Several men aim to be Ben

February 16, 2009|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. -- An eclectic group of Ben Franklin veterans and wannabes gathered at the Heritage Center on Monday in the third and final casting call for the man or men who will portray Franklin County's namesake during its 225th anniversary.

The Franklin County Visitors Bureau is looking for a few good Bens to play three personifications of the founding father. While most were interested in portraying Classic Ben, a couple possibilities for Contemporary Ben auditioned, though no one has stepped forward to be Young Ben.

There was clinical psychologist Stephen Overcash; Ed Miller of Waynesboro, Pa., who played Franklin during the county bicentennial; retired banker Bob Harrison; town crier Roy Nester; and living historians Michael Levick and Richard Fox, both veterans at portraying Franklin.

"Obviously, I can't do Young Ben," said Nester, a retiree who now lives in Chambersburg but has portrayed a town crier in Winchester, Va., for 30 years. "If it's Contemporary Ben, I see him in contemporary clothes. ... Since this is no longer 1776, I'd look weird in knee pants."


Nester said he could do modern variations on Franklin aphorisms such as, "A penny saved costs two cents to produce." He would also renew his campaign to make the turkey the national symbol.

"If he were alive today, I know Ben would have an iPhone," said Overcash who, like Nester, came in contemporary garb. If selected, he said he would invest in a costume and be willing to play the character this year and into the future.

"I work daily with electricity," Overcash said, explaining that one of his therapies involves passing a mild, relaxing current through patients' brains. Overcash said he could relate Franklin's wide breadth of expertise to contemporary Franklin County.

Following two hours of presentations, Director of Tourism Janet Pollard and the other judges compared notes behind closed doors. A decision could be announced this week, she said.

One other person attended an earlier casting call, Pollard said.

Harrison displayed a detailed knowledge of Franklin's life as a printer, publisher, inventor, innovator and diplomat. Miller said he had 15 pages of Franklin quotes, but settled for reciting just a few.

Fox, of East Berlin, Pa., has portrayed Franklin for about six years. He delivered a monologue in character explaining how Franklin's sentiments evolved from those of "a good English citizen" to those of a revolutionary.

A native of Waynesboro, Pa., Levick was also in character for most of his audition, describing George Washington as "such a pragmatic man" and John Adams as intelligent, but having a personality like "vinegar."

All the candidates were asked if they would be available for a dozen or more appearances during the year.

"The only caveat I have ... is the Fourth of July," said Levick, who now lives in Washington, D.C. That day he has a gig as John Hancock at the National Archives.

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