I’ve had a few friends who told me they wish they hadn’t missed The Will Rogers Follies during its run at The Players Centre for Performing Arts. I told them I’d be glad to let them borrow my DVD of the production, but watching a 2 hour performance recorded on a single camera is a lot to ask of people these days, so I figured I’d just offer some highlights. Besides, to really appreciate it, you have to see it live.
One of the critics’ favorite parts of the show was my reading from the newspaper. Will Rogers used to say “all I know is what I read in the papers,” and he brought his act up quite a few notches by creating comedy from what he read in the headlines. Although he was never mean-spirited about it, and had no malice toward any of the players in the games he joked about, there’s not a late night host around that doesn’t owe the man a debt of gratitude for paving the way.
Having once run as a write-in candidate for County Commissioner a few years ago, I was also intrigued by Rogers’ run for president under the Debunk party. He had no intention of winning, and his only campaign promise was that if he won, he would retire, but that he would go to so much effort for a joke, and go to so much effort to show America how much of a joke our political system is, is admirable to me. Since I didn’t have the time or skill to become good enough at roping to learn all of the tricks, this was probably the most challenging number of the show, but the crowd always loved it.
Finally, this was the scene that convinced me to do the show. Since I didn’t know much about Will Rogers when I was first asked about auditioning for the role, the first bit of research I did was watching a speech he gave in 1931 at the request of President Hoover to make folks feel better about suffering through the Great Depression. Since so much of what he said was still so relevant today, I felt compelled to take the role. Thinking about the state of the world today, this scene required the least amount of acting.
Here is the original speech that made me want to play the role.
Overall, I am so honored to have played this role, and so thankful to have performed with such an incredible cast of singers and dancers. I’ve since read much more on Mr. Rogers, and I’ve compiled many of his writings into a one man show that I call Will Rogers Revived. I think a lot of what he said almost a century ago should be remembered today before we all kill one another over applesauce.