The New University sits down for a Q&A with the Director of Man of La Mancha and Vice Chair of the Drama department, Donald “Don” Hill.
What is the significance of this year’s theme: Care, Cure and Corruption? [The Drama Department] found a unifying theme was very helpful, particularly in terms of how it relates to other parts of the university. Care, cure and corruption gives us an opportunity to really partner with medicine, for example, and look at where medicine is in this culture, and where it is as an empire and industry, and what is the truth that’s actually being told to the American public about certain pharmaceutical things and practices. It adds a kind of delicious political element to investigate in theater. It’s our way of trying to connect to the greater campus rather than just being these artsy-fartsy people across the bridge.
In what ways does Man of La Mancha fit that theme? [The main character], who has his own consciousness about life, which is pursuing the ideal of love and always looking at the best in human beings as opposed to the worst. Knowing that, in fighting for the causes he believes in, that he may never completely succeed, but is that any reason not to try? There’s so much fracturing of parties and hopes and division, that a unifying theme of brotherly love, of support and taking care of, of doing the innate right thing, of comforting and helping, of redemption, of being able to forgive so that we can move forward and let go. The idea of rising above that, even as in Martin Luther King’s situation where we may not get to the promise land, but we’re going to have that goal anyway. And I think it relates to our times in terms of corruption because [the characters] are in a prison that is very corrupt by the inquisition. Where it’s all about conformity and doing what the powers that be, masquerading as a religious organization, say are right or appropriate. The cure in the show is love.
What is unique about this adaptation of Man of La Mancha? It’s a story that takes place within a story within the prison. Everything that’s in the second story grows organically from the prison. For example, when Quixote gets on his horse to ride, traditionally in most productions, all of a sudden these fake horses appear on stage right, and we’re in a musical. You just kind of buy the convention. We’re not doing that. The horse heads [worn by actors] are actually torture implements that were specifically targeted for women to shame them at the time of the Inquisition. They were these clamped on things that looked like pigs or other animals that people were forced to wear as a point of humiliation. We actually replicated the actual torture implements, but we’re putting horse manes on them. So you see them take things from the prison that are kind of scary, but then we add some straw to make them look less scary and lighten it up.