“Ramona” Event Article
Article by DIANE A. RHODES, Published by The Hemet-San Jacinto Press-Enterprise. Original article here.
For the past several years, the announcement of principal actors for “Ramona” — California’s official outdoor play — consisted of a casual naming of parts immediately following auditions at the Ramona Bowl Amphitheater. A smattering of applause from colleagues and crew members brought smiles and laughter to the newly cast leads.
On Saturday, board members of the Ramona Bowl Association harkened back to an old tradition of presenting the current season’s cast to the public during a President’s Gala. The theatrical world is fraught with traditions so it was a welcome resurrection, confirmed by a sold-out event at The Country Club at Soboba Springs.
Dennis Anderson, artistic director for “Ramona” since 1995, said the president’s dinner was held at the Vosburg Hotel in San Jacinto for many years before the building was sold in 1991. After several unsuccessful attempts to recreate the excitement at other locations, the tradition died out.
“I think this is a real shot in the arm for the cast — to be treated like stars again,” said Anderson.
Adding to the elegance of the evening was a special appearance by Jackie Collins, best-selling author of 28 novels that have sold more than 400 million copies in 40 countries.
“We were thrilled to have Jackie Collins appearing at our dinner to kick off our 88th season of ‘Ramona’ which is based on the book written by another strong female author, Helen Hunt Jackson,” said Rose Salgado, first-year president of the Ramona Bowl Association. “Jackie Collins was so gracious and sincere.”
A biography of Jackson and a copy of “Ramona,” which has not been out of print since its 1884 publication, were presented to Collins by Ramona Bowl Association vice president Lori VanArsdale.
“Like our special guest tonight, Helen Hunt Jackson was a very prolific writer and focused on championing Native American rights during the last years of her life,” she said. “She realized the power of fiction can move the hearts, minds and souls of a nation and wrote ‘Ramona’ before she died in 1885. The power of the pen is pretty incredible.”
“It is a fantastic story,” said Collins. “Ramona, like most of my heroines, is a kick-ass heroine.”
Anderson said he was assisted with this year’s auditions by local ladies who have extensive casting and theater experience: Stacey Bailey and Peggy McQuown.
“This is my dream cast,” he said before introducing the actors chosen for major speaking parts. Several veterans are returning to familiar roles while others moved into new ones.
Cesaria Hernandez will play the lead role for the sixth time and her husband, Duane Minard, will play Alessandro for the fourth time.
“This is what the play’s about,” said Anderson, as the Hemet couple received a standing ovation. “These two people have to go out and sell the show. For the next 14 weekends, these actors will give their lives to this play.”
Performances are April 16, 17, 30 and May 1 and 7.
Information, 951-658-3111, 800-645-4465 or www.ramonabowl.com