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COLUMN: Orillia actor looking to clown around as Waldo W. Wowser

Kevin Scharf's clown persona is focused on music, storytelling and improv to create a 'character that is full of awe and wonder'
Waldo W. Wowser is new in town, and excited to meet you. credit Kevin Scharf.
Waldo W. Wowser, the new alter ego of actor Kevin Scharf, is new in town, and excited to meet you.

I wanted to start off today by telling you a bit about a little pandemic project that local theatre actor Kevin Scharf has been creating.

In addition to being involved in lots of live theatre, Kevin had gotten into some Santa Claus opportunities in various places the last few years, pre-pandemic. Of course, when COVID-19 hit, there went that gig, and the fun and interaction with the kids that he really enjoyed. So, he started thinking about how he could find that fun, during a global pandemic.

“This past year I realized how much joy I got from interacting with kids and I wanted to figure out a way to keep doing that when it wasn’t holiday time,” reflected Scharf. “I have been fascinated by clowns since I was a kid and knowing I was reaching a milestone birthday this year I felt there was no time like the present to give it a go,” he added.

Scharf reached out to friends in the online Santa community, who helped him find courses and information on becoming a clown. He joined in an online clown convention, where he met so many great clowns who were open to mentoring and helping him find his path.

“I realized my strengths aren’t juggling or balloon animals, but music, storytelling and improv," said Scharf. "Those are the skills I have focused on, creating a character that is full of awe and wonder.”

And thus, Waldo W. Wowser was born.

Due to the pandemic, Scharf added, “I have mostly been putting videos online, on Facebook and TikTok, but I did have my first gig just last week at a small family birthday party. It was wonderful to finally get Waldo in front of some kids and get their reactions.”

The future is wide open for this clown.

“I’d love to do more parties and festivals,” enthused Scharf. “I also want to learn about caring clowning and maybe do some visits to hospitals or nursing homes. The main thing is I am having a ball discovering who Waldo is, and I can’t wait to see what he becomes.”

This pandemic has been full of possibilities for lots of people, it appears. So, if you see Waldo in the streets of Orillia, give him a friendly hello and a wave, he’s a nice fellow who is looking forward to meeting you! Or, you can meet him virtually through his Facebook page, here.

Things are opening up more and more, and finally some events are happening to support that. A huge thing is that live music is finally returning! At this point, only outside, with strict protocols in place, but what a treat for musicians who have been stopped in their tracks for well over a year, to finally be able to rehearse and gig again.

Recently, I ran into local musician Steve Van Kessel, who told me he had rehearsed with his band for the first time since March 2020, last week. It was an emotional reunion for all of them, and there was so much joy in playing together again, he said.

Burl’s Creek Event Grounds has announced several live music weekends in August, the Endless Summer Series, with camping included, at their venue in Oro-Medonte. You can get all the details and tickets, starting July 9, here.

The Orillia Youth Centre has announced its traditional September musical fundraiser, this year featuring local fan fave, Irish Mythen. At this point, only 100 patrons are allowed in the large outdoor venue at ODAS Park and, of course, it sold out in hours, but you can put yourself on the wait list here. It’s Sept. 25 at ODAS Park, and there is amazing food by Eclectic Café, too.

There are weekly art walks on Friday nights during See You on the Patio, but the Orillia Fine Arts Association decided to liven things up with an Art Tour of its own. Saturday July 17 from 1 to 4 p.m., please walk the OFAA mini tour with six stops leading from the Peter Street Arts District to The West Village. Or, start in the West Village and finish up downtown!

Golden Beaver Coffee and Mark IV Café will serve as rest stops, and visitors to the artist locations will receive a coupon for 20% off a beverage at either of those places to be used only on the afternoon of the tour. All stops will have social distancing and mask protocols in place. Grab a brochure in a gallery downtown and check this mini tour out!

Creative Nomad Studios is embracing See You on the Patio with different activities every other week to coincide with Friday night street closures. July 16, sign up for mandala tile painting, paint your own tiles in tables of four, for only $19 per person. Click here to sign up.

The Orillia Museum of Art and History’s History Speaker’s Series has a special summer bonus edition, Let the Fur Fly, to coincide with the exhibition Unfurled. Jill Price and John Savage will be giving a virtual talk on the fur trade from both a human and imagined animal perspective. The talk, July 14 at 7 p.m., is free, and you can sign up here.

OMAH also gave an update on the success of its Spring Back art auction with Charles Pachter. More than $40,000 was raised through this exciting three-day event of auctions, food, and fun. Well done OMAH, and thanks so much to Charles Pachter for his generous support, as well as the main sponsor of this special event, HGR Graham Partners LLP.

And finally, the Orillia Public Library is once again open to the public! It will be wonderful to enjoy this special place once again, hours and programming can be checked out here.

I am off on summer holidays next week, but the weekly arts column will return after that. Send your arts news to annaproctor111@gmail.com to be included, and have a wonderful artsy couple of weeks!