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« More, More, More at the Chicago Fringe Festival Do Your Own Thing: An Interview with Wes Perry »

Comedy Tue Sep 04 2012

The Mighty Ted Turns Pain into Laughter

Mighty Ted Logo.jpgThree years ago, at age 56, Ted Waltmire woke up in the middle of the night and couldn't move. He knew something was going on, so he woke up his wife of 27 years, and she called 911 -- cue the music, lights up on The Mighty Ted, Waltmire's new show that just opened last Saturday in Donny's Skybox Theatre at the Second City. The Mighty Ted chronicles Waltmire's journey after the stroke.

"I was sitting at home [after the therapies] very, very frustrated, because it's no fun to sit down and play one-handed piano, and I needed some kind of creative outlet," said Waltmire. "My friend Dale Galiniak -- who's in the show -- suggested that we take improv. I kind-of jumped at the chance to get out of the house and have an excuse to hang out in the bars afterwards."

In March 2010, Waltmire started taking classes at Second City. He completed improv classes levels A through E and the writing program.

"I thought 'I want to find a way to share with people what it's like in the prime of your life to have a life-changing experience like [a stroke]," said Waltmire. "I had been a librarian for the last 29 years of my life, and I thought 'oh, I'll write a book' then I thought 'I don't want to write a book because you don't get any kind of impact other than if people would take the time to write you about the book. It's gotta be a show."

He was encouraged by a previous teacher, Andy Eninger, to submit a proposal -- an opportunity for Second City students and graduates to have a show go up -- to Donny's Skybox Theatre. After his proposal was accepted, Waltmire started crafting his script. He eventually showed it to one of his previous improv teachers Jay Sukow and asked him if he'd be interested in directing the show. Sukow agreed and helped Waltmire with the material -- encouraging Waltmire to embrace his love of musicals.

Participating in musicals had always been Waltmire's big passion. He has music-directed several shows for community and college theaters in the western suburbs of Chicago.

"I was always going to sit down and take a shot at writing a musical," said Waltmire. "Who would have thought that having a stroke would actually result in that goal actually being accomplished?" Mighty Ted cast.JPG

Waltmire's stroke was one that affected the right side of his brain, which in turn affected the left side of his body. He lost the use of his left hand and with it the ability to play the piano.

"Stephanie McCullough was the musical director for the writing six show that I did [at Second City] and that's the first person that I went to -- I said, 'I could write the melodies but I don't have the left hand in order to sit down, play the piano and fill in the harmonies," said Waltmire. "She has been my left hand during the writing process."

There are seven musical numbers in the show, and audiences will be able to take home a part of the journey. The Mighty Ted team recently went into a recording studio and laid down the piano tracks for a CD of the songs.

The show deals with the therapies he went through, like speech therapy and occupational therapy (which is outlined in a song). The material also talks about what it takes to adjust to going back home -- specifically the adjustments his wife had to make. It also talks about the "joys" of trying to collect Social Security disability income.

"I don't think Social Security will be very happy with the way they're portrayed in the show," said Waltmire, "because most of the people we encountered were assholes."

While Waltmire wrote the material -- one-handed on his iPad -- he will also be playing himself for the show's run.

"Because the show is so personal, I hope that people don't think this is an ego trip," said Waltmire. "It's a way to hopefully educate and inspire [the audience] a little bit to step in my shoes and realize that something like this could happen to them...[H]opefully it will get the audience to appreciate the great things in their life that they have and are able to do."

The Mighty Ted will run in Donny's Skybox Theatre, 1608 N. Wells St., every Saturday in September at 9pm. Hurry up and get your tickets, because they're going fast -- one night is already sold out!

 
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Architecture Tue Nov 03 2015

Paul Goldberger Describes the "Pragmatism and Poetry" of Frank Gehry's Architecture in His New Book

By Nancy Bishop

Architecture critic Paul Goldberger talks about Frank Gehry's life and work in a new book.
Read this feature »

Steve at the Movies Fri Jan 01 2016

Best Feature Films & Documentaries of 2015

By Steve Prokopy

Read this column »

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