From April 20 through May 5, the Ramona play returned to the Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre in Hemet for its 101st year. Two local Catholics, husband and wife Dennis and Kathi Anderson, have been an instrumental part of telling the story of longest running outdoor drama, Ramona, for over 30 years.

“It’s the love of the story,” Dennis said. “It’s in an outdoor theater, this 5,000-seat amphitheater, it really gets into your blood when you go outdoors and do this play. They have a few hundred people in the show, we have Native American dancers, Spanish dancers, we have cowboys, and you’re outdoors in this beautiful setting so it just becomes a part of life and the people and the community. I think that’s why its been going on since 1923. When you do it, you just keep on doing it.”

Dennis and Kathi have been parishioners of Holy Spirit Parish in Hemet for about three years and before that they had attended Our Lady of the Valley Parish in Hemet since 1987 when they were married there. The couple were Eucharistic Ministers at Our Lady of the Valley and when they moved to Holy Spirit, they both became Lectors. Participating during Mass as a Eucharistic Minister and Lector, the couple says has had a tremendous impact on their life….

When Dennis’ family moved to Hemet in 1956, they almost immediately became a part of Ramona because it was made up of volunteers. In the early 1970s Dennis played a role in the play and in 1995 he became the artistic director and has been directing the play now for 29 years. Kathi became a cast member as a Spanish dancer, the lead role of Ramona and has played the role of “Senora,” the second lead role, since 2008. “Being Catholics and loving theater, then you have this wonderful play, Ramona, which has this strong Catholic theme, it’s like you can give your whole total person to this play,” Dennis said.

There are two priests portrayed in the play with significant roles and scenes in the story. The Senora, who Kathi plays, has a strong devotion to her faith an seeks advice from one of the priests. There is also a Madonna placed center stage where The Senora goes to pray in a scene. Kathi says she takes this moment of the scene to actually recite a Hail Mary to herself. Father Joe Gaglione, CSSP, a retired priest who served at Holy Spirit, gave a special blessing over the Madonna on May 3.

“There’s about 2,000 people per performance, and there’s the Virgin Mary right in front of them,” Dennis said. “Not everyone in the cast is Catholic, but we just portray the Catholic faith with pride and I just love that.”

From the Inland Catholic Byte