BDACT production: The Man of La Mancha July 25th – August 2nd

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BDACT Man of La Mancha Trailer

 By: Jamie Kratz-Gullickson

Rich Zeman is no stranger to the stage. He recently reminisced with me about his first performance as a high school senior in The Matchmaker. Originally trying out on a whim and cast to play a bit part, just days before opening he was asked to replace the lead and his life as a showman began. Acting in about a dozen productions, leading the orchestra in another 40 or so musicals and conducting decades of Beaver Dam Area Orchestra, he felt prepared this summer to make his directorial debut. 

“It was always going to be Man of La Mancha,” he smiled over coffee. “Music is always the entry point for me.” Rich recalls the soundtrack from the 1965 Broadway production as a big part of his childhood.  One can just picture a rollicking eight-year-old Rich crooning along to “The Impossible Dream” as it spun on his parent’s hi-fi. 

As he grew older, the songs still held his heart, but the themes of the play made it all the more meaningful. “I see myself as a suffering optimist,” he quipped, always looking for the best, even in the toughest of situations. This is also true for Cervantes, La Mancha’s lead, as he tries to remain steadfast in the face of the Spanish Inquisition. 

Constructed as a play within a play, Man of La Mancha has an imprisoned Cervantes elucidating Don Quixote’s bedlam. Quixote, the secondary play’s lead, is a comically deranged man who dreams himself a knight bent upon upholding chivalric code in the face of depravity all around. Common windmills, local prostitutes, ordinary wash bins and provincial doctors are all transformed into dichotomies of good or evil to be saved or vanquished by Quixote.

If these names and titles seem familiar, it is because they are. The real Miguel de Cervantes is the author of what is considered the first modern European novel, Don Quixote, which was published in Spain in the 1600s. Although the play’s author, Dale Wasserman, remains adamant that Man of La Mancha is not a musical Don Quixote, nor a biography of Cervantes, elements of Cervantes life which saw him serving in the Spanish Navy, wounded in battle, held as a captive slave in Algiers, imprisoned in Spain, and working as a tax collector, all make appearances in Man of La Mancha. 

A director with decades of stage experience and a deep connection to the music, themes that connect to optimistic hope – particularly as BDACT nears the halfway point in a $2.4 million dollar capital campaign for a new facility – and a story pulled from classic literature make this summer’s production of Man of La Mancha an extraordinary opportunity for our community; a show not to be missed.

Show dates are July 25, July 28, July 31 and August 1 at 7:30 p.m. with Sunday matinees on July 26 and August 2 at 2:00 p.m.  Tickets are $20.00, $17.00 or $13.00 and are available at Rechek’s Food Pride, 609 North Spring Street in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin (920) 887-7675. 



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