James Dunn’s phone has been ringing off the hook all week from longtime collaborators reacting to the news that the 99th season of will be his 30th and final season as its director.
The message has been clear: congratulations, and get me a part in The Music Man.
The Mountain Play is presenting the Tony Award-winning musical The Music Man for its 2012 season, running May 20 to June 17, and the 78-year-old Dunn will be at the helm for the final time.
“It’s a big, big job and I’ve done it or 30 years,” Dunn said. “The Mountain Play is exhausting. My energy is high and my passion is strong but physically I’m tired.”
“I’ve done everything I could possibly do up there,” he continued. “They’re going into their 100th season and it’ll be nice for them to have some new energy as well.”
Dunn, who moved from Mill Valley to Larkspur two years ago, said he’ll continue to work with the Ross Valley Players and teach at College of Marin, where he founded the drama department and served as its chairman from 1963 to 2003.
“I’m going to continue to work until I can’t anymore,” he said. “I have no intention of sitting on a porch in a rocking chair. But you realize that it’s time. I’m very proud of my work.”
Dunn, a 2002 Milley Award recipient, said he’s thrilled that The Music Man will be his final Mountain Play show, as the show lends itself more than most to being in an outdoor theater, particularly with songs like “76 Trombones” and “Wells Fargo Wagon” that beg for large props. Over the span of his career at Mountain Play, Dunn has become renowned for his ability to present spectacular, large scale musicals with all sorts of props incompatible with an indoor theater, from planes and jeeps to wagons and windmills.
A valentine to small town, U.S.A., Meredith Willson’s The Music Man follows the fast-talking, charismatic traveling salesman Harold Hill as he cons the people of River City, Iowa, into buying musical instruments and uniforms for a marching band he knows will never come to be.
It also features a wide-range of wacky characters, a fact that prompted many of the phone calls to Dunn this week.
“It’s a play that has parts for a lot of people, especially middle-aged people,” Dunn said. “So I’m looking forward to working with a lot of people I’ve worked with in the past. I’ve gotten so many calls in the past few days it’s incredible. I hope to have room for all of them and go out guns a’blazing.”