BY MARY WICOFF firstname.lastname@example.org
---- — DANVILLE — Ever since he was in a play at Trinity Lutheran School, Ron McDaniel has been passionate about acting. Even when the stage curtain fell on the child’s head, the world of theater didn’t lose its magic.
Several years later, McDaniel is getting national recognition for his service to community theater on a non-paid basis — both on the stage and behind the scenes.
McDaniel is one of three recipients of the Robert E. Gard Superior Volunteer Award, presented by the American Association of Community Theatre. The awards will be presented during the week-long aactWorldFest in June in Florida.
“It is a real honor to be acknowledged for something I have enjoyed so much,” McDaniel said.
During his 53 years in community theater, he has appeared in 48 plays and musicals, and directed six. He also has served 48 years on the DLO Musical Theatre, formerly known as Danville Light Opera, board of directors.
McDaniel said he didn’t know he had been nominated for the award until he received a letter from the association. The executive committee of DLO Musical Theatre had nominated him.
Rick Welchans, president of the board, saw nominations for the award were being accepted, and immediately thought of McDaniel.
“He’s an icon in this community as far as musical theater is concerned,” Welchans said — and not just musical theater, but all theater.
Only two or three such awards are given each year across the country, so it is an honor, Welchans said, adding, “We appreciate him and we’re glad he’s on the board.”
McDaniel recalled that he always enjoyed watching old MGM musicals. In 1961, he saw a hand-written sign announcing auditions in Danville for “Annie Get Your Gun” at the former YWCA. He was a student at Danville Junior College at the time, and had limited time to audition and rehearse.
Much to his surprise, the person in charge told him to show up when he could work it into his schedule. If it hadn’t been for that flexibility, McDaniel might not have landed his first role in community theater. He later directed that show for DLO’s 50th anniversary in 2005.
McDaniel is still friends with people who were in that DLO show. In fact, that’s what he likes most about community theater — the camaraderie.
“At least 50 percent of my friends are from theater,” he said.
He has appeared in numerous DLO and Red Mask Theatre plays, as well as Beef House Dinner Theatre. McDaniel has been in several independent films, and had scenes with Ed Asner in “Sheeba,” filmed by Dreamscape Cinema in 2003, and appeared in “Act Your Age” in 2006.
McDaniel has impersonated historical figures, including Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis.
He also has held administrative positions with DLO and the Danville Area Arts Council, and served seven one-year terms on the theater advisory panel of the Illinois Arts Council. He has been on the DLO board of directors since 1966.
Currently, McDaniel is in rehearsals for “Les Miserables,” which will be his first all singing part.
Although he enjoys acting, he said he’s never had an overwhelming desire to make it a career. McDaniel enjoys his life as it is — working as an editor during the day and an actor at night.
Since he was 19, McDaniel has made a living as an editor in the publishing field. He started with Interstate Printers & Publishers; in 2002, it was sold to a larger publisher and McDaniel went to work for CAERT (Center for Agricultural and Environmental Research and Training, Inc.). The company, on the second floor of the federal building, develops online curriculum, content and assessments for career and technical education.
He marked his 50th anniversary as an editor in 2010 — and shows no signs of retiring.
FYI Learn more about the American Association of Community Theatre at www.aact.org.