Sunday, October 5, 2003

Becoming 'Man of La Mancha' took 30 years

William West hadn't been on a Cincinnati stage for almost 30 years when he saw an audition notice for Man of La Mancha on the Footlighters Web site. When the classic musical opens at the Stained Glass Theater in Newport on Thursday, West will be in the title role.

"This show has a lot of meaning for me," says West, who returned to Cincinnati in 1999 after a stint in Maine. "When I was 17, I was apprenticing with Kenley Players in Columbus and I had two walk-ons. I was a Muleteer in an Ohio State University production.

"About nine years ago I directed and designed Man of La Mancha at the Schoolhouse Arts Center in Maine. I had to cover the role of Dr. Carrasco one weekend and I realized that I'm a good actor and missed being on stage.

"Man of La Mancha is about believing and striving for what you believe no matter how high the cost. I feel that my whole life has been about that. I believe many, if not most people's lives are about that. The show is an affirmation that it's OK to fail. Just keep dreaming and fighting for those impossible dreams."

These days, West's maybe not-so-impossible dream is a dream for his community. He's been working since he returned to Cincinnati to organize an arts program and develop an arts center in Anderson Township.

"Somewhere between UC (where he majored in directing and stage management) and Maine I went to United Theological Seminary in Dayton and received my master of divinity. The spiritual lessons that I've learned in my life have brought me back to theater. I realize it and other forms of art are a tremendous vehicle for allowing people to discover truths about themselves and the world around them."

West has a list of directing projects he'd like to try his hand at (not least of which would be an outdoor Starlight Express at the new skateboard park) and he doesn't want to wait another 30 years before he's on stage again, although next time he's hoping for "a challenging role in a play."

Man of La Mancha is directed and designed by Dennis Murphy, fresh from big wins in state competition for last season's West Side Story. Performances are Oct. 9-25. Box office: (513) 474-8711.

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