My wife and I had a great time last night when impressionist and ventriliquist Terry Fator appeared at the Poncan Theater. We bought tickets as soon as they went up for sale and were lucky enough to get our favorite seats in the middle of the front row. We just knew that since it was going to be a one man show, the closer to the front the better.
Fator said at the beginning of the show that there were "no rules" and that he had no objection to anyone taking photos during the performance so I snapped away with available light during the entire performance. Once again my motto "The way to get great photos is to take lots of photos and throw away the bad ones" worked out. I went through my photos and uploaded 50 of the best to Flickr.
I also went to Wikipedia today and made a major expansion of the article on Fator and added photos that I took from the show. Here are some interesting things that I found out about Fator as I was expanding the article Fator is 42 years old and has been in show business for over 20 years. Fator was the lead singer of a show band called 'Texas the Band' when he was 20, and incorporated his puppet Walter T. Airedale into his shows. Fator's band at one point was about to sign with a major record label and one of the label's representatives came to hear the band. Fator sang the songs impersonating the original vocalists. "He told me 'you gotta stop doing those impressions,' and wanted me to sing in my own voice," Fator says. "I tried it for a few weeks, and absolutely hated, it. We told the record company 'no thanks.' "
Fator left the band and did a solo act combining comedy and ventriloquism but for many years had little success. "Fairs would stick me on a little stage in the back of fair and have me do three shows in the hottest part of the afternoon," says Fator. "I had heat stroke a couple of times, almost passed out." In May 2007, before appearing on America's Got Talent, Fator was performing at a fair near Houston, Texas and only one 12 year old boy was in the audience. Discouraged, Fator contemplated pursuing another career, but his family encouraged him to hang in there. Terry entered the America's Got Talent competition with the hope that the exposure if he made it to the Top 20 might help his career and cause people to want to attend his shows.
Fator's success stems from combining singing and ventriloquism and it wasn't even his idea. Fator had been the lead singer in a band and often did impersonations of singers like Garth Brooks, Etta James, James Taylor and Dean Martin while ventriloquism was just a comic side gig for Fator. Per the suggestion of his manager, Fator decided to join his two talents, ventriloquism and impersonations. "I had one of my characters sing Garth Brooks' Friends in Low Places and the audience went bananas," Fator says. "Boy, that was where my life changed." After his initial success Fator revamped his act. "It took me six months and I completely rewrote the show," says Fator. "It was then that people really noticed and I started getting standing ovations at the end of every show."
Fator has fought to be taken seriously as a ventriloquist. "There have been so few good, successful ventriloquists - Edgar Bergen in the 1940s and Paul Winchell in the 1960s were respected and successful," says Fator. "And in the 1970s, I used to watch Willie Tyler and his Lester as well as Jay Johnson and Bob. But over the years, there have been so many bad ventriloquists - and most of them doing corny shows for children - that people began to think of us as a bad joke."
Fator says that ventriloquists get a bad reputation because of all the ones who perform for kids. "They assume it's only for children and they don't need to be good, and they write stupid stuff the kids will like. You are really underestimating children when you do that," says Fator. "My show is written for adults, for the adult intellect. It's like a Pixar movie. It's appropriate for children, but the adults will enjoy it more than the kids do."
Fator says that he is an illusionist with his cast of seven original puppet characters. "I look at myself as a talk show host and the characters are my guests," says Fator. "I can guarantee anyone who comes to my show, within a second or two, will feel that the puppet is the real entity. I love creating life out of wood and felt." "I feel like I am the poster boy of the American dream, but it's not like winning the lottery - I earned it," says Fator. "I spent years and years honing my craft, working on it and learning to do it as well as I possibly could. I'm so gratified."
All I have to add is that Dave May is doing a great job promoting the Poncan Theater. There was a sold out crowd last night and I was told that there were over 200 who were turned away at the door. The Poncan is really becoming well known as a venue for live music. And success builds on success. With a great show like last night, now more people are going to want to come see the Tribute series with "1964," the Beatles Tribute, appearing on June 4, the Jimmy Buffet Tribute on July 5, and the Eagles Tribute on August 22.
Take a look at my photo series from Terry Fator's show last night.