Mary Kate O’Connell is currently appearing in Love Loss and What I Wore, a play by Nora Ephron and Delia Ephron, about women and their relationship to clothes, based on a book by Ilene Beckerman. Five actresses sit in chairs and recount stories of clothes they wore at significant moments in their lives.
Mary Kate is a vivid presence in the Buffalo theater scene. With a magnetic stage presence and a luscious soprano voice, she has long been known as Western New York’s First Lady of Musical Theater. She is also greatly admired for her marvelous sense of comedy. Whether she’s taking a pratfall as Mother Superior in Nunsense, giving a dry reading to an earnest but absurd letter to Ann Landers, or channeling the persona of Florence Foster Jenkins, the worst singer in the world, Mary Kate can tickle the comedy out of any script. She can then turn around and tug at our hearts, smiling as she fights back the sorrow of her characters, and fails exquisitely.
As the guiding force behind O’Connell & Company, a theater troupe wisely named to capitalize on the MKO charisma, Mary Kate, accompanied by Rosy, her ever-present little dog, has gathered an assembly around her at the Park School in Snyder who support the idea of theater and community with almost evangelical zeal. The warmth of her personality draws people in, and her audiences seem to enjoy her humorous and welcoming curtain speeches, almost as much as the O’Connell & Company shows.
In Love Loss and What I Wore, she is joined by Sandra Gilliam, Darleen Pickering Hummert, Melissa Leventhal, and Mary Moebius, under the direction of Roger Paolini. Here, Mary Kate submits to The Public Questionnaire.
What word would your friends use to describe you?
Social. (Thank you, Tony.)
What character in your current play is most unlike your own personality?
Lynne’s story. She is brave and bold and confident. I strive to be these things but often fall short. But still strive.
What character in your current play is most like your own personality?
The I Hate My Purse Woman. I am no good at purses. Never have been, never will be. Hoping that Hefty Bag comes up with a fashionable tote soon.
When and where were you the happiest?
The happiest part of my life was when I realized that I could choose to be happy. And when I’m smart, I remember to do that.
What is your idea of hell on earth?
Gin martinis…now an ice-cold vodka dirty martini with extra olives = Heaven.
What is your greatest fear?
Which talent do you most wish you had?
Playing the piano and speaking French (like Ann Mosner). I could sing Edith Piaf songs while playing. Bonheur absolu! I’m sure there would be wine involved. French wine.
What superpower do you most wish you had?
Power of mimicry. It allows you to reproduce the superpowers of others via absorbing their powers in many ways. Watch out! When I stand next to you at the Arties I may be lifting your powers. Just sayin’.
What would you change about your appearance?
Fewer pounds. Few more inches taller. Fewer “laugh lines” maybe. But basically your appearance, attitude, and confidence reflects where you’ve been, how far you’ve come, and where you are. I’ve traveled a long way and some of the roads weren’t paved. Yup!
What trait do you most despise in others?
What trait to you most despise in yourself?
Procrastination. No wait. I’m not sure. Can I get back to you on that?
What do you most value in your friends?
Loyalty, laughter, and love.
What do you consider to be your greatest accomplishment?
I’ll let you know when it happens.
What is your guilty pleasure?
Cuddling with my puppy Rosy. Oh, and Fritos, definitely Fritos.
What character from fiction do you identify with most?
Some days it’s Patrick Starfish, some days it’s Nancy Drew, other days it’s everyone in between.
What person from history do you identify with most?
What do you consider to be the most overrated virtue?
On what occasion do you lie?
Now. Right now. No, wait, I’m lying about that. No, I’m not. Yes, she is. Hey, who are you? You. Don’t listen to her. She’s lying. No she’s lying. I’m not lying. Lying is too complicated.
What was the subject of your last Google search?
Coconut oil = World Peace.
If you come back in another life, what person or thing would you like to be?
Myself —knowing all I know. The ultimate do-over.
What is your most prized possession?
My close circle of friends.
What role, in which you will never be cast, is actually perfect for you?
Annie. (I have the wig and the dog. Any takers?)
What is your motto?
Use your Diva Power for good.