Chicago performer brings love of books to the Valley
July 5, 2012
By Sebastian Moraga
For a Chicago Cubs fan, Chris Fascione sure looks happy.
His hometown team may have perfected losing but Fascione seems impervious to dismay when onstage.
A children’s theater performer, Fascione is an energetic storyteller who encourages children to read and explore local libraries.
Forget the lotus position or holding a book, Fascione never stands still or stops making faces, impressions or jokes.
The result is a wild combo of deer with Chicago accents, toads with girly voices, pantomime, juggling, magic tricks and one-liners.
“I was always the shortest kid in class, from grade school to, um, junior college,” he quipped June 27 at the Snoqualmie Library, before dozens of children and their parents. “Hey moms, do you know what seventh-grade dance class was like for me? Terrifying.”
He then pretended to dance with a giant.
Unlike a giant, Fascione did not tower over the children, literally or figuratively. He played with them, not to them, and the audience saw him almost as a playmate.
“I love kids’ responses,” he said in a phone interview from Renton, site of his next show that day. “It’s immediate, it’s honest. They’ll let you know if it works or not.”
For decades, it has worked. He does more than 300 shows a year, sometimes four per day.
“Yep, it’s been 73 years,” he said tongue-in-cheek. “Feels that way sometimes.”
Unusually coy about his age, he doesn’t like to scare potential gigs away by revealing how many calendars he has bought.
Age dictates his repertoire.
“In a public library, if the median age seems to be 4-5, that would be one set of stories, as opposed to 8-9,” he said.
Sometimes, he picks stories while his audience arrives.
“Try your best, and don’t give up,” he said at the end of one story. “No matter your size.”
A father of two, Fascione involved the parents with clean jokes the children miss, but crack up the adults.
“Buck the deer cooked da stew,” he said in a faux-Chicago accent. “He swept da floors. He watched … da Bears.”
A theater major at Connecticut College in New London, Conn., Fascione said his performing gets him closer to his audience than regular acting.
“Unlike acting where you’ve got a fourth wall between the stage and the audience, you’ve got a character and you’re part of an ensemble following a script. Here, there’s no script, no fourth wall,” he said.
In college, teachers and directors encouraged him to ignore those who said children’s theater was a lesser art.
“It was a natural fit for me,” he said. “It feels good for me, makes me happy.”
Fascione always makes room in his monologue for local references.
“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” he said June 27. “When in Snoqualmie, go to the Falls.”
He returns to the Valley at 2 p.m. Aug. 1 with a show at the North Bend Library. In between, he will visit four states.
“I’m grateful that at my age I’m still making my living supporting my family by doing my art,” he said.
Young performers starting out need to learn from the pros.
“Get as much experience as possible,” he said. “It’s a Catch-22, hard to get hired with no experience. But go see people like me who make a living at this and talk to us after the show.”
Don’t steal the act, make it your own, he added.
In Snoqualmie, he pantomimed using juggling pins, telescopes, canes, even a pair of rowing paddles.
“What’s another name for a paddle,” he asked. “Paddle or what?”
“Oar,” a girl said.
“Or what?” he retorted, and the girl laughed.
“Every magician gets a rabbit out of the hat,” he said. “The difference is in the patter, the monologue, the contact with the audience.”
Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or email@example.com.
If you go
- Children’s theater performer Chris Fascione
- 2 p.m. Aug. 1
- North Bend Library
- 115 E. Fourth St.