By SAMANTHA PIDDE
Savanna native Darren Mangler Moores is once again returning to Timber Lake Playhouse this summer.
The 1990 Savanna High School graduate performed last season as Dave in TLP's production of "The Full Monty." This year, he is returning to portray Bill Austin in "Mamma Mia!"
"I'm either getting naked or singing ABBA," joked Darren during an interview last week with the Times-Journal/Mirror-Democrat about his recent theatrical experiences at TLP.
Darren began his acting career in high school at TLP. His first role was in 1988, when the theater needed a bass player for its orchestra. He then served as an extra in "1776" at TLP. Darren worked at TLP for six summers.
During his years at Savanna High School, Darren was involved with band, show choir, pep choir, drama, baseball, football, track and more.
After high school, he majored in acting and directing at Western Illinois University in Macomb, where he met TLP's current Artistic Director, Paul Stancato. After graduating from WIU, he toured for two years with The Repertory Theater of America and the Missoula Children's Theater.
The 47-year-old has spent the past 22 years residing in Los Angeles, Calif., making a living acting and producing television shows.
He recently finished a mobster zombie comedy, "Witness Infection." He also was the associate producer for this season of History Channel's "Ax Men," which aired Thursday, July 11. Darren also recently shot a short "spec film" for Warner Brothers, with the hope of turning it into a full movie.
Darren said he is excited to be able to return for a month to Savanna, Carroll County and TLP, arriving July 5 and leaving Aug. 5.
"This is my home," Darren said. "I'll always choose to come home over a job."
When he realized he would have a break between two of the shows he produces, Darren contacted Stancato about returning as a guest performer. He told Stancato what time he was available and asked what roles were available for him. Darren said Stancato offered more than one production for him to choose from, but it was an easy choice to go with "Mamma Mia!"
"I have to sing some ABBA," said Darren, with a laugh.
His character, Bill, is one of three men in the show who might be the father of lead character Sophie. Darren said that Bill is "a lot of fun."
"It's a good show, it's a good role," he said, adding that it is funny that when he started at TLP, he always played a "kid" and now he's playing a "dad."
"The world moves on," Darren mused.
Darren noted that it is odd, but emotional playing a father-figure since he has not have children of his own yet. It’s "actually kind of moving," he said.
Darren said he has greatly enjoyed working on "Mamma Mia!" and it has helped that the director on two of the lead actresses has done the show previously. He added that the audience will be shocked by how wonderful the choreography and the dancers are.
"It's been a great rehearsal process," Darren said.
Darren said he is particularly impressed with this year's cast at TLP. He said everyone is so talented, which makes him raise his own level.
"They're not allowing me to take it easy," said Darren, "and I love that about them."
Darren said he is also excited to see the physical changes happening to the theater itself. Through a tourism grant and donations, TLP is working to completely enclose part of the theater and box office area as well as the restrooms.
This will allow TLP to expand its season into the winter and Darren said he is involved with a holiday production, "Santasia," which he would love to bring to TLP.
"Mamma Mia!" will be performed for an extended three-week run, starting Thursday, July 18, and continuing through Sunday, Aug. 4.
Darren suggests people get their tickets early, in case they want to see "Mamma Mia!" more than once.
Tickets are available online at timberlakeplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 815-244-2035. The box office is open 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday.