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INsiders Recap: Man of La Mancha


By A Noise Within
October 8, 2018

A Noise Within’s first INsiders meeting of the 2018-2019 season was a hit thanks to our speaker, Dr. Bonnie Gasior! On September 25th, we had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Gasior dive deep into the world of Miguel de Cervantes and Don Quixote. Dr. Gasior is a Spanish professor at the California State University in Long Beach whose research specializes in early-modern Spain and colonial Spanish America with special interests in women’s studies, theatre, and poetry. After watching A Noise Within’s production of Man of La Mancha (the musical adaptation of Don Quixote), Dr. Gasior was able to bridge the gap between the two adaptations of the same story as well as provide historical context and an in-depth exploration of the themes Cervantes explored.

Dr. Gasior argued that Don Quixote the man is much more complex than the musical makes him out to be, simplifying his madness and his idealism in the ballad “The Impossible Dream.” That is not to say that Man of La Mancha is a disservice to Cervantes’ work – quite the opposite. Man of La Mancha keeps the story of Don Quixote relevant despite the original text having been written more than 400 years ago. Of course, some plot changes were made, particularly concerning the characters. Sancho Panza is a bigger presence in the novel, serving as a foil to Quixote. On paper, Sancho is fully rooted in reality; in Man of La Mancha, Sancho not only idealizes Quixote and thinks nothing of jumping into his make-believe land to play, he brings stability to the audience and serves as our window into this world.

While Sancho’s part shrinks by comparison, Aldonza’s grows exponentially. Aldonza is upgraded from an idealized object on a pedestal in Don Quixote to another lens with which to view the story in Man of La Mancha. Through song, we learn all about her backstory and come to know her mindset fully. Dr. Gasior maintains that Aldonza brings balance to the story and is grateful that Dale Wasserman fleshed out the character; she’s a much-needed female perspective.

We’ve only scratched the surface on summarizing the information Dr. Gasior provided us with. Those who partook in the INsiders meeting left with an incredibly rich understanding of Don Quixote the man and Don Quixote the story. We’re so thankful Dr. Gasior could give us a glimpse into the mind of Miguel de Cervantes!

There is one INsiders meeting per show, each led by a speaker with professional and personal ties to the corresponding play. For more information, contact Alicia Green at (626) 356-3104 or education@anoisewithin.org.

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