Steve Savage, executive creative director for the Ramona Bowl Amphitheater.        Photo by J.P. Crumrine
Steve Savage, executive creative director for the Ramona Bowl Amphitheater. Photo by J.P. Crumrine

The iconic “Ramona” pageant has been re-written. Local resident Stephen Savage, who assumed the role of executive creative director for Hemet’s Ramona Bowl Amphitheatre in June, has revised the historic script, submitted it to the state, scheduled a premiere reading, and maintains the pageant’s unique place in the state as “The California State Outdoor Play.”

The new Ramona pageant will have its first public performance in a reading Saturday, Nov. 22, at the Wells Fargo Theatre at Autry National Center in Los Angeles. Savage’s version is about two hours and 10 minutes, nearly an hour shorter than the original.

“The story is the same, the same beginning, but more true to the novel than the old play,” Savage said. Ramona will maintain the spotlight, while more action and gunfire are introduced on stage.

Although Savage will not direct the play, he is very excited about its premiere and described the effort as “harder than writing a screen play.”

“It still tells the story of Ramona and Alessandro, but through a new narrative that is more action-packed, quicker and involves the audience much more in the passions of the characters — and is even more true to Helen Hunt Jackson’s novel,” said Dennis Anderson, artistic director, who has directed the pageant since 1995, in a press release.

A narrator, like in Jackson’s novel “Ramona,” was added. Savage sought his long-time friend Irene Bedard, the voice of Disney’s “Pocahontas,” to be Ramona’s narrator.

Bedard arranged for Savage to connect with the Native Voices theater company, an all-Native American performance entity based at the Autry Western Heritage Museum. They then offered Savage the opportunity to have the new script read later this month.

Many familiar actors will participate in the Nov. 22 reading. Besides Bedard, Jim Beaver of “Deadwood,” “Breaking Bad” and “Longmire,” will be on stage. Joining him will be Idyllwild’s Conor O’Farrell. Other well-known performers include Wolfgang Bodison, Oscar Toree and Chuti Tiu.

That evening, Savage plans to announce the next actress to play Ramona. Rehearsals for the 92nd season of “Ramona” begin in February. The 2015 season opens April 18.

Idyllwild Film Fest

Meanwhile, Savage continues to oversee the Idyllwild International Festival of Cinema. The sixth festival opens Jan. 6, 2015.

“In January, the Idyllwild Film Fest will be huge. We’ve had twice as many films already submitted for review,” Savage said. Every submission is reviewed online this year, he added.

Plans are developing for more venues in 2016, according to Savage. With six venues, the festival will be able to accommodate and offer more than 200 movies and may expand to eight days.