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Sunday, December 9, 2012

ad libbing for a tiny audience, best experience in years!

I have been portraying Boulder Dam Project Engineer Frank Crowe for several months now. But today was a first. The Boulder City campus of the College of Southern Nevada was set up with talking “men” and high scalar mannequins, the sounds of construction playing over hidden speakers. Inside photos, posters, maps and a series of stations for guest to walk through. There were the games children played, a demonstration of how laundry was done during the Great Depression, a model of how the bypass dams worked to reroute the river and make it possible to divert the mighty Colorado River leaving the canyon dry enough to dig deep and build what at the time was the worlds tallest dam and larges concrete construction project in history. Children were able to practice hauling water from “the river” to water buckets and a lean-to tent house was simulated, complete with talking graying father, children and a barking dog. My voice over student James Campbell used a remote microphone with special attachments to make the old guy talk and interactively with my character and with the guests.

What made today unique was the audience. First through third graders eager to have fun and loving every minute of their “field trip,” filed early through the exhibits and sat on the floor eating up every word I had to say. My monologue, one man show and even the interactive conversations I have with adults when I portray Crowe went out the window, as the conversation became about a black lab whose real name is no longer PC (his grave was paved over a few years back by the Park Service due to complaints from visitors who did not understand that his name was “black” in Spanish). I also led a conversation and question and answer between the kids and the talking old man machine. You should have seen their eyes.

It brought me back to my years of doing children’s theater, with Rainbow Company here in Las Vegas, with traveling theater in the Rockies and back in Chicago. I remember having adults remember me as the world’s tallest Rumplestiltskin back when they were kids. I still have young adults call me “Wayland” after the Viking Wayland in “Waylands Sword” at Rainbow Company. Surprisingly when I am playing a character my six foot four, 270 plus size does not intimate even the smallest smiling face. It felt good.

On to performances for older kids, adults and the hardest test, for surviving actual 31ers who worked on the dam and their descendants.

Published Wednesday October 7, 2009

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