By David Schriemer, MD
As the son of a military man, then an army physician himself, Ken Franklin lived in 35 different locales before he came to Vicksburg in July 2002. Ken, wife Terri, sons Matt and Jeremy quickly became part of the fabric of the community. That, of course, meant singing in the Showboat chorus. Ken sang in the bass section. Director Lloyd Appell had admonished the cast not to ad lib. But Ken had an idea at dress rehearsal. Being the new guy, he tentatively approached director Lloyd Appell, “How about when the guys dressed as chickens are clucking to ‘In the Mood’ I come out with a big Colonel Sanders Chicken bucket?” Lloyd approved and Ken’s destiny in the Showboat was set.
Ken was first featured in Showboat as Teddy Roosevelt (see any resemblance?) singing of his hunting prowess, “I shot the maximum the game laws would allow! Two game wardens, seven hunters and a cow!”
Joining the script committee with Tim Moore, Warren Lawrence, Lloyd Appell and newer members Karl Kerchief, Jim Thompson, Bob Donelson and Chris Garrett cemented his Showboat fate.
In 2006, at Lloyd Appell’s request, he assisted in directing the Showboat but missed the performance as he presented at a medical conference. 2007 saw his directorial debut.
Ken’s favorite scenes are the old mainstays of Showboat; The doctor’s skit (How many ways can you make Karl Kerchief, MD look silly) and the Newspaper Jokes Scene (where jokes never die, they are reincarnated.)
Ken has made a real effort to get high school students more involved. Son Jeremy and friends started an all male chorus in the high school called “Simply Men.” Ken made his son an offer he couldn’t refuse and “Simply Men” sang in multiple Showboats. The “Green Man Group” (high school musicians Jacob Carr and Alex Chioda in green body suits) drummed lots of youthful interest!
“I love it when the cast makes it their own.” says Ken. Characters developed by the cast have a way of returning year after year. Simpering bureaucrat Mr. Tweedly, developed by Tom Miller, pops up periodically to promote proper grammar and political correctness. Somehow the Tweedly version “Elderly Man River” does not have the gravitas of “Old Man River”. Rev Buff Coe’s Wonder Whiner’s plaintive cries are unmistakable and unavoidable. (Ken says the Methodist church elders suggested he use that voice to preach a stewardship sermon. He might have to duck the wallets thrown at him.)
Showboat has been a family affair for the Franklins. Terri Franklin performed as a character on the “Just Good Friends Boat”, son Jeremy sang with Simply Men and post high school has been part of the cast. This year, son Matt joins the cast and wife Debi works diligently behind the scenes with costuming.
Ken especially enjoys the collaboration that makes Showboat so much fun. Mike Tichvon and Rotarians building sets, Mike Hardy painting scenery, Karla Stubblefield pianist extraordinaire, Chris Garrett musical director, the pit orchestra, the cast and the many costumers- Margaret Kerchief, Holly Fryling, Tangileen Klein, Marci Roth and Debi Franklin- work together to make for a memorable Showboat. Ken reports the costumers are the highest paid members of the Showboat. He has to pay them with chocolate macaroons!
Ken has lived in Vicksburg longer than anywhere else in his lifetime. Like the Showboat directors before him, Ken’s love for this community is expressed in the joy and frivolity of each Showboat.