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Man of La Mancha
“Two meaty, intermission-free hours.” – St. Louis Post Dispatch
“A masterful presentation. . . a stunning triumph.” – Mark Bretz, Ladue News
“Another hit from one of the most stylistic theater companies in St. Louis.”
– Tyson Blanquart, Playback St. Louis
“Once it begins to roll, it sweeps like an avalanche.” – Joe Pollack, KWMU-FM
Why did an alternative theatre company produce a classic like La Mancha? First of all, because it’s not the old-fashioned musical people think it is, and we set out to prove it. This show came from the experimental theatre movement of 1960s New York, and it’s about the disillusionment and forced conformity that so many young people were battling in the sixties – and still today. It’s about fighting for a better world, refusing to let strangers tell us how to see the world, about rising up against government corruption and religious extremism, about changing the world by living a moral, engaged, courageous life.
Don Quixote the novel was written in 1615 and Man of La Mancha the musical was written in 1965, but few pieces of theatre are more clearly about our world right now, right here. It is an election year and we must, each of us, stand up and make our voice heard. We hope Man of La Mancha inspired our audiences to do just that.
New Line Theatre reclaimed La Mancha's experimental roots and turned it back into the show it was originally meant to be. Written in the middle of the turbulent 1960s (one year before Hair), it explores the price paid for the losses of Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion, two fundamental American rights that are being threatened every day by the White House and the Office of Homeland Security. It's about the dangers of mixing religion and government (something our government doesn't understand), about the destructive power of religious absolutism (like today's Christian and Muslim fundamentalists), about throwing people in jail for dissent (something our Attorney General is doing every day), about violence against women (an ever increasing problem in America today), and it's about people standing up for themselves and refusing to be silenced -- just like the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, the gay rights and women's rights movements of the 70s, and the AIDS movement of the 80s. We can't imagine a show that is more potent right now, at this moment in America's history.
The show also explores the roles of audience and actor, the power of the imagination, and the usually passive nature of modern audiences in this age of increasingly mind-numbing mainstream entertainment. Dale Wasserman's script uses the classic novel Don Quixote as a jumping off place, as it tells the story of Quixote's author, Miguel de Cervantes and his courage in standing up to the horrors of the Spanish Inquisition. As Cervantes sits in prison waiting to be called before the Inquisition, he tells the other prisoners the tale of his mad knight, Don Quixote, fighting for justice, purity, freedom, and above all, love. All these years later, it's still a powerhouse of a musical, with a rich, Spanish-flavored score by Mitch Leigh and Joe Darion. Man of La Mancha argues, quite persuasively, that theatre and storytelling aren't just important, they are a matter of life and death.
Want to explore more? We recommend:
The original Broadway cast album
Director Scott Miller's background notes and analysis of Man of La Mancha
Bookwriter Dale Wasserman's behind-the-scenes book, The Impossible Musical, about the creation of the show
Tilting at Windmills, a great comic novel about author Miguel de Cervantes meeting the "real" Don Quixote
The complete teleplay online of I, Don Quixote, upon which Man of La Mancha is based
An analysis of the USA Patriot Act, its advantages and dangers
Could the Inquisition happen today? Articles on U.S. torture methods in Iraq, charges of unpatriotism of the press, parallels to the Inquisition in America today, the loss of civil liberties, the push to put religion into our Constitution, "the "Christian America Amendment," etc.
The book From Assassins to West Side Story, which includes a chapter analyzing Man of La Mancha
The Don Quixote de la Mancha Exhibit and a good Teacher Study Guide for Don Quixote. Also, Spark Notes' excellent and comprehensive summary and analysis of Don Quixote; and good background on Cervantes and the book from CollegeClub.com
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