Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014
Don’t call “Man of La Mancha” Patti D’Beck’s swan song at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The Broadway veteran, who joined the VCU School of the Arts in 2004 as a Theatre VCU director and choreographer, is directing this month’s presentation of the Cervantes tale, which runs through Nov. 23. It is her last production as a VCU faculty member, before she leaves to pursue other opportunities.
“I just think it’s such a beautiful play,” D’Beck said. “Hopefully the audience will really take the journey with us. Hopefully we will tug at their heartstrings and they will feel what the characters feel.”
Winner of five Tony Awards, “Man of La Mancha” is based on Miguel de Cervantes’ 17th-century epic masterpiece “Don Quixote,” a novel about a man who sees good and innocence in a world filled with darkness and despair. Theatre VCU’s cast consists of all students except for the part of Quixote himself. James Taylor, a former VCU adjunct professor in the Department of Music, plays the lead.
“He has a beautiful voice and has performed in the opera world,” D’Beck said. “It’s been wonderful to work with him and get to know him more.”
Because D’Beck didn’t want the play to look overproduced, every item used looks like it could have come from Quixote’s trunks or the dungeon where the characters are imprisoned.
“My hope is that I have reminded the audience, or helped them understand that this is Cervantes, and he is the one that plays Don Quixote and he is orchestrating what everyone else does,” she said. “So they were prisoners in the dungeons and he gets the prisoners to play all these different parts.
“It’s a different kind of show for me, but I loved it. It’s just great storytelling and I’ve had great fun with the actors finding different ways that we can tell this story.”
D’Beck says other opportunities came her way that she couldn’t pass up, but she loves VCU and has grown from her 10 years working with students at the university.
“I have learned so much by teaching,” she said of her time at VCU. “It’s a thing where you give to students but, as a teacher, you get way more back. I have learned so much from them and I am a way better director and choreographer now because of what I have to do in working with students. You are forced to name things and to be clear and I have just learned so much from working with them.”
But don’t think that you’ve heard the last of D’Beck at VCU.
“I hope they ask me back as a guest director,” she said.
For information on “Man of La Mancha,” visit http://arts.vcu.edu/theatre/on-stage/the-raymond-hodges-main-stage/.
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