GENESEO -- From backstage to onstage and recently directing, Dana Moss-Peterson loves the theater and has been involved in every aspect of it.
Mr. Moss-Peterson, of Davenport, is cast as Biff Loman in the upcoming Richmond Hill Players production of "Death of a Salesman," by Arthur Miller, which won the 1949 Pulitzer Prize for drama and Tony Award for Best Play. James Fairchild, of Rock Island, directs the classic show.
Mr. Moss-Peterson has been involved in theater since the age of 12 and said he's done everything -- from backstage, onstage, producing, stage managing to directing his first show a year ago for New Ground Theatre in Davenport.
He also has written plays, two of which will be performed at New Ground's Playwrights Festival later this month. A Davenport native,Mr. Moss-Peterson grew up near Brady Street Stadium.
"Friday nights, you could hear the P.A. announcer and the roar of the crowd, and I would often sit outside and pretend the cheers were for me," he said. "Playing imaginary football games, giving imaginary concerts, using my imagination with real cheers in the background."
His first show with Richmond Hill Players was in July 2001, when he was cast as Dr. Stephen Barrows in "Bloody Jack," and he played Octave in "Scapin" in 2002.He also has been onstage with Playcrafters in Moline – as Don Browning in "Leaving Iowa," in 2011, and as Mozart in "Amadeus" in 2003.
"The Richmond Hill Players have been very gracious to me," he said. "This is only my third show with RHP, however, each show carried its own kind of magic. 'Bloody Jack' was memorable because I met and am still friends with almost everyone in that show. We bonded quickly and I will never forget it. 'Scapin' was so much fun. We were all a bunch of loonies running around the stage having fun wherever we went."
"Death of a Salesman" is a lifelong dream come true for Mr. Moss-Peterson. "The passion and joy that exudes from everyone involved is almost staggering," he said. At times I am overwhelmed at how extremely fortunate I am to be a part of this group."
The play is not new to the actor -- he first read it when he was 14, in high school.
"I immediately connected with the character Biff Loman," he said. "When I think back on it, my initial connection with Biff was because he was a man searching for himself. In Biff's life, he has a lot of people telling him what to do. As a 14-year-old, it struck a chord in me. Since I first read the play, I have wanted to play this part."
Twenty years later, Mr. Moss-Peterson said he connects with the character in a different way, adding the reason being is "because he is the only one who stands up for himself."
Once a confident young man, in the play Biff Loman (older son of the titular salesman Willy) faces a shattering life-changing event that leaves him crestfallen, Mr. Moss-Peterson said. "We see his struggles, we feel his inner conflict and when Biff finally finds himself, it still comes with a heavy price to pay. What he discovers is that the price is finally worth it."
"I think we all have moments in our lives when we make self-discoveries, but sometimes we are afraid we paid too high of price," he said. "What I have learned from this play is that no price is too large to stand up for yourself and be who you want to be, no matter what anyone else has to say about it."
After a recent rehearsal, Mr. Moss-Peterson said director James Fairchild was giving notes to the cast when he stopped and looked at the entire group, smiled, and said, "I know this is community theater, but the level this group is at, the talent we have in this area, is some of the best anywhere. Every one of you could be on Broadway or in Hollywood doing the same thing.
"People are going to talk about this show and talk about it often … 'Remember when we saw 'Death of a Salesman' at Richmond Hill in 2013…'," Mr. Moss-Peterson said. "This is going to be a special show, and it's all because of how hard you are working and how dedicated you are. I can't begin to tell you how proud I am of all of you."
"I love theater with all I have," he said. "It has carried through tough times. It has given me so many countless gifts of laughter, tears and memories. Enough to last a lifetime."
If you go
-- What: "Death of a Salesman" -- When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 11, Friday, and Saturday (plus April 18-20), and 2 p.m. Sundays, April 14 and 21. -- Where: The Barn Theater atop Richmond Hill Park in Geneseo. -- Tickets: $10, available by calling 309-944-2244 or visiting rhplayers.com.
Today is Saturday, April 19, the 109th day of 2014. There are 256 days left in the year.
1864 -- 150 years ago: Miss McCorkindale has opened millinery rooms over Gimbel's dry goods store, where she offers a choice lot of millinery goods, which she will manufacture to order. 1889 -- 125 years ago: The little South Park Presbyterian chapel celebrated it first Easter decorated with flowers for an afternoon worship service attended by a large congregation. 1914 -- 100 years ago: The Wennerberg Chorus of Augustana College has returned from a 2,000-mile tour in the Eastern states and Illinois. 1939 -- 75 years ago: Col. Charles Lindbergh has stated that he is convinced that Germany's air force is equal to the combined sky fleets of her potential European foes. 1964 -- 50 years ago: Small gas motors may be permitted on boats in the lake to be built in Loud Thunder Forest Preserve. The prospect was discussed yesterday at a meeting of the Rock Island County Forest Preserve Commission. 1989 -- 25 years ago: The annual Dispatch/Rock Island Argus Spelling Bee continues to be a family tradition. Ed Lee, an eighth-grader at John Deere Junior High School, Moline, is the 1989 spelling bee champion from among 49 top spellers in Rock Island, Henry and Mercer counties. He advances to the competition in Washington, D.C. Runnerup was Ed's sister, Susan.