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Actress Peggy O'Connell of Woodbury portrays Louise Seger in "Always...Patsy Cline." The play will be staged at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatre.

Life's a stage for Woodbury actress

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Woodbury Minnesota 8420 City Centre Drive 55125

Life's a stage for Woodbury resident Peggy O'Connell who has spent her life bringing characters to stages from Minnesota to Seattle to Broadway.

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"You never fully disappear or you'd go insane, but it's great fun to pretend," she said. "It's fun to get into someone else's skin."

Currently, O'Connell is appearing in "Always...Patsy Cline" at the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters as Louise Seger, Patsy's friend and fan.

"This part is pretty dang fun," she said. "I get to be a real goofball."

"Always...Patsy Cline" tells the true life story of country legend Patsy Cline told through the eyes of one of her biggest fans, Louise.

O'Connell is no stranger to the stage though, she has been acting since she was a young girl playing pretend with her sisters.

"It never occurred to me to do anything else," she said. "For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to sing and then I started to act."

O'Connell credits her family with nurturing that urge to perform and helping her on her life's path.

"My family was a very entertaining group of people, we liked to laugh a lot, sing and dance around."

After receiving her drama degree from the University of Montana, O'Connell took to the stage in shows that included "Hello Dolly," "Annie Get Your Gun," "Once Upon a Mattress" and "My One and Only" on Broadway.

"I love doing everything, but I'm a musical comedy girl," she said. "You approach a drama the same way you would approach a comedy -- and most comedy is tragedy because we're always laughing at someone else's pain."

O'Connell has also appeared on television, in "Northern Exposure," but it doesn't hold the same immediate reward for her as being on stage does.

"When you're a part of the stage, you develop such a close bond with the people around you because you are all facing the same things together," O'Connell said.

"I love the camaraderie," she said. "You get very close to people you work with because you're facing an audience together -- it's a great sense of family."

In addition to that fellowship, O'Connell said she also loves the immediate reactions from the audience being on stage gives them.

"I love hearing people laugh and figuring out what makes them laugh or what killed the laugh," she said. "It's great science."

Before O'Connell even starts rehearsing for a role, she said she researches the character she is playing, while trying to make it her own.

"It's always interesting to see what it is that makes all of these different people tick," she said. "It's fascinating to study people and see what the journey is and it's great when it's well written and you can just flesh it out."

O'Connell said bringing her characters to life can sometimes be a challenge because you can't always identify with them, but she can always find something in her characters to connect with.

"There's something of everyone in all of us," she said. "And our job is to tell the story."

Another challenge that O'Connell sometimes faces is the physicality of he roles and how demanding a lot of them are.

"You have to be an athlete," she said.

Once "Always...Patsy Cline" has run its course, O'Connell said she plans to take a trip out to New York to meet with her agent and possibly go on a string of auditions.

"I have my eye on a couple of parts," I just want to keep working for as long as I can -- it's a great world."

"Always...Patsy Cline" opens on April 3 in the Fireside Theater at the Chanhassen Dinner Theaters and runs through Oct. 31. Tickets range from $30 to $50.

For more information or to purchase tickets visit: http://www.chanhassentheatres.com/box-office/show-details.asp?id=60

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