Four hundred years ago, Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra wrote two novels, the first was El ingenioso hidalgo don Quijote de la Mancha, which was published in 1605. The second, El ingeniosco caballero don Quijote de la Mancha was written in 1615. Known collectively, as El Quijote, the novels have stood the test of time and remain a beloved classic not only in print, but also on the stage.

To celebrate Cervantes, North Carolina is hosting the I am Quixote: Don Quijote De La Mancha Festival throughout the month of September. The festival, which is a collaborative project is open to all artists, art organizations, schools, libraries, universities, art advocates, cultural groups and others who are interested in celebrating the life and work
of Cervantes. 

While the majority of the festival will take place in the Triangle Area — think Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill — events are scheduled throughout the state. A key event in the festival takes place in Fayetteville at the Cape Fear Regional Theatre, as Man Of La Mancha opens the CFRT season Sept. 17 through Oct. 15.

First produced in 1964, Man of La Mancha is a musical with a book by Dale Wasserman, lyrics by Joe Darion and music by Mitch Leigh. It was originally adpted from a non-musical teleplay I, Don Quixote, which was inspired by Cervantes’ books. 

The play opens with Cervantes serving time in prison during the Spanish Inquisition. While in prison, Cervantes shares the story Don Quixote, who put the night on trial. So the play is really a story within a story and is told through the eyes of the prisoners.

Tom Quaintance, the CFRT artistic director, is at the helm of this production. Quaintance noted that while the book is a classic and that most people think of the play as a musical, it is actually much more.

Quaintance looks at the play through a different lens. “It really comes down to the core philosophy, can one man really make a difference,” explained Quaintance.

When Quaintance decided to add the show to the season line-up, he went to New York looking for cast members who could bring the story of chivalry and trials and triumph to life. He returned with Patrick Oliver Jones, who plays Don Quixote and Leenya Rideout, who plays Aldonza, Quixote’s love interest.

Both of the actors have worked on the show before, and both found the experience quite life changing. 

Five years ago, Rideout had the opportunity to perform in the production. It wasn’t a show she was particularly excited about and it had never made her bucket list of shows in which she would like to perform. When rehearsals started, Rideout determined to dive in and really concentrate on the show. At that point, it became life changing for her - not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well. Recalling that time in her life, made Rideout particularly excited to work on the production again. 

For many, the principal song, “The Impossible Dream,” is a beloved standard, one which has inspired others to keep trying, to not give up. 

The principles are joined by local artists, Jeremy Fiebig, Taylor Kraft and Paul Wilson.

The show starts on Thursday, Sept. 17 for two preview nights, both of which begin at 7:30 p.m. and are $15 per person.The opening night party with the cast is on Saturday, Sept. 19 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $28. On Thursday, Sept. 24, the theatre will host a community night at 7:30 p.m., with tickets also costing $15. The show runs through Sunday, Oct. 11. The show is suggested for individuals 15 years of age and up.

For tickets and information, visit the theatre website at www.cfrt.org or call the Cape Fear Regional Theatre Box Office at 323-4233.

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