In real life, he plays a Miami-Dade judge — on stage he’s Man of La Mancha

By day, William Altfield is a Miami-Dade County judge.

At night, he plays many different roles.

This weekend, he has the lead as Don Quixote in the Man of La Mancha at the 530-seat Banyan Bowl at Pinecrest Gardens, an outdoor amphitheater on the old grounds of Parrot Jungle in Pinecrest.

“It’s a great production in a great venue,” said Altfield of the play, which opens Friday and will have performances on Saturday and Sunday.

The show is being put on by the Miami Acting Co., which Altfield helped launch. The famous musical, directed by Pamela Kirkpatrick, is a collaboration of adult and student performers. Antoine Khouri, the play’s orchestra conductor, is the music director of the Miami String Project, whose young musicians will perform.

In the last few weeks, Altfield, 53, has been wearing two hats: a judge, handling DUI cases, misdemeanor traffic and simple battery cases at the Richard Gerstein Justice Building; and an actor in rehearsals for a big opening night.

Man of La Mancha is a demanding musical with one powerhouse song, The Impossible Dream, performed by the lead actor. “As you can see, my voice is feeling it,” said Altfield, explaining his hoarseness after rehearsals Thursday night.

Appointed to the bench by Gov. Rick Scott in September of 2011, Altfield spent nearly 25 years as a Miami-Dade Assistant state attorney prosecuting public corruption cases.

But his first love was acting. He was bitten by the bug while attending Coral Park Senior High. A highlight of his young career was landing a role in the WPBT groundbreaking bilingual show Que Pasa, USA?

In an 1977 classic episode called Super Chaperona, Altfield plays the boyfriend of the only American character on the show, Sharon.

“To this day people are impressed when they learn I was on that show; I think Que Pasa represents a special time for people who grew up in Miami during its run,” he said.

After high school, Altfield said he tried his hand being a starving actor in New York and working summer stock, but became disenchanted.

“I looked around me and I though: ‘this is not for me; I’m going to law school,’” said Altfield, who is married to a teacher at Pinecrest Elementary and has two daughters.

But throughout his legal career, acting has been a long-standing hobby. He has appeared in community theater productions of Chicago, The Sunshine Boys, The Odd Couple and The Producers.

Man of La Mancha will be his last show for now.

“Unfortunately, being a judge means I have to campaign, so I’ll be putting acting aside for awhile,’’ he said.

Man of La Mancha will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 7:30 p.m. on Sunday at the theater at 11000 Red Road. Tickets are $30 for adults; $20 for student and $25 for seniors. They can be purchased at or 1-888-MAC-4TIX.

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