‘Man of La Mancha’ at Dogwood Dell brings Richmond together around theatre with free showings this weekend
I’m not sure if you have noticed, but it’s crazy hot outside you guys. It’s like melt your face, there is a mummified cat under the porch, hot. However it is July so that tends to be the norm here in RVA, so the high temps are not exactly a surprise. So what on Gods green earth would posses a large group people to put on heavy costumes, stand under very bright lights, and run around onstage outdoors for free?
“Off the record I don’t know why anyone would want to do this.” Joked director of Man Of La Mancha Debra Clinton. Of course being a part of a show at Dogwood Dell is almost a rite of passage for any actor in Richmond theatre scene. The summer production is a unifying experience that brings actors of all skill levels and ages together.
It’s not just about the experience it provides for those directly involved in the production but for those in the audience as well.
This is the 59th year of this Richmond Tradition and it provides an important service.
“This is the only place that people who might not have access to theatre have access to it.” Said Clinton. “Just the whole event and creation of the community, it’s a much broader experience.”
So who are the people who are providing the community this service while simultaneously sweating their collective asses off? And what do they take away from this experience?
Brandon James Johns who plays Sancho says that it all comes down to the lessons he has learned working so closely with the director. “Deb has pushed me a whole lot and I have learned so much from her that i’m going to keep with me for life.” Said Johns.
He knew very little about the Iconic show before signing on for the role. For most people in the cast and in the audience this is not the case. In fact, the fame of Man Of La Mancha is what made Donna Marie Miller, who plays Aldonza, interested in getting involved.
Miller admits that she hasn’t been in a musical for 21 years, but when she heard that the dell was putting on this particular show she knew she had to audition. Playing Aldonza was one of her dream roles as a little girl. Miller has had the unique experience of finding her voice while while learning from her fellow actors.
“When I’m off stage watching the other actors I am just so inspired by them because they really are a great group.” Said Miller
Don Quixote is played by Richard Travis, a regular in the Richmond theatre scene. He spoke about how things for actors and audiences have improved and this 59th season of the Festival of the Arts is a big part of that. “We are really building an incredible audience base that is very in-tune with theatre they want to see good theatre and they know now that they don’t have to leave town to do it.” Said Travis.
The show is certainly an entertaining one, people of all ages can enjoy the age old story of injustice the fight for fair treatment. Clinton says that wants audiences to walk away at the end of the show with a specific message in mind. “I want them to understand that it is good to try for things that maybe you don’t know if you can get. Its good to be hopeful we need to be hopeful that’s the right choice… to be hopeful.”
Man of La Mancha opens plays July 24th, 25th and 31st, and August 1st at 8:30 pm at Dogwood Dell. All performances are free to the public.
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