How Dale Wasserman’s impossible dream came true and how yours could too.
“To dream the impossible dream, to fight the unbeatable foe, to bear with unbearable sorrow, to run where the brave dare not go. To right the unrightable wrong, to love pure and chaste from afar, to try when your arms are too weary, to reach the unreachable star …”
This famous song, “The Impossible Dream,” was written by Joe Darion and Mitch Leigh for Dale Wasserman’s renowned Tony Award winning Broadway musical “Man of La Mancha.” With this song, Don Quixote describes his impossible journey and magically captures the basis of the play.
“Man of La Mancha” opened in 1965 and was so popular; it ran for over 2,300 performances! It’s been translated into more than 40 languages and has run again on Broadway and runs regularly in regional and local theaters across the world.
The play is Dale’s adaptation of Miguel de Cervantes’ (1547 – 1616) “Don Quixote” but ironically Dale never read the Cervantes book. Instead Cervantes’ own life fascinated him: for it was one of poverty, hunger, enslavement, imprisonment and church excommunication.
Somehow Cervantes never gave up on life. He was an optimist. In fact Cervantes was in his 50’s and in prison when he began writing Don Quixote.
You may recognize another of Dale’s plays: “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” adapted from Ken Kesey’s (1935 – 2001) novel of the same name.* These famous plays were among about 70 movie, television and stage plays Dale wrote.
But his own story is as amazing as those he made into stage plays. Dale was born in 1914 and orphaned at 9. He lived in an orphanage and briefly with relatives and became a product of the Great Depression.
“I’m a self-educated hobo,” is how he put it because as a teenager he quit school and rode the rails looking for work, odd jobs so he could eat. If you needed repairs done, trash collected or a trench dug, he was your man. But then you had a choice of a 100 desperate men just like him.
Often Dale was homeless, hungry and alone.
For homeless people, libraries can be a godsend because they are warm, safe and an interesting place to pass some time when there are no jobs available. Dale was an avid reader taking books from libraries and dropping them off at other libraries wherever the search for work took him.
At 19 he got a gopher job with a Los Angeles theater company and later worked on a government theater project meant to create work for those in need.
After that he always returned to the theater, becoming a gopher, a stage hand and doing lighting work or any other work they had. Later he did stage and lighting work for theatrical companies in New York, Los Angeles and in Europe.
Dale also began to write, for although he had no training, he had a fertile mind and a doctorate in human nature from the hard times he endured during the Great Depression.
And he would be a playwright for the rest of his life. Dale recently died at 94 of heart failure in his Paradise Valley, Ariz. home and when the end came, he was actively involved with his latest play, “Premiere!” which was about to open at a local theater. He was also writing new plays.
This brief insightful message he had written on his website, www.dalewasserman.com will help to capture his spirit for you:
“I was born. That seems fairly certain.
“When and where are less certain. Lacking a birth certificate, I’m not even sure of my age. Disdaining home and education I spent years jumping freight trains, graduating as a Hobo cum laude. Drifting happenstance into theatre, I practiced its every art, eventually turning to writing, an act of monstrous impertinence. I have written forty or so television plays, fifteen feature films, and a dozen stage plays and musicals.
“As to awards, I have the usual passel of Tonies, Emmies, Robbies, Ellies and maybe even a couple Kaspars and Hausers; I’m unsure because I don’t attend awards ceremonies. I lack an education but hold Doctorates from three universities, an oddity which anyone who cares may puzzle over. I chose to live in Arizona because it’s the one State which refuses to adopt Daylight Saving Time.
“I live in an oasis there with my wife, Martha Nelly Garza, who remains wonderfully serene in the face of my troublesome ways.”
This was the brash and irrepressible Mr. Wasserman.
Success Tip of the Week:
For your dream to come true, give it an opportunity. Whatever you lack in education, if you cannot return to school do as Dale did, educate yourself. Use the libraries, the Internet and read industry trade journals for you have a wealth of information readily available to you. Then you too must boldly act on your “impossible dream.”
* Ken Kesey’s book later became an Academy Award winning movie by the same name, starring Jack Nicholson (1975), but scripted by other writers.
In the next KazanToday:
Rocky the squirrel.