"I do these one-man shows based on my life, but fictionalized, though the weirdest stuff tends to be real." That's how Josh Kornbluth explains what he does in the theater. "In Red Diaper Baby, I talk about how my father bursts into my room naked, covered with talcum powder, singing the Internationale. I thought it was my personal wake-up song: 'Arise, ye prisoner of starvation/Arise, ye wretched of the earth.' I thought it meant that it was time for breakfast."
This past weekend, the stage and radio monologist performed the aforementioned Red Diaper Baby, about his childhood experiences as the son of idealistic American Communists. There's still time to catch Kornbluth, however, in The Mathematics of Change, about his failure to live up to his high school promise as a math prodigy when he arrived at Princeton, at 8 p.m. Thursday, October 21, and in Ben Franklin Unplugged, an exploration of the life of the guy on the $100 bill, at 8 p.m. Friday, October 22, at Scottsdale Center for the Arts.
Why Franklin? According to Kornbluth, it was simply because the older he got, the more often people commented on his resemblance to the statesman, until at last someone suggested he work up a one-man piece in the vein of Hal Holbrook's Mark Twain Tonight!. "I'm kind of Borscht Belt Ben Franklin," says the performer, noting that the piece is more a commentary on Franklin than an impersonation of him.
"I don't actually look like Ben Franklin," Kornbluth insists, but he grew interested in the subject anyway, especially after encountering the myth-deflating book Mon Cher Papa by Franklin scholar Claude-Anne Lopez, whom he has since met in the course of his research. "If I'm Luke Skywalker searching for the force of history, she's sort of the Yoda figure. She keeps saying, 'Go to the papers! Go to the papers!' But she's more charming even than Yoda, and prettier," adds Kornbluth gallantly. "And younger, though she might dispute that."
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Josh Kornbluth performs on Thursday, October 21; and Friday, October 22, at Scottsdale Center for the Arts, 7380 East Second Street in Scottsdale. Tickets are $15 and $20. For details call 480-994-2787 (SCA) or 480-784-4444 (Ticketmaster).