The play within a play, “Man of La Mancha,” opens Cygnet Theatre’s 10th season in Old Town on July 5. The musical follows the exploits of Cervantes, a failed author, actor, soldier and tax collector awaiting trial by the Spanish Inquisition in the 17th century. The book is by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh.
Sean Murray, Artistic Director of Cygnet Theatre, has been passionate about the play since he performed in it during high school in 1978.
“I felt an instant connection to it,” Murray said. “It’s a powerful show and fun to do. It’s a lot about having a philosophy and viewpoint to get one through the harsher side of life.”
In 2001, Murray revisited the play as lead character Miguel de Cervantes at the North Coast Repertory Theatre. He gave an award-winning performance alongside John Guth as Sancho Panza.
“One year before that show I lost my father,” Murray said. “It was a profound loss for me. He reminded me of the Cervantes character, and I felt like I was finding the voice of Cervantes through my father.”
Now the same age as his character, Murray said he’s excited to once again fill the shoes of Cervantes.
“We’re trying to be organic in the staging,” Murray said. “So much of that show depends on the audience’s imagination. Since they never leave that prison environment, they have to use their imaginations to picture different locations.”
Murray also directs, a decision that requires a little more challenge since he’s singing and acting, too. In addition to having stand-ins for his character while he’s directing, he must make the show that is occasionally referred to as pretentious – engaging.
The Cygnet production includes an eight-piece orchestra and 13 performers.