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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.



Mary at the Irene By Greg Lavoi Spring 2014 Runway Presentation
Filed Under: Gallery, Mary • Posted on October 15th, 2013 by Sophie • No Comments »

Mary attended the Irene By Greg Lavoi Spring 2014 Runway Presentation on Sunday to support Greg Lavoi, who is also the stylist for Major Crimes. He is responsible for all the awesome Sharon outfits. Mary looked beautiful as always.

I have added 13 UHQ images to site. Enjoy!




Mary’s Reddit “IAmA”
Filed Under: Mary • Posted on October 15th, 2013 by Sophie • No Comments »



Mary will be doing a Reddit “IAmA” this week. Here is what she posted on Twitter and Facebook!

I will be doing a Reddit #IAmA this Wednesday (10/16) at 4:00 pm EST, come #askmeanything!

Got some questions you’ve wanted to ask her? Well now is your chance! Make sure you stop by! I will be posting the link when it becomes available!



Mary attends the Variety & Women Pre Emmy Event. HQ pictures
Filed Under: Gallery, Mary • Posted on September 21st, 2013 by Sophie • No Comments »

Mary attended the Variety & Women In Film Pre-Emmy Event last night. She looked absolutely beautiful. I have added 12 HQ images to the gallery. Enjoy!



Mary to participate in ‘A Celebrity Reading of Terrance McNally’s “It’s Only a Play” ‘
Filed Under: Mary • Posted on September 10th, 2013 by Sophie • No Comments »

Mary will be participating in ‘A Celebrity Reading of Terrance McNally’s “It’s Only a Play”‘ along side Lisa Kudrow on September 28th at the Skylight Theatre in LA. Tickets can be bought here!

It’s an opening night on Broadway and the wealthy producer is throwing a party in her lavish Manhattan townhouse. Downstairs the celebrities are pouring in, but the real action is upstairs where a group of insiders have staked themselves out in the producer’s bedroom waiting for the reviews to come in. The good natured bonhomie with which the evening begins grows steadily bitchier – and funnier – as the reviews (all bad) come in.



Mary to host “A Night At The Oscars”
Filed Under: Mary • Posted on August 30th, 2013 by Sophie • No Comments »

Mary will be hosting “The Big Picture: A night at the Oscars” at the Hollywood Bowl on Sunday September 1st. Tickets can be bought here!

The thrilling experience of extraordinary movie music played live-to-picture on the Bowl’s big screen continues this year as we celebrate the legacy of music and films honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.





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