Triumphant in her return to Broadway in ‘Porgy and Bess’, four-time Tony winner Audra McDonald would be the first to say her favorite role is being a mom
By Kat Harrison
A yellow-and-red friendship bracelet is twisted loosely around Audra McDonald’s wrist, a daily reminder of her daughter Zoe, now 11. On the same hand, her engagement ring—an opal-set family heirloom from her fiancé, Priscilla Queen of the Desert’s Will Swenson—sits proud. This is McDonald’s quiet.
Now for her loud. McDonald, a four-time Tony winner and two-time Grammy recipient, perhaps most well-known for her performances in Carousel, Master Class and four-season run as Dr. Naomi Bennett on ABC’s Private Practice, is a woman of dynamics. Just close your eyes as she takes the stage in The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess. With operatic grace, even when she stands completely still, McDonald’s voice cuts the air.
It’s this steadily swinging balance of crescendos and decrescendos that brings McDonald into focus—no matter if she’s singing or Tweeting about her daughter’s latest one-liner.
Is it true that your daughter Zoe was born on Valentine’s Day?
Yes—best Valentine’s present ever!
Do you two have any special traditions?
Usually, the night before her birthday, she likes to hear the story of her birth—[it] was crazy, I went into pre-term labor [when I was] five and a half months pregnant with her. [Before], I was on bed rest for three and a half months. I had to cancel everything and lay on my back or left side. It was during the presidential election, the year with George Bush and Al Gore.
I watched a lot of TLC’s A Baby Story. I was starting to get so emotional that my husband at the time [orchestral bassist Peter Donovan] was like, “You can’t watch this anymore. It’s making you worse.” I [also] ordered her entire nursery online and had to meet her doctor on the phone.
What’s it like raising Zoe in New York even though you had a Fresno, California, childhood?
We moved out of the city [to Westchester] when she was not even a year. So she has been growing up in the woods. She has a backyard but also has the added luxury of an apartment in the city. She has her piano lessons in the city, she’s seen every Broadway show that’s appropriate for a child to see—and maybe some that are not. I want her to be a theater kid. Her dad plays in orchestras everywhere. She’s been to Carnegie Hall, The New York Philharmonic—she’s getting all this incredible culture. She’s seeing the diversity of the city but she’s also fortunate enough that she’s getting the woods, catching frogs and hearing coyotes howl at night. The best of both worlds.
Do you have any advice for parents who want to nurture creativity in their children?
If dance or music lessons are a little difficult to afford because it’s a terrible economy right now, see what’s available within your community: check out community centers, the YMCA, your church and school activities. But follow the child and encourage it. Let it grow. Someone who studies music already has a different look on the world. Diversity and tolerance come along with pursuing the arts.
To read the full article at New York Family click here.
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