Mary was born and raised in Seattle, WA, the daughter of the late Dr. Paul P. Van Arsdel, Jr., a founding physician with The University of Washington School of Medicine, and the late Dr. Rosemary T. Van Arsdel, a Victorian literature and periodicals scholar.
She graduated from The Bush School in Seattle, and was a Magna Cum Laude graduate of Bowdoin College with a degree in American History.
So, how did she drift into show business, you might ask? She was very fortunate to be raised with music and theatre in her home, and she showed an affinity for them from an early age. She won two awards at Bowdoin, one for Acting and one for American History. Acting won out. Mary trained in London and New York, then began her career with many shows back in Seattle. Her vocal training was primarily in opera so one day, having nothing better to do with all the arias she had learned, she entered the Northwest Regional San Francisco Opera Merola Program Auditions and made it to the final round. However, theatre won out and she instead achieved notoriety originating the role of the cornflakes-throwing “Jetta” in the premiere production of ANGRY HOUSEWIVES at Pioneer Square Theatre in Seattle. She later spent the latter part of the Reagan years portraying wide- eyed Nancy Reagan in Gary Trudeau’s RAP MASTER RONNIE, for which composer Elizabeth Swados rewrote a song just for her.
A move to Los Angeles opened up her horizons. She joined and performed many shows with legendary THEATRE WEST, PACIFIC RESIDENT THEATRE, and THE MUSICAL THEATRE GUILD. Along the way she was awarded 3 Dramalogue Awards, 1 LA Drama Critics Circle Award, and many other Nominations and Honorable Mentions for other awards.
In her lengthy career, Mary has performed everything from Shakespeare to Punk Rock, as well as commercials, TV and film. Some of her favorite roles have been “Mama Rose” in GYPSY, “Carlotta” in the Yeston/Kopit PHANTOM, “Lily Byrne” in A MAN OF NO IMPORTANCE, “Cunegonda” in CANDIDE, and “Kate” in KISS ME KATE. She has also been featured in ON THE TWENTIETH CENTURY ( Reprise!), 110 IN THE SHADE (Pasadena Playhouse), CAMELOT with Jeremy Irons (THE HOLLYWOOD BOWL), and Leonard Bernstein’s MASS at The Hollywood Bowl with the LA Philharmonic and Bernstein protege Marin Alsop conducting. As a long time member of LA’s prestigious THE MUSICAL THEATRE GUILD, Mary has been seen in over 15 concerts. Other regional appearances include Ogunquit Playhouse, Hartford Stage, TUTS Houston, and ACT in Seattle.
In 1993, Mary made her feature film debut in the summer blockbuster IN THE LINE OF FIRE, and her TV debut in a recurring role on L.A. Law. Other TV credits include PRODIGAL SON, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, MIRACLES, GILMORE GIRLS, MELROSE PLACE, and many others.
Upon relocating to New York City in 2008, Mary was cast to originate the role of “The Bird Woman” for the First National Broadway tour of MARY POPPINS, and “Miss Shingle” for the First National Broadway Tour of the Tony Award-winning Best Musical, A GENTLEMAN’s GUIDE TO LOVE AND MURDER. Fun fact- her Broadway debut was to have been in the new musical version of REBECCA, but sadly the show collapsed in scandal the day before rehearsals were to have started. She did appear with fellow cast members in the 2012 GYPSY OF THE YEAR Broadway Cares/ Equity Fights AIDS fundraiser, as well as at the venue 54 BELOW.
Mary currently lives in Los Angeles and loves dogs, travel and, still, history.