One man show — On-stage chameleon set to play different character at The Capitol Theatre
Duffy Hudson, king of the one-man show, will be performing three consecutive days at The Capitol Theatre in Chambersburg, Pa.
He will be performing as Houdini on Friday, March 8 at 7:30 p.m.; A Dr. Seuss Celebration on Saturday, March 9 at 2 p.m. and George Burns: A Comedy Tribute on Sunday, March 10 at 3 p.m.
Hudson, who was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, says that he was obsessed with memorizing lines and encapsulating different characters from a young age.
Edgar Allan Poe was the first character he came to love.
“My father came into my room when I was nine years old reading ‘The Raven’ to me,” said Hudson during a phone interview from his home in Los Angeles. “He reads the whole poem, which takes a solid ten minutes easy. I was like what is this story, it’s kind of scary, but more sad than scary, and my dad was like let’s memorize this poem and memorize it on Halloween. I got the copy and read ‘The Raven’ again, and I started memorizing it. And over the next few weeks I memorized the first five or six stanzas. While I’m memorizing, I’m also reading ‘The Black Cat’, and ‘The Tell-Tale Heart,’ and am becoming pretty fascinated with the stuff. A couple weeks into it I realize my father didn’t memorize the poem. ... it was kind of a downer. But Poe became someone in consciousness that I felt I knew.”
As he grew older, Hudson’s interest in acting grew as well. He would eventually make a career out of performing one-man shows.
“I joined a booking organization; they were trying to increase their catalogue of performers,” he said. “I thought, ‘wow, I wish I had a one-person show’. I kept thinking if I did have a show what would it be. I thought Poe would be a great one, and I thought that I’d have to do ‘The Raven’, that’s about ten minutes, along with some other poems. I contacted them and they booked it.”
After realizing that playing Poe would only work seasonally, Hudson branched out and explored other characters, and then slowly perfecting details about their lives and personalities.
“People would ask what other characters I did, and I realized that I could only do Poe during Halloween, so I started working on other characters including Einstein, Dr. Seuss, and A Christmas Carol. Houdini, too,” he said. “You got to learn a lot of tricks to do the ones you want to do. You can’t do a magic trick Houdini did 90 years ago because everyone’s seen it. You have to kind of keep the magic up-to-date. I had to learn a lot of card tricks, and Houdini was famous for doing the East Indian Needle Trick. It used to be popular 100 years ago, but it disappeared. I do that trick. It was probably the hardest because there’s a danger factor do it. Sticking needles in your mouth can be scary. It’s more about Houdini’s life and I throw the magic in as I’m telling stories. Some of the magic is just incidental.”
Hudson said that the portrayal of George Burns was in some ways the hardest character he’s ever had to do. Playing Dr. Seuss was less about the study of a character and more about having fun.
“George is totally different,” he said. “ You could watch ‘Oh, God!’; anybody over 50 watched him when they were kids. We have a sense of him. That became more of an impersonation. I created the character of Poe out of research. With George I had to be very careful and very specific because people knew him. I’m doing Dr. Seuss, and I perform the books. It’s fun, I’m just me being crazy and nutty and entertaining. Kids love it, and it’s charming. But that’s hard in it’s own way because those books are tricky to memorize.”
Hudson favors playing small towns, and is excited to perform in Chambersburg.
“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I do a lot of small towns. I love it.”
Hudson recalled one small-town atmosphere, “There’s a small town in Iowa. ...when I show up they have this big sandwich board they put out. All it says is ‘Duffy is performing tonight at 7’, and I show up and the place is packed. Like 200 people came out. But I performed there a couple of times so they get to know you. And they do get to know you.”