career over?

“I’m not 25. I’m not even 40,” says the soft-spoken actress who never dreamed that at 60, she would become the star of Major Crimes on TNT, one of the biggest hit dramas on TV. “I was at a certain age where I wondered if Hollywood would ever let me work again.”

Read more here!





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