The Company of Pittsburgh kicks of their 2013 season with Man of La Mancha and I’m so happy to have the star of the production on the site today! So please welcome Darrel Whitney to the site and enjoy his interview!
It’s great to have you on the site Darrel! Thanks so much for being here. Let’s just dive in, shall we? Tell me about yourself.
I am originally from Erie, Pennsylvania and I attended Edinboro University for history and music. I have spent the past 10 years in NYC, except for the four year, North American tour of Jesus Christ Superstar with Ted Neeley. Just this past year, I moved to Pittsburgh so I could be closer to my family and find a more balanced life than the rat race of New York. There was also the added oppertunity to work for the Art Institute during the day, and get back into the acting saddle at night. So far, it’s working out as planned.
How did you get involved in acting, and specifically, the Pittsburgh arts scene?
I attended the production of “The Last Five Years” last fall, where I spoke with John Biles and Nick Mitchell. Nick and I went to college together and are good friends, so I asked him what was coming up for the Company of Pittsburgh. He mentioned Man of La Mancha and I was sold on auditioning.
You are currently rehearsing Company of Pittsburgh’s Man of La Mancha. You play Miguel de Cervantes/Don Quixote. What a role! How are you crating such an iconic character?
First and foremost, baritone leads are very difficult to find. Most are populated by tenors. Equally important is the personal resonance of the material. The role really calls to me, because I was raised with the core values of chivalry. The thought’s of Quixote are akin to mine, and the reaction of those around him to his “madness” I have also experienced first hand. The character has lofty ideals, and I believe in them as well.
What’s an average rehearsal day like for you?
I get up at 6:45 and walk to work.(from the Southside to Downtown) I leave work a little early, (thanks Boss!) and go to rehearsals in the westend. I generally get out around 10:30. Rehearsals have this general feel: Ted Watts Jr. trusts the instincts of his actors, allowing them to explore every avenue available, then brings his vision to bear and the finished project is a combination of both visions, very refreshing for an actor who prides himself on internal development.
You’re acting opposite quite a stellar cast, including the beautiful Zanna Fredland. How are you guys working out?
I love working with Zanna! She is as you said, very beautiful, and I like the interaction we have on and off stage. We have a good transfer of energy between us when we are in character. We haven’t really had the chance to talk outside of the rehearsal studio, but I really look forward to discovering more about her personality and such.
Let’s switch gears a minute. The Company of Pittsburgh is still in its infancy. What has it been like working with such a young company?
The excitement of this process has many facets to it. I have worked for a lot of production companies in the past, and working with the new ones is always a very invigorating experience.You feel a part of the birth of something new; you get to help create a name that will hopefully exist for a very long time.
The company is all about bringing musicals of all sizes to an intimate stage. How do you find Man of La Mancha is doing in such a unique venue? When I think Man of La Mancha, I think BIG!
Actually, the concept of this production is very big. We have all of the elements of the broadway productions of the past, the difference comes in the presentation. We may not have a 30 foot windmill for Quixote to fight, or a helmet burnished with gold, but I believe you don’t need those things to move the hearts of the audience. I can only speak for myself, but I don’t go to the theatre to be blown away by special effects, automated moving set peices or gradious productions numbers. I go to the theatre to be moved, plain and simple.
What’s next for you, Darrel?
I hope to have the oppertunity to work in more productions here in Pittsburgh as well as grow a successful voice acting career. My age is just starting to match my “type”, so I believe the sky is the limit.
Finally, the end question I always ask: What advice would you have for performers who are want to break into the arts scene?
Be genuine. Let the person you are shine through. People will respect that and it will set you apart from anyone else. Your own sense of self, at the end of the day, is your best asset.
*Tickets to Man of La Mancha are available now. And if you go through Showclix
, you can get $4 off to any show seen during opening weekend! Don’t forget to type the password QUIOTE