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Mary McDonnell returns to Pa. roots for debut at People’s Light & Theatre

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STORY WRITTEN BY RITA CHARLESTON
For Digital First Media

People’s Light continues its 40th anniversary season with “The Cherry Orchard” by Anton Chekhov, one of Russia’s most important literary figures, Feb. 11 through March 8. Former King of Prussia resident and Academy Award nominee Mary McDonnell, returns to her Pennsylvania roots for her debut at People’s Light.
“The Cherry Orchard” was Chekov’s last play, and is the story of Lyubov Andreyevna Ranevskaya (McDonnell) and her brother Gayev who return home to their ancestral estate just as it’s about to be auctioned off to pay a delinquent mortgage. An emancipated serf-turned-merchant tries to convince
Ranevskaya to cut down the family’s beloved cherry orchard and build rental villas, but she will not surrender to the symbiosis of her past. Instead, she throws a party for her family and friends and awaits a miracle.
“This is an incredibly brilliant and very complex play,”McDonnell says. “And the fact that I’m also acting with my daughter, Olivia Mell, is too good to be true. I feel tremendous gratitude about the whole thing. I am more clear every year about how short life is, so to have this opportunity to play alongside my child makes this an extra special event.”
In fact, it was when her children were young that she gave a lot of thought to how quickly life flies by and took a leave of absence from the stage to spend more time with them.
“I had a hard time pulling away from my family and my life in order to be on the stage,” McDonnell explains. “I never got to be there to kiss my children goodnight or read them bedtime stories. Some people can do all that successfully but I couldn’t. So by staying closer to home I got more involved in my children’s lives. I enjoyed being at their school and around all the other mothers. So my career eventually evolved into more TV and film work.”
Over time, McDonnell became well-known for her TV performances as President Laura Roslin in “Battlestar Galactica” and others, including a recurring role in “The Closer.” She currently stars as Captain Sharon Raydor on the TV series “Major Crimes.”
Staying off the stage and closer to home, McDonnell’s many film roles amounted to accolades and awards, including Academy Award nominations for “Dances With Wolves” and “Passion Fish.”
But after a 17-year hiatus, and with her children grown, McDonnell says she’s thrilled to be back on the stage – especially this stage. “To realize that People’s Light is celebrating their 40th year with a strong subscription audience is amazing, and not something that happens every day.To be invited into this group is a real honor.”

IF YOU GO

What: “The Cherry Orchard”
When: Feb. 11 through March 8.
Where: People’s Light & Theatre, 39 Conestoga Road in Malvern.
Info.: For ticket information, call (610) 644-3500 or check http://peopleslight.org.

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