Orman presents heartfelt, exciting performance

Grade: B

After minutes of chattering and students asking the question "where's Gordon," Roscoe Orman emerged from backstage to the sound of low toned drums and then broke into song.

Orman's powerful voice filled the Student Center Ball Room last night as he sang "So long, so far away is Africa" as an opener to the program "Eyes on the Prize."

Orman didn't need much in the way of a stage. Props were minimal, consisting of only a table, a collection of hats and a wooden bench in front of the table.

He had very simple costume changes, only changing hats to fit the scene. Orman jumped on top of the bench and portrayed a slave auction by taking on the role of an auctioneer during that time.

He also told some examples of African folk tales put to song by telling a story of a monkey, lion and elephant as one of his segments to the performance. Orman said the tale was about a sly trickster and his antics.

Afterwards he gave a moving and serious vocal depiction of a parent's wish for a newborn child when he sang "Brown Baby."

"Brown baby, as you grow up, I want you to drink from the plenty cup," he sang with a deep and pleasing voice.

Though there were some serious aspects of Orman's show, there were also some humorous moments too.

Orman showed the audience his humor by singing like a small boy and asking a serious of random, rapid-fire questions. He asked everything from "what's that say" and "can I have that" to "Daddy, can I have that big elephant over there."

Another humorous part of the program was when Orman played the part of someone who thought he was a "cool cat," but would cry at any sign of tragedy. At the beginning of the segment, Orman started out by saying, "I've lived my life by this golden rule-whatever happens, don't blow your cool."

Orman cried loudly when his character's dog was shot but immediately brightened up, smiled and simply said "but I was cool."

The audience laughed and cheered him on.

Once he was done with the theatrical part of the program, Orman thanked the audience and opened the floor up for questions.

Students asked questions about where Orman got the idea and the material for this performance.

"My initial idea was to try to find that reflects a spectrum of human existence," he said.

Orman said that this was only his second time performing the show, the first time being in Michigan at Grand Valley College. He also said that all poems in the performance were written by Langston Hughes.

"I had the pleasure of narrating a documentary back in the '80s of his life and work," Orman said.

Orman told audience members that only being recognized as "Gordon" was something that had bothered him at first, but not anymore. He said that he isn't actually the original "Gordon" but has been the third person to play the role.

He said he landed the role of "Gordon" when one of "Sesame Street's" directors saw Orman perform in a play in New York.

The program together with the question and answer period lasted about an hour, but Orman took time after the program to talk to students and sign autographs. Students who were too shy to ask Orman questions during the question and answer time got to ask questions later.

One student asked Orman which "Sesame Street" character was his favorite. Orman said he likes "Grover" because of the complexity and nature of his character.

He also gave advice to those wanting to pursue an acting career.

"Study your craft," he said. "Read and understand the history of theater. Continue to do it even if you don't become a professional."

Orman took roughly another 30 minutes to sign autographs and pose for photographs with students. He signed notebooks, newspapers and fliers for excited "Gordon" fans. One student even brought an old "Sesame Street" book for Orman to sign.

When asked if he thought he would spend so much time at Ball State signing autographs, Orman smiled brightly and said "I'm used to it."


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