‘Famous and Infamous’ captures the human element
Before actor and singer Randy Barton became the Egyptian Theatre’s manager, he conceived the idea for "Famous and Infamous," a video-theater production that would examine a pair of historic figures’ lives and reintroduce them to live audiences.
The first character he took on was the Dutch Master painter Rembrandt van Rijn.
"The idea was to present a performance that would involve images on screen that [live] actors could interact with," Barton told The Park Record. "The reason why I liked that so much is because in live theater you rehearse so much every day and then you do a show and it’s all done.
"You may never get to do that show again because you may never get those actors, sound and light guys or space together again," he said. "With this, you can work really hard to create and prepare, and once you do it, you can put it on a shelf for a year and bring it back at any time because you don’t have to pull the actors and crew back together. We will bring this person to life by not only acting them out, but also introducing their friends of contemporaries through the video or through audio."
Barton will resurrect Rembrandt along with music icon Frank Sinatra during his "Famous and Infamous" performance at the Egyptian Theatre this weekend.
"Rembrandt was the first one I ever did and the march of technology back then was smaller format and lower quality," he said. "So, I’ve taken the show that I’ve written and put it with new digital images and high-resolution video. I still kept the dialogue with the characters of his life and the story the same."
What that attracted Barton to write a performance about Rembrandt was the master’s artwork, but also his history.
"The interesting thing about these figures such as Rembrandt is that many people know who they are, like Gandhi or Henry VIII, but don’t know them personally," Barton said. "They know the era and what they’re famous for, but that’s about it. So I wanted to create an art form that would explore who these figures were."
Sinatra’s segment was inspired by the late singer’s voice as well as his upbringing.
"I learned that Frank, for the most part, worked very hard and he was always moving and had a personality that did not lend itself to affection," Barton said. "He was abrasive, mean, directed and focused on himself throughout his career. Yet, he could be the best friend and most generous person, as long as you could pay homage to him.
"He came from a poor upbringing and was very insecure about his voice, which was surprising," Barton said. "He was happiest on stage, where no one could bother him, and very few people penetrated that strong personality."
Barton will sing some of Sinatra’s songs during the performance.
"I selected songs that most represented Sinatra’s story," he said. "You obviously have to do some of the big hits, but I know I will not even come close to the greatness of Sinatra. However, people will believe that I’m telling his story."
These performances will be intimate and give the audience a chance to understand that these historic figures were people, according to Barton.
"For instance, these were people who were not, in most instances, born famous," he said. "They had to become who they became.
"This series will show that we’re all human," Barton said. "It will show that we all suffer loss. We all have triumphs and live and die and need to be clothed, most of the time."
One goal for Barton is to stockpile these productions for the future.
"We also want to keep these short, about 45 minutes to one hour, so we can present two on any given evening," he said.
Up until now, the "Famous and Infamous" performances have examined Mark Twain (performed by Steve Phillips), Rembrandt, Handel and now Sinatra.
"There are others we want to do and are planning on Charles Dickens during the holidays," Barton said. "I choose characters to do that I have some similarity with — older white men — the ones whom I resemble and can become. So, you can see why I could never play Wilt Chamberlain."
Randy Barton will present "Famous and Infamous — History Lives" at the Egyptian Theatre, 328 Main St., on Friday, Sept. 18, and Saturday, Sept. 19, at 8 p.m. Barton, the theatre’s manager, will portray Frank Sinatra and Rembrandt in two separate segments each evening. The one-man performances will be highlighted by video and projected backdrops. Tickets range from $23 to $35 and can be purchased by visiting http://www.parkcityshows.com .
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