Director steps on stage for ‘Man of La Mancha’

Special to The PREVIEW

If you have ever enjoyed a closing night performance of a musical produced by Curtains Up Pagosa! (formerly Music Boosters) you know the bows at the end of the performance include some special thanks to those people who work behind the scenes.  Usually the last person to take a bow is director Dale Johnson, the person who does immeasurable amounts of work and who gets a minimal amount of the spotlight.

Those who attend the upcoming Dec. 12-15 production of “Man of La Mancha” are in for a special treat.  They will enjoy a rare opportunity to see Johnson in an acting and singing role as the Housekeeper.  Although she has been on stage since she was 5 years old, as a director she seldom takes on a role that could be passed along to a volunteer actor.  She will, however, occasionally don a costume and sing in the chorus, simply because an actor loves being on the stage and seeing and experiencing the reaction of the audience.  But, this was a play she simply could not resist.  With some encouragement from her colleagues who judged the auditions, she was persuaded to take on a role that would give the public a sense of her acting skills.

Johnson, a native of Boston, Mass., moved to Pagosa Springs in 2001 from Santa Fe, N.M., where she directed the Santa Fe public school theater workshops.  Her son was in high school at that time and, like his mom, loved the theater.  It didn’t take long before the two of them were actively involved in the high school plays and community music theater productions through Music Boosters, now called Curtains Up Pagosa!  This will be her 28th production as a director for CUP.  Additionally, she has also directed 11 musicals and 10 one-act plays at Pagosa Springs High School.

Not only is Dale a talented stage director, she has a tireless work ethic and knows how to engage volunteers to help do the countless jobs that have to get done before a play goes to the stage. She has her fingers in every aspect of a production, from sound and lighting, to building sets, music, choreography, blocking, costumes, even concessions and ticket sales.  She knows that the devil is in the details — every “i” must be dotted and “t” crossed if things are going to run smoothly.

She also knows that musical theater is a cooperative venture and that her direction is only as good as the multitude of volunteers who are there to work at her side. She relies on the support of the hard-working board of CUP, music director Sally Neel, and the good will and wonderful volunteer spirit of the actors, musicians, technicians, costumers and the many other active assistants and supporters.  She readily doles out copious amounts of affection and appreciation to everyone involved and they return time and time again to be a part of the fun.

Of course, the ultimate goal of any actor or director is for the audience to have the enjoyment of sitting back and become absorbed in the amazing magical art of theater.  Meeting that goal is her life’s work and she seldom disappoints.

Tickets for “Man of La Mancha” will go on sale Dec. 1 and will be available at the Chamber of Commerce office and at the door.

For more information on how to contribute to the efforts of Curtains Up Pagosa! go to

This story was posted on November 28, 2012.