Studio Visit: Ron McDaniel
Studio Visit is a Q&A with a local artist. Here, a chat with Ron McDaniel of Danville, the editor at Caert Inc. in Danville who has been active in community theater for more than 50 years.
Q: Tell me about this award you just won.
A: It's the national Robert E. Gard Superior Volunteer Award from the American Association of Community Theatre. It's presented to an individual above the age of 65 who has faithfully served community theater on a non-paid basis for over 25 years. They present only three annually.
Q: Were you surprised?
A: Oh, yes. I had no idea it was in the works. The executive committee of DLO Musical Theatre, formerly Danville Light Opera, nominated me. I didn't know about it until they called me. Then a few minutes later the letter arrived from the association. The award will be presented in mid-June as part of the AACT World Fest 2014 in Venice, Fla. I don't believe I'm going.
Q: How long have you been in community theater?
A: Fifty-three years. I did my first show, which was "Annie Get Your Gun," for Danville Light Opera in 1961, as just a chorus member. That show was repeated a couple of times. When they did it in 2005 as part of the DLO's 59th anniversary I directed, which was kind of neat. Altogether I've been in 48 plays and musicals, and I've directed six. Those include DLO, Red Mask Players and Beef House Dinner Theater.
I've also been in administration. I've been a member of the DLO board of directors for 48 years and I'm a past president and past treasurer of the organization. I served seven one-year terms on the theater advisory panel for the Illinois Arts Council and was vice president for 10 years of the Danville Area Arts Council.
Q: What do you like doing best in theater and why?
A: Acting. I just enjoy the performing more than the directing. And what I consider one of the most important things is the camaraderie and long-term friendships that result from theater.
Mary Lou Spain was my closest friend. We met when we did "Take Me Along" back in 1973. We appeared together as husband and wife in four shows. So you could say we were married four times. She died in August 2012.
Q: What are your favorite roles so far?
A: I think probably those in "Hello, Dolly!" I've been in it three times. I did Cornelius Hackl when I was younger and more recently I was Horace Vandergelder. They're really just excellent roles.
My first major role was as Lutz, the valet to the prince in "The Student Prince." That was the first time I had a big part, way back in 1966.
Q: Were you in theater in high school?
A: Yes, I was in what we called the DHS (Danville High School) Players. I was in plays even before that. My first time on the stage I was in first grade, at Trinity Lutheran. They had a pipe in the curtain and when it came down it conked me on the head. I stayed with it showing how stubborn I am — the first time and they were trying to get rid of me but couldn't.
Q: Did you study drama with Mary Miller at DHS? Or are you too young?
A: You better believe I had Mary Miller. She got me into drama club my freshman year. So I have lots of good memories of Mary Miller. She was Dick Van Dyke's mentor, of course. And she was dean of Danville Junior College when I started there.
It was through Mary Miller that I got my job at Interstate Publishers years ago. They called her, wanting someone who was an excellent English student. She went to Alice Morrison, my English teacher, and they wound up sending me to Interstate.
I was there up until 10 years ago. Now I'm the editor at Caert Inc. We do online curriculum content and assessments for career and technical education. I've been in publishing since 1960.
Q: Are you in a play or musical now?
A: I'm getting ready to play the bishop in "Les Miserables." It's a collaboration between DLO Musical Theatre and Danville Area Community College. It's my first all-singing role because the musical is sung-through, with only two or three lines of dialogue.
Editor's note: "Les Miserables" will be presented May 3 and 4 at the DHS Dick Van Dyke Auditorium.