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Thursday, February 01, 2007

C. Wayne Owens: A True Renaissance Man

by Karen J. Brady

When it comes to accomplishments, C. Wayne Owens, 56, known to many as Seymoure, has a lifetime of them.

"This man is, at his core, an entertainer," said Jesse Slicer, Owens' son-in-law. "Never have I known someone personally who was so immersed in the entertainment arts. He's always one of those types of guys who works hard and never asks for anything in return. Just a satisfied audience. That's something every entertainer should strive for."

Born in Oklahoma in 1950, but raised in Los Angeles, Owens was already working as an extra on popular television shows like "My Three Sons," and "Circus Boy" by the age of five.

In 1963, he left home to work and to attend college at Southwest Missouri State College and the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where he studied theater and performed in numerous landmark shows.

The show "King Henry's Feast," which Owens co-wrote and also performed, is the longest running live show in Kansas City, lasting for three years. It was from this show that the character Seymoure emerged and Owens toured the Renaissance circuit as that character.

"That's the truly amazing thing about C. Wayne Owens," Marc Gunn, a close friend and Renaissance performer, said. "He isn't just a comedian. He's a philosopher, a poet, a man who inspires."

Brian Wendling, who worked with Owens at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival and the old Westport Standford & Sons Comedy Club, agrees.

"Beyond his performing and writing abilities, he is a gentle and generous man, and to me, that says more than any of his performing."

Owens is someone people respect. Not only does he perform, but he inspires others, not just performers, but those who take in his shows and see the very essence of this man.

"He has taught me that we all, as performers and as people, have something special to contribute, both to the performance environment and to the fabric of our lives as a community," said Denise Goodson, a performer at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. "His work at faires has spanned a number of venues, over an extended tenure and his contribution over the years has been not only to contribute to the performance at hand, but also to teach other performers what to bring to the table."

Goodson noted another important characteristic of Owens: that he is a consummate professional.

In fact, Owens is the first inductee into the Renaissance Festival Hall of Fame.

"I think he is the perfect recipient because of his contribution to the Renaissance festival circuit," Gunn said. "He made people laugh, taught people improv, and best of all, he opened people's minds in a way that transcended history lessons, and in a way that ultimately leads to a better life for all in our current day. I've known no one else at faire who has inspired me so much."

Wendling echoes those thoughts. "My sense of being a performer is twofold: to be a person of many interests and passions. Seymoure is certainly that, and to be a solo stage performer at a Renaissance festival, one should have the ability to hold the audience with your voice and your story, whatever that story is, and Seymoure has many stories, on many levels."

To Goodson, it is the example that Owens sets that makes him the perfect recipient of this award.

Indeed, those who know Owens do try to live up to the example he has set in the Renaissance faire circuit. It seems every performer or anyone who takes in one of his shows walks away changed in some way by not only his presence, but the way he projects himself to those around him.

"Back in 2000, we struggled with anonymity and were trying to find a place in the Renaissance festival world," Gunn says of his duo, the Brobdingnagian Bards. "C. Wayne Owens, through Seymoure, and also through our professional relationship that developed outside of faire, showed me that there is more to this business of music than self-service. There is a higher cause, to help inspire fans, and helps bands selflessly so that others may share the love and dignity that we were shown."

It seems to be a common tale told by other performers who know him.

"He was always kind to me, and since I was a shy transplant to the Kansas City area, that meant a lot," Wendling said. "And as I get older, he is one of those touchstones that knows part of my history from almost 30 years ago. Those early days of the Kansas City Renaissance Festival were full of newness and energy and fun. Seymoure was one of those special people then...and he still is."

For Slicer, Owens' influence goes beyond the realm of performances and faires to a more personal level.

"What can I say about my kids' grandpappy, my wife's papa and a fellow who has not only treated me like a son, but taught me so much about the entertainment world? Well, I guess I can, at a minimum, say ‘thanks' to him. He's been a major influence in many parts of my life, obviously, but I think I learn the most about him, and myself, watching his interactions with others."

For a man like Owens, who grew up with entertainment in his blood, from credits for writing and performing in a variety of shows and films, an appearance on "Jeopardy," touring Europe and the Middle East, headlining the first USO All Stand-up Comedy Show, creating comic strip characters, and recording five music and comedy albums, it might seem as though he'd find other venues in which to display his talent. On the contrary, it seems his performances at the Renaissance faires have touched not only other performers, but those who simply came to observe and instead found themselves inspired.

Gunn sums it up the best.

"When I talk to Seymoure, I find new meaning in my life. I find direction about what is important. Seymoure inspires me to think, about life, the universe and everything. And if I had one wish for my dying days, it would be that I was able to inspire people as Seymoure has inspired me."

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--posted by Marc Gunn
  1:13 PM



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