July 26, 2014

Elyria
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Councilman leads a double life, sometimes

Dennis Boose leads two lives — once in awhile.

Boose, 52, who was elected Ward 2 councilman for North Ridgeville in 2005, splits his time between being an elected official, working as vice president and manager of Dollar Bank’s small business division and portraying Samuel Langhorne Clemens, whose pen name was Mark Twain.

Twain is a character Boose has perfected. After all, he has been portraying the author since 1981.

“It’s a way to give back,” Boose said before presenting himself as Twain at Amherst Public Library earlier this month.

CARL SULLENBERGER / CHRONICLE
North Ridgeville Councilman Dennis Boose as Mark Twain.

Boose, a graduate of Bowling Green State University with a degree in theater and a minor in speech communications, has always been interested in the life Twain led, and over time learned to bring back to life a man who died in 1910.

When Boose was a student at BGSU, he portrayed a young Twain in a college production. It was also during this time that one of his professors had the voice of Twain recorded on cassette from one of Twain’s lectures.

“I learned how to speak in his voice and I try to keep (the presentations) humorous and show the lighter side of his work,” Boose said, noting that Twain’s work changed after the death of his daughter — it became a bit darker.

The most popular of Twain’s works include “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calavaras County.”

After studying the life of Twain for an extended period of time, Boose, a Democrat, soon learned that in order to play the part, you had to look the part.

So, by donning a white suit with a black tie, a white-gray colored wig and holding a cigar in one hand, Boose is able to appeal to his audiences because rather than listening to  someone speak about Twain, they are actually seeing Twain lecture.

Throughout Boose’s presentation as Twain, he tosses in a few phrases attributed to Twain, such as “Be good and you will be lonesome” and “It is better to have bad morals than none at all.”

Twain, an author of 30 books and numerous short stories, was also a licensed steamboat operator and owned a publishing company. He took his life experiences and turned them into literature, Boose said.

“It’s important to have his writings come to life. I believe (Twain) is one of America’s greatest writers and you have a greater appreciation for the writings if you understand his background,” Boose said.

Boose portrays Twain three to four times a year, mostly for libraries or other community groups.

At 18, Boose found himself in New York acting in an off-Broadway show. After six months in the Big Apple, he realized his career in acting could not make ends meet, so he went back to BGSU where he earned his degree.

Even though acting did not work out for Boose as a career, he still found time between 1973 and 1990 to be in 75 plays, which included a few high school productions, college shows and community performances.

“I just enjoy (acting). I wish I had the time for theater, but between my job and City Council,” Boose said shaking his head. “I was a director once and I know plays take six to eight weeks, every night, and I don’t have the time.”

In the meantime, Boose will continue to slip into the character he has come to know so well.