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John Wayne Impressionist Visits The Black Box

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By Chase Karacostas

As theatrical impressionist Jack Edmondson spoke to Technical Theatre and Theatre Magnet students in the Black Box on Thursday, he steadily put on his cowboy belt, vest and gun holster while changing his accent to fit the role of John Wayne, the Academy Award-winning actor.

Many of the students attending the presentation had little knowledge of John Wayne as he starred primarily in 1940s and 50s cowboy movies.

“I had never seen a real life impersonator before and was really interested by it,” junior Hayley Batson said. “I’ve only seen brief glimpses of what John Wayne was like so it was really interesting and I thought it was really awesome.”

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Theatre and Technical Theatre Magnet students laugh at impressionist Jack Edmondson's presentation. Photo by Brielle Bishop

Edmondson began his career in the Fort Worth Stockyards working for a group that trained younger generations in traditional cowboy music.

“Every day they do the fundraiser to get money for that program,” Edmonson said. “They have a different theme every year, and one year they were going to do a 1940s live radio broadcast and they just needed people to play the celebrities of that era.”

After being asked who he could possibly play, Edmonson told them he could do a John Wayne accent. He was asked to try it.

“It’s scary though to dress up and play somebody but I kind of got the clothes together and it worked,” Edmonson said.

Junior Molly Molloy appreciated the level of dedication Edmonson put into learning about his character, doing in-depth research to know all about his life.

“Physically he doesn’t really look like John Wayne that much,” Molloy said. “However, after seeing the amount of commitment to the character that was in there, he honestly looks the same as John Wayne now just because of how much he developed it.”

Theatre Magnet director Cliff McClelland met Edmonson while working as a stage manager for the stunt show at Six Flags and wanted him to come and talk to his students to show them alternative routes in professional theatre aside from acting.

“He will tour all over the state of Texas, not normally doing John Wayne but doing Jim Bowie, more Sam Houston now as he’s gotten a little bit older and makes good money at it,” McClelland said. “It’s a viable performance opportunity.”

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John Wayne impersonator Jack Edmondson performs in front of Technical Theatre and Theatre students. Photo by Brielle Bishop

Molloy also appreciated getting to learn more about John Wayne’s life through Edmonson.

“I liked learning that [John Wayne] had a hero himself, Harry Caray,” Molloy said. “He mentioned him so much and he obviously had a very important impact on John Wayne’s life. That was cool to know that your heroes had heroes.”

Ultimately, McClelland appreciated that Edmonson went through the process of becoming John Wayne right in front of his students, giving them real insight on what they should do to fit into their own roles as actors.

“It’s a process like becoming any character which is what we try and teach every day,” McClelland said.

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John Wayne Impressionist Visits The Black Box