Red River High School presents 'Man of La Mancha'
Students are bringing the timeless musical, "Man of La Mancha," to the stage next week at Red River High School. The play, based on Miguel de Cervantes' 17th-century masterpiece, "Don Quixote," tells the story of a "mad knight who rode around Eur...
Students are bringing the timeless musical, "Man of La Mancha," to the stage next week at Red River High School.
The play, based on Miguel de Cervantes' 17th-century masterpiece, "Don Quixote," tells the story of a "mad knight who rode around Europe doing battle with windmills," said Connie Sherwood, director.
Presented as a play within a play, "it's about this hero-this crazy, lunatic of a man-who puts on armor and goes out to wage war on windmills," Sherwood said. "They are battles you can't really win, but he never stops."
The timeframe is the dark era of the Spanish Inquisition when holding views that deviate even slightly from accepted dogma were grounds for torture and imprisonment. Confinement in 1607 was as dark and hopeless as it could get.
Quixote sings of tolerance in the face of hatred and abuse perpetrated during the Inquisition.
"The beauty of his craziness is Don Quixote only sees good in people," Sherwood said. "What if we all could be that crazy?"
That is the "impossible dream," she said, alluding to the lyrics, "to dream the impossible dream" and "righting the unrightable wrong," in one of the musical's famous songs.
The audience will most enjoy the music and the emotion of the production "and it's entertaining; there's funny stuff," said Sherwood, who's directing the play along with Brad Sherwood, Dean Opp and Alex Hovey. "It touches your heart. It touches your soul. It's beautiful.
"There's something so incredible about seeing the good."
Sherwood and her directing colleagues are, above all, educators, she said. "We like powerful pieces like this."
This play is a "real educational piece" that exposes students to "a lot of history, the birth of Protestantism," and prisons of the distant past, she said. "It's fun to learn about that stuff."
But it's the message that Cervantes sought to convey 500 years ago that makes the play relevant and meaningful today.
"When you're at your absolute lowest possible point, when things cannot get any worse, and you rise up with hope, that's profound," Sherwood said. "It's poignant and sweet."
While there's humor in the play, there are also moments of violence, "an ugly situation" when a woman is beaten by 12 men.
That, too, presents an opportunity to educate.
"It's not teaching boys to beat girls. It's teaching boys how awful that is," she said.
"The boys are so gentle, it only looks violent. For these sweet boys, (the scene) is so hard for them."
Without the darkness in Cervantes' tale, the light of Don Quixote would not be as bright, the directors said in program notes.
'What really matters'
The role of Don Quixote is played by senior Seth Brandl, a veteran of local theatrical productions who was last seen as Oscar Madison, the slob sportswriter in "The Odd Couple" at Red River.
"This show is really unique in that it's a show within a show," said Brandl. "It's like putting on a play within a musical. That was very interesting to me."
"Cervantes is sharing the message that Don Quixote is trying to make something good out of an impossible situation-and trying to do so is what really matters."
Other lead characters in the 44-member cast include Sancho, played by junior Sam Rath and Aldonza, played by senior Sydney Warcup.
About a dozen students are involved as directors, technical crew members and box office assistants.
The technical crew, directed by Rich McFarlane, a speech and theater teacher at Red River, has transformed the Performance Hall into a Spanish dungeon.
While the show's directors chose the play for its potent educational value, Brandl and his castmates "become teachers" of Cervantes' lessons, he said. "It is a really unique experience."
He hopes that his fellow students will absorb the message "that if each of us-whether we're staying in high school or going on to college-can make as much good as possible, we can affect whoever is around us," he said, "whether that's five people or 20 people."
What: "Man of La Mancha"
When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, April 20 and 21, and 4 p.m. Sunday, April 22
Where: Red River High School Performance Hall (enter door 22), 1122 17th Ave. S.
Admission: Adults, $9; seniors and students, $5. Reserve seats online at www.spacompany.org or call (701) 746-2411. Pick up reserved tickets at least 15 minutes before show time.