The recording of this Theatre Talk interview is online starting at 21:16.
Ann Peck McBride's interview with Randy Bowser about
KARLOFF the play
on Theatre Talk, KMUZ 88.5 FM, Nov. 7, 2014
ANN: If you could tell me something about the play. I know it's a one man show, right?
RB: Yes, it is. It's a bit unusual, compared to some one man shows, in that there are scads s
of other people in it, other characters, but they're all invisible. Meaning that it's not, oh maybe
like, “Mark Twain” people might know, where Hal Holbrook is mostly just talking directly to the
audience through the entire thing. This is more like a play, with just one person, and so he's
constantly interacting with people in his life.
And who do I mean by “him?” It's the story of Boris Karloff. The play is called "KARLOFF” (spells it out) and I suppose there could be some young people who don't know his name, but he is one of the most famous, most loved actors really, from the golden age of Hollywood.
ANN: That's absolutely true.
RB: Even if people don't know his name, I think it would be virtually impossible...
ANN: They would recognize him.
RB: Yes – it would be impossible to find someone who doesn't recognize him. Everyone knows his face
as that of The Frankenstein Monster.
ANN: And what made you want to do this?
RB: Well, basically it goes way back to when I was a kid and I was getting into theatre and getting
into acting, and Boris Karloff was just one of my acting heroes.
Like a lot of people my age there was a magazine that really inspired us to get interested in that
genre of film, science fiction and horror, fantasy stuff. That was a magazine called Famous Monsters
of Filmland. Spielberg, Lucas, all these guys point to that magazine as the thing that inspired them.
They're all about my age and I'm in that group. This magazine did a great job of telling the readers
about these actors and technicians who were artists. I remember reading it thinking these things had
to be the greatest movies ever made. You know, when you're young and...(chuckles)
ANN: What a great inspiration.
RB: So I wouldn't say that's actually the case (that old monster movies
are “the greatest movies ever made”), but they did fantastic stuff,
these pioneers in the kinds of movies we take for granted now.
They were the pioneers, and Boris Karloff is definitely
the most famous actor in that genre.
ANN: So as a child you became fascinated with Boris Karloff.
RB: Oh yeah!
ANN: Then, cut to a grown up, and you...
RB: All my life, I've loved him. If there's a Boris Karloff movie on TV, I'd
probably stop to watch it to this day, because he's always interesting,
no matter what the movie's like.
ANN: And what happens in the play? It's biographical?
RB: It is the story of his life, you know, capsulized in one evening's entertainment, but it's done non-linearly so it jumps back and forth in time. At various times we see him when he's in his '30's, when he's 10 years old, when he's in his late '70's.
It jumps back and forth with several themes threading through the entire thing which keep adding up until the end, I think the audience will understand the message that he really was someone worthy of admiration, because of the life he led, and his dedication to acting, and admirable because of the obstacles that he had to overcome in order to become such a famous actor.
ANN: How did you research this, Randy?
RB: I knew enough – when I first got the idea and I was just thinking, “who could I write a one-man show about?” and this was one of the ideas. I knew that I would have to get clearance from Sara Karloff, that's Boris's only child. She runs Karloff Enterprises so she controls the rights to his persona. And so I ran the idea by her, and it didn't take her very long to be very enthusiastic, because nobody had ever done it before.
So, she authorized the script, now she loves it, and early on last year when I started writing this, she said, she highly recommended, that I get in touch with the author of what is really the definitive biography of Boris Karloff. It's a fairly new book, called “Boris Karloff: More Than a Monster,” by Stephen Jacobs.
So I did get in touch with him and to this day, now for a year, we're in constant contact, every day. He lives in England, he's an English writer, and his book is huge, and he is the world authority. And so, after reading one of my drafts, he helped me hone the drafts. I've gone through many, you know,
ANN: Of course.
RB: He was so instrumental in helping to write it that he – I refer to him as the show's Dramaturge.
ANN: Well, that's wonderful. So you wrote it and you act in it. So it is truly you.
ANN: That's fabulous.
RB: I wrote the music for it -
ANN: There's music!
RB: -since the show's about a movie star, and there are references to, we see recreations of movie scenes and all that – I wanted it to have a very active sound plot. So there are sound effects all the way through it. The actor playing Boris, who in this production happens to be me, also provides all the other voices. So we'll see a scene, for instance, a recreation of a scene from “The Bride of Frankenstein” and we'll hear James Whale's (the director's) voice, “Cut! Action!” - that kind of thing. Those are recorded and that's also the voice of the same person. So it has a high theatricality to it. Lots of sound – lots of sound effects, then I wrote some original music inspired by old movie soundtracks.
ANN: Wow. It sounds like a wonderful production. It's going to open Friday, Nov. 14th -
RB: That's right. That's next week! We only have four shows, four performances, the 14th and 15th, then the following weekend, also Friday and Saturday, the 21st and 22nd.
ANN: And it's at the Level B Theater Pub?
RB: Yeah, that's their full name, they just go by Level B, but the full name is Level B Theater Pub because they do have a bar. Very comfortable seats, and places for your drinks to sit.
ANN: And where can they get tickets for this?
RB: Right now they can get tickets, and I encourage them to get them ahead of time . You can get tickets right now by going to Brown Paper Tickets online. Type that in, you'll get to BPT, then, in the Search there, just type in “KARLOFF” and it'll come up.
ANN: Well that sounds very clear.
RB: The first weekend is especially fun, I have to say, because Sara Karloff is coming. She's flying up from California and she'll see both performances, Friday and Saturday.
ANN: This is going to be great. I can't wait to see it. Thank you so much for talking to us.
RB: Thank you for your interest, Ann, I really appreciate talking to you about it.
Theatre Talk – November 7, 2014
Ann Peck McBride