In Part 2 of a series of interviews with the cast of Laurel Mill Playhouse’s Man of La Mancha, meet Alan Barnett.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on the stage and other roles you may have performed
Alan: My name is Alan Barnett. This is only my fourth appearance on stage. Last year I was in the ensemble for VLOC’s Haddon Hall. In 1989, I was in the chorus for Aida with the Opera Company of Boston. In 1967 I was Tevye in a school production of Fiddler on the Roof (I was in 6th grade). From 1995-2014, I sang in the Tenor section of The Washington Chorus (formerly The Oratorio Society of Washington). I was in the chorus for many performances with the National Symphony Orchestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. I also sang in a memorial concert in Trinity Church in NYC on the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.
Who do you portray in Man of La Mancha and how do you relate to your character? Does your character remind you of a friend or family member and how?
I play Cervantes’s Manservant and Don Quixote’s squire, Sancho Panza. Sancho doesn’t remind me of anyone I know. I prepared for the roll by reading Edith Grossman’s translation of Don Quixote. Sancho is a farmer, married, has a son and daughter. He is illiterate and very literal minded and pragmatic, in contrast to Don Quixote’s erudition and idealism.
The musical surrounds one of the most influential characters in Spanish literature, Don Quixote. Which scene or song that he and you perform is your favorite and why?
My favorite scene is Don Quixote’s death. I find the scene very moving. If we perform it well, there won’t be a dry eye in the house.
What have been some of the challenges learning and performing your role? And how has Director Daniel Douek helped you with these challenges?
A big challenge in performing Man of La Mancha is differentiating the character in the “frame” story set in the prison (in my case, Cervantes’s Manservant) from the character in the Quixote story told in the “play within the play” (in my case, Sancho). To help us do this, Daniel had each member of the cast write separate back stories for the two rolls that (s)he plays.
What have you enjoyed most about this experience since beginning rehearsals?
I’ve enjoyed the entire process of rehearsing the show. The rehearsals are the highlight of my week. I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to be part of such a talented company.
The most famous and popular song in Man of La Mancha is ‘Impossible Dream.’ What have been some of your Impossible Dreams, and have these dreams come true?
I’ve always been fascinated by airplanes, and my “Impossible Dream” was to learn how to fly. My dream came true on October 7 1998, when I passed the check ride and earned my Private Pilot certificate.
If you had the opportunity to tweak or change your character, what would you do? If you could re-write the ending of this musical for your character, what would happen now to him/her?
I wouldn’t change a thing; I love the ending.
Why do you think Man of La Mancha is still so popular with audiences?
It’s very funny, has a well constructed book, great music, and a very moving ending.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing this production?
I hope the audience leaves the theater wondering where time went.
Meet the Cast of Laurel Mill Playhouse’s ‘Man of La Mancha’: Part 1: Fred Nelson.
Ilene Chalmers’ review of Man of La Mancha on DCMetroTheaterArts.