Ramona Performances are April 13 and 14, April 27 and 28, and May 4 and 5.
Ramona, California’s Official Outdoor Play, is a well known production celebrating its 96th anniversary season at the Ramona Bowl in Hemet this year. Also known as the Ramona Pageant, it is based on the book by Helen Hunt Jackson written in 1884. But what is not so well known is that Ramona was quite popular on the Silver Screen in the early days of film production. There were five Ramona movies made between 1910 and 1946.
The first movie in 1910 was a silent production starring the darling of the day, Mary Pickford, which ran for a little over 22 minutes. The second silent movie was produced in 1916 starring Adda Gleason as Ramona. At three hours running it was one of the longest silent movies of its time.
The third and most popular silent Ramona movie was in 1928 and starred the famous Dolores Del Rio who was the first major female Latin American crossover star in Hollywood. The director, Edwin Carewe, sent a crew to film parts of the Ramona Pageant in Hemet when he was getting prepared to produce his film Ramona. As a promotion of the film Carewe sent Dolores Del Rio to visit the Ramona Pageant cast and invited them to a special showing of the movie.
The fourth Ramona movie was produced in 1936 by 20th Century Fox and was its first full Technicolor film and the first “talking” Ramona movie. It starred Loretta Young as Ramona and Don Ameche as Alessandro. The fifth film based on the book was a Spanish version done in 1946 and was produced and released in Mexico.
Another Ramona link to the Silver Screen in the early days was actor Victor Jory who played the lead role of Alessandro in the Ramona Pageant ten times. His wife Jean Innes played the role of Ramona in the play several times and then they went on to become the play’s director for many years. Jory is a well known movie and television actor who starred in nearly 200 films and television shows. Victor Jory was a part of the Ramona Pageant from the 1920’s through 1967.
In the later years Raquel Welch played Ramona in the Ramona Pagent in 1959. In those days she was known by her maiden name Raquel Tejada. And in 1969 Academy Award Nominee Anne Archer played the role of Ramona in the play.
Over the many years of producing the Ramona Pageant there have been hundreds of extraordinary actors and actresses who put their heart and soul into the parts that make up this very important and iconic story.
For their 96th Season they welcome back the lovely Kayla Contreras as Ramona. She has a long history in the San Jacinto Valley, having seen the show as a 4th grader, and vowing then to play the role of Ramona someday. Kayla received a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Cal State Fullerton and has provided stunning performances of Ramona for the last four years. Kayla has many play performance credits and she presently works for both Knott’s Berry Farm and Disneyland.
The role of Alessandro this year went to a newcomer to the Pageant, Eli Santana. Eli comes with a performing background that is in many ways as multidimensional and contrasted as the tale of Ramona itself. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from Cal State Northridge in Music Industry Studies with an emphasis in Classical Guitar. Eli was able to embrace his love of music, with his charismatic stage presence and love of performing, when his band Holy Grail was signed to Prosthetic Records. For close to two decades Eli’s unmatched guitar skills, vocal ability, and love of writing complex, anthemic lyrics helped propel Holy Grail to become one of the most popular Heavy Metal bands in Southern California.
Eli has also embraced and pursued his other passion – acting. He has a number of film and television credits, most notably as a recurring member of the Ghost Nation Warriors on HBO’s Emmy-Award winning series Westworld. He has decided to explore his outdoor theater talents and Native roots at the Ramona Pageant this year.
Performances are April 13 and 14, April 27 and 28, and May 4 and 5.
For tickets and information call (951) 658-3111 or go to RamonaBowl.com.