A century ago, Will Rogers was the biggest celebrity of his generation. Few people today know who he was, and fewer still remember his untimely death in August of 1935. As the star of the stage, silver screen, radio, and print, his homespun humor made him a friend to every American and leaders around the world.
On my birthday in 2017, my gift was that I’d been cast to portray him in the Players’ Theatre production of The Will Rogers Follies.
Truth be told, I didn’t really know who he was either, but by the time the show opened, I’d started reading more of the over 2 million words he’d published in his career and crafted a good part of my own one man show based on his writings. On opening night, a few of his descendents attended the performance, and I asked their permission to keep playing him to which they agreed with a hug, so Will Rogers Revived was born.
The premiere of the show at the Sarasolo Festival earned it the “Humorist Award”, and was able to perform it at a few venues before live performances got shut down. The last couple of years have given me time to reconsider why I found it so important to share Will’s words a century after he shared them, and I remembered that in 1928, Life magazine nominated him as the presidential candidate for the Anti-Bunk Party. Accempting the nomination, his first campaign promise was that if he were elected, he would immediately resign.
That year, he also became the only person in history to speak at both the Republican and Democratic conventions. This year, given the fevered pitch our battle of nitwits has brought us to, I think it’s more important than ever for me to get back out there and start reminding people about what he had to say all those years ago.
Although Will was a big advocate for aviation, I prefer wheels on the ground. In late August, I’ll be riding my motorcycle from my home in Sarasota, Florida to Washington D.C. to visit Congress, where his statue is the only one who’s foot is rubbed as a good luck charm. I will then ride directly across the country, visiting places named for him in Illinois and Colorado. Once I get to the other coast, I’ll celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the first time I rode a motorcycle down the Pacific Coast Highway. In Los Angeles, I plan to visit his home in Pacific Palisades, his park in Beverly Hills, the last theatre he performed at in San Bernardino, and his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. And then I’ll ride back across the country to Oklahoma in order to celebrate his birthday on November 4th at the Will Rogers Memorial Museum.
If you’re like to book a performance of my reworked show, Get The Bunk Out, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.