Mary VanArsdel

Picture it: Seattle. November. An empty warehouse (unheated). A group of actor/singers gathered to begin work on a new production of Leonard Bernstein’s CANDIDE. The director chose, for our first blocking rehearsal, to set us loose – improvising an ‘auto-da-fe’ – for the song that begins ‘What a day, what a day for an auto-da-fe!’. I had no idea what ‘auto da fe’ meant, so, I stood perfectly still to watch the others, hoping to get the hang of it. A group approached, grabbed and dragged me to a pole whereby they mimed the act of tieing me to it. They were giggling and hopping and tieing with such glee – the glee-ful-est of them all was Mary VanArsdel. I learned later that this was an improvisational burning-at-the-stake … I guess I must have been the boringest burn victim around because I thought I was supposed to be a maypole. I smiled and flailed my arms around as any maypole worth its’ salt would…they grew tired of me and I stood in place awaiting new revelers…oh well….Our next project together was ANGRY HOUSEWIVES in Los Angeles – I was Mary’s pushy husband and Mary was my ‘I’ll-show-you-how-independent-I-can-be-I’ll-join-a-punk-band!’ wife. This month we begin our third project together – the Broadway musical REBECCA. Meet Rebecca’s Mrs. Van Hopper!
Tell me a true Valentine’s Day story….
Mary: Back in the 60’s I was a kid and just getting into my first rock band – The Beatles! My father loved classical music and couldn’t stand that I wanted to play “that awful music”. But on Valentines’s day, he gave me a giant Valentines Card. It had a “mad” scientist on the front, holding a severed hand. Inside it said, “I wanna hold your hand”, Happy Valentine’s Day, love, Dad. It was his way of trying to be a little hipper and making me laugh at the same time. I loved it!
Is there anyone in your life that you met by pure accident – in an elevator, someone who picked up your dropped keys, in line at the movies…that kind of thing? How did you meet?
Mary: Well, the sweetest story I have is meeting a lovely couple in Johnny Carson Park in Burbank, CA while I was walking my Golden Retriever Mackie. They were walking their Golden Retriever Angel – just by chance. We got to talking and I finally did a double take on the Husband – it was the Actor Tom Bosley (Mr. Cunningham on Happy Days). Our Dogs took a huge liking to each other (we called them boyfriend and girlfriend) and Tom and his lovely wife Patricia and I would meet regularly every Sunday so the dogs could play. It was a great sadness to me when Tom passed away a couple of years ago.
Do you have a ‘lucky’ number? Or a number that you associate with something good in your life?
Mary: Yes, the number 7.
Have you ever interrupted a street fight – meaning anything from a quarrel to a brawl? Details? If not, is there any type of altercation that doesn’t involve you primarily that would prompt you to get involved?
Mary: No – I’m way too much of a coward, although if I saw someone abusing a woman or a child, I would definitely call 911.
Is there a city anywhere in the world that was featured prominently in a feature film that you visited because of the film? Did it live up to the impression you got from the film?
Mary: Savannah,Georgia, after reading the book and seeing the film ‘Midnight In The Garden of Good and Evil’ – yes, it was a fascinating place, full of ghosts and history and charm.
Have you ever been in a relationship with someone and found that relationship irrevocably altered when you first visited their living space? Details (no names of course)?
Mary: No, the men in my life have all been fairly tidy people.
Favorite color? Where do you most like to see that color?
Mary: Rose pink – on the roses in my garden in Burbank, CA (I love roses).
Have you overheard a conversation between two people unknown to you that you wish you had never heard?
Mary: No, can’t say that I have. There isn’t that much that shocks me, and I don’t pay that much attention to other people’s conversations.
Pick one: Which of these genres features most prominently in your music collection? Rock? Jazz? Heavy Metal? Classical? Rap? Folk? Pop? What artist occupies more space on your music listening device than any other?
Mary: Because I work in Musical Theatre, I have more cast recordings than anything else. The next closest thing would be classical, and I suppose I have more Beethoven than anything else. But because I hear music all the time in my work, I often just like silence when I am at home, to give my ears a rest!
If you were to name the 8th wonder of the world – what would it be and why?
Mary: You mean aside from you??? (kidding!) I actually looked up the Wonders of the World and there are several categories – The Seven Wonders of The Ancient World, The Seven Wonders of the Modern World, The Seven New Wonders of the World, and The 7 Natural Wonders of the World. That’s a lot to Wonder about! I don’t know, I guess I would have to say Big Sur inCalifornia (as an 8th Natural Wonder) – I have driven that coastal route 3 times and it always just takes my breath away.

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