Performer brings artists back to life One-man shows carry a message

July 21, 1993|By Amy P. Ingram | Amy P. Ingram,Contributing Writer

Ludwig von Beethoven didn't die; he's alive and well in 62-year-old Ted Brown.

Dr. Brown, a resident of Annapolis, has made a career of bringing back the gifted spirits of famous musicians and painters such as Mozart, Picasso, da Vinci and Chopin. He travels across the country eight months a year impersonating these famous characters from the past.

His captivating performances have left audiences cheering and sometimes crying.

"I want people to know that gifted individuals like Monet and Beethoven had as many problems as we do and just as many frustrations," he said. "In each performance there's a message."

Dr. Brown, a member of the Performing Arts Association of Linthicum, began acting when he was an Anne Arundel County school principal 18 years ago. Deciding he wanted to get more students involved in fine arts, he dressed as Chopin and, from memory, re-created the life of the musical genius.

The show went over so well that he began receiving phone calls from other schools demanding such a performance. The calls and letters never stopped, so Mr. Brown retired from his position as principal and took up acting full time.

"Somebody handed me a new career," he said.

His show, called Masters and Maestros, is a product of his own one-man acting com

pany, Ted Brown Productions. And its headquarters is his bottom-floor apartment on Primrose Road in Annapolis. Although he spent two years at Peabody Music Conservatory and graduated from the University of Maryland with a doctorate in education, he says he considers himself "an actor who uses a painting or piano as a prop. I'm a one-man show and that's all."

In each of his 55-minute performances, he displays his own talents while reminding the audience of the talent of the musician or painter he's impersonating. All paintings displayed in his routine are of his own creation. He said he's spent years researching, analyzing and duplicating the paintings of van Gogh, da Vinci, Picasso and Monet.

His shows are unrehearsed and ad-libbed, so the message seems even more realistic.

Van Gogh says, "Don't ever give up," while Mozart tells the audience, "Mediocrity kills genius."

Dr. Brown performs about 150 shows a year at schools, conventions, nursing homes and senior centers. His shows have taken him from Arizona to Key West to Canada and keep him booked for much of the year.

He said his favorite shows are at schools. "Some say my shows are too sophisticated for students, but I say kids

deserve quality, too. They don't usually forget what they see."

A performance at Severna Park High School in April earned him a three-minute standing ovation, he said.

Mr. Brown says performing has not only filled his time and kept him busy, but has become an addiction. "Where can you find a job doing all the things you love to do -- playing music, acting, painting and teaching? I'll go as long as George Burns has."

Mr. Burns turned 97 Jan. 20.

In his next show, Mr. Brown will impersonate Hungarian composer Franz Liszt to a crowd at Goucher College in Towson.

"I haven't had so much fun since I was 18," he said. "When I grow up, maybe I'll try science."

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