Popular Actor Returns to Play Maria
By Liz Armstrong
The vibrant and talented Daria Pilar Redus has returned this season to the Utah Shakespeare Festival to take on the role of Maria in The Sound of Music. This is her third season at the Festival, having played Sarah in Ragtime and Kate in The Pirates of Penzance last season as well as performing in Big River in 2018.
For Redus, playing Maria is an opportunity to play “the most fun and classic role” she could imagine.
“After last summer playing Sarah in Ragtime, I didn’t think anything could top that overall experience,” Redus said. “The character, how fulfilling it was as an actor, how much it meant to me, I didn’t think that that could be topped—and then they announced The Sound of Music.”
Redus received a bachelor of fine arts degree in acting from Otterbein University in 2018. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, the actress now calls New York City home. Redus recently played Sandy Cheeks in the national tour of The Spongebob Musical.
And now she has returned to the Festival! Redus is thrilled to be back in Cedar City, surrounded by the red rock and mountains she adores so much. “To be in a production where I am celebrating the magic of the mountains, and the freedom and beauty is so incredible—it feels so full circle,” Redus said. “Because I have been talking about these gosh-darn mountains since I got here!”
Redus loves southern Utah, but being back at the Festival feels even more fitting for her because of the love she has for the character of Maria. Redus fondly recalls nights as a child, a bowl of popcorn in her lap on the floor, watching The Sound of Music with her family.
“It’s exciting to play a famous role . . . because [the audience already] knows and loves the show and character,” Redus said. “So now all I have to do is stay true to it and bring myself.”
Some might find playing such a famous role, one that most associate with Julie Andrews, as intimidating. But for Redus, it’s simply inspiring.
“I’ve always loved the way [Julie Andrews] plays Maria, so I’m not going to fully abandon it,” Redus said. “But there are so many things about me that I think will make me interesting to watch.”
Redus pointed out that every great role had to be originated by someone. Andrews may have made the role of Maria famous, but there is a reason The Sound of Music continues to be performed. “It takes one person to make a role famous, but it takes so many different, dynamic actors to keep a show around,” Redus said. “Yes, we know and we love Julie Andrews, but that’s not the only way to play Maria.”
As an individual, Redus describes herself as goofy, funny, and silly, and although these are parts of her she sometimes feels the need to “tame,” Redus plans to bring these aspects of her into the role of Maria with full force.
“Something I love about Maria is that she is apologetic—because she’s human—but also unapologetically herself,” Redus said. “I feel like playing this role, I’ll be able to be unapologetically myself onstage, with humor, with personality, with sensitivity.”
Redus believes there is a reason people are drawn to Maria. She is “authentically human, and loving, and caring and flawed.”
“It’s beautiful how Maria is navigating through life. She is truly in the pursuit of happiness,” Redus said.
Last season, Redus’ goal was to bring humanity into Sarah in Ragtime. Although the roles of Sarah and Maria are extremely different, especially in how “emotionally demanding” they are, Redus still draws similarities between the two. “It’s similar with Maria. I don’t want anyone to leave that theatre thinking that there was anything wrong with her or that she was a problem that needed solving—or question the captain’s choice in choosing her,” Redus said. “It’s important to bring humanity and truth to these characters.”
The Sound of Music is a beloved and well-known musical, and Redus encourages audience members—even though they’ve probably already seen it—to come to this production and be refreshed.
“The power of music is so strong. It’s unifying, and life altering,” Redus points out. “It’s music that brings happiness and joy and childhood back into the von Trapp children and into the captain. It’s music that gives Maria the freedom to explore what she wants to do with her life.”
To Redus, the musical reminds us of the importance of family, love, friends, and of going after what you want, while acknowledging the beauty in our differences and ideas. “There’s this layer to the show of, ‘Why does Captain von Trapp want Maria? She’s a [governess],’” Redus said. “And there’s also this layer in our production that I’m a black woman, and that’s something we don’t shy away from.”
Ultimately, the actress hopes audience members watch the show and take a step back to celebrate the fact that “we are all individuals in the pursuit of happiness.”
“And if we find that happiness we should be given full permission to chase that, especially if it’s out of joy and love,” Redus said. “I hope people leave the show with compassion in their hearts.”
To purchase tickets to The Sound of Music and see Redus onstage as the spectacular and spirited Maria, visit https://www.bard.org/plays/the-sound-of-music/.