BEN FRANKLIN: An Ingenious Life 

is available for licensing, or for bookings by the author/performer. Contact Ray@RayFlynt.com for more information.

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BEN FRANKLIN: An Ingenious Life

A One-Man Play, Written and Performed by Ray Flynt

 

The play envisions Ben Franklin, late in his remarkable life, talking with visitors in his Philadelphia home.

 

Franklin’s life as printer, businessman, philospher, scientist, inventor, statesman and diplomat is unmatched. He has been described as the man who “snatched lightning from the clouds and scepters from the hands of tyrants,” but that barely scratches the surface. His scientific accomplishments were as important to the 18th Century as Sir Isaac Newton’s were to the 17th, and Franklin routinely appears on lists of the 100 people who changed the world. The audience is invited into his home, late in his life, to share in the wisdom and wit of an ingenious life.

Franklin was born on January 17, 1706 and died at the age of 84 on April 17, 1790. The principle source materials are Franklin’s own words from his posthumously-published autobiography (detailing his life through 1757) and numerous letters and essays. 

So many of his observations about life, politics, war, religion and education are just as relevant today. He had only two years of formal education, but was a voracious reader and possessed a “curious spirit.”

The play is primarily based on Franklin’s writings, including his autobiography, letters and essays. Edits ensured that his 18th Century language would be accessible to a 21st Century audience. “The Speech of Miss Polly Baker,” a story published in the Pennsylvania Gazette about a woman prosecuted in Connecticut for having a bastard child, was four times longer in the original. In the later years of Franklin’s life, his daughter, Sarah Bache, who he called Sally, took care of  him. A few conversations with his daughter are imagined to add context to the play’s location. 

REVIEWS

HISTORY COMES ALIVE in BEN FRANKLIN AN INGENIOUS LIFE with Ray Flynt
Kimberly Moy – BroadwayWorld.com - January 13, 2017

Benjamin Franklin: one of America's Founding Fathers and man on the $100 bill comes to life in Ray Flynt's BEN FRANKLIN: AN INGENIOUS LIFE. Known as a philosopher, inventor, signer of the Declaration of Independence and the guy with the kite and key in thunderstorm, Ben Franklin is the stuff of legend, but a real person nonetheless. Ray Flynt takes on the iconic figure in the one-man-show, which he wrote, directs and performs.


It begins in Franklin's Philadelphia home during the 1780's. The set is cozy with a modest desk and chair. Flynt directly addresses the audience as though we are guests in his house. From there the ramblings and recollections of old man Franklin take shape. We learn of his childhood and how his struggles lead him to the man he would become. Franklin was quite the acolyte and a man before his time with his ideas of freedom for all people, electricity, and the list goes on.


History nerds will enjoy this show as the timeline of Benjamin Franklin's life follows the birth of the nation. I'm a self-proclaimed history buff even before it was considered cool by HAMILTON. It was interesting to hear the American perspective from the well-respected and well-known activist. While serving as the minister to France during the 1780s, he brought his ideas of freedom to our allies during the American Revolution.


Flynt developed his script using Franklin's posthumous autobiography, letters and essays. So the show's material is sourced directly from Franklin's words. It does not feel like an audiobook or an essay being read aloud. Think of it as a one-sided conversation. There are colonial jokes about "wind" and "wine" that illustrate Franklin's wit. After the show, it becomes a two-sided conversation, as Flynt offers a talk back.


One thing that caught me off guard was the amount of Franklin-isms that are still used today and exactly how much of our American story was influenced by Franklin. For example, Franklin said: "Early to bed. Early to Rise. Makes a man healthy and wise." He believed that time and resources could be saved if people woke up at dawn and slept at dusk. Sound familiar? Perhaps Ben Franklin invented Daylight Savings Time. There were many more instances like this where my ears pricked up in recognition of a quote. Ben Franklin was a man full of wise words indeed.


Ray Flynt embodies the larger-than-life character. The character, so frequently depicted in popular culture, does not disappoint. The colonial English rolls off Flynt's tongue as if he speaks like that every day. Flynt's tone and cadence while reading sections of the Declaration of Independence was impactful and real. I imagine Ben Franklin to be more ostentatious and privileged, but Flynt chooses to portray Franklin in a softer light. We see Flynt as Franklin reviewing life from a point of view where he is self-aware of his extraordinary position.


I left the performance wondering, if Franklin were alive today what would he think of our world? He would definitely be fascinated with all of our "modern" facilities that make life convenient. I can also see him concerned about how little our government has changed. Ben Franklin's birthday is January 17, which would make him 311 years old.

Ben Franklin: An Ingenious Life - Created and Performed by Ray Flynt
Presented at the John & Rita Lowndes Shakespeare Center

By Carl F. Gauze in Ink19.com - January 16, 2017


“Sometimes opportunity knocks more than once,” and that sums up the life of America’s first true polymath, Ben Franklin. Today’s youth knows him best for his work on the $100 bill, but in his lifetime he was a printer, a political activist and a major technology innovator in a land that still feared Indian attacks. Like all good one man evenings, Ray Flynt has the middle aged, successful build we associate with Franklin. He’s done his research and knows about as much as one can about this man who would be 311 if he were alive today. Interesting factoid: Franklin was the youngest son of a youngest son going back 300 years. Well, someone has to do it.


We meet Mr. Franklin in his study at the Santos Dantin Theatre space; here he discusses his childhood, the misery of being indentured to his older brother and beaten regularity as an act of brotherly love. He became good at printing and better at writing; his letters to the editor were anonymous yet well received. He ended up as the biggest print shop in Philadelphia, and after he retired in his 40s he took up politics. London and Paris were his preferred postings; he was the colonial agent to the Crown for the colonies of Pennsylvania, Massachusetts and Georgia. When the Unites States came to be he badgered the French government to support the colonies with troops and skillfully used an age-old European grudge to our favor.


As Franklin, Flynt keeps us on our toes and he clearly holds more anecdotes than will fit in to an already lengthy 90 minute evening. Unlike many one person shows there’s an intermission; it’s a risky business in these days of short attention spans. After the show Flynt hangs around (out of the heavy wig and constraining waistcoat) to answer historical and not so historical question about himself and this project. This is the sort of history we can all enjoy: enlightening, bright, and no scary essay questions on the test. 

BIG BEN BROUGHT TO LIFE

Ray Flynt graces PACA with a spectacular stroll down America's memory lane.

by Bob Kocur - ERI Jams Magazine - May 7, 2014

 

These days, it’s become quite fashionable to look upon famous people and to focus as much, if not more attention on their flaws as their achievements. In Ben Franklin: An Ingenious Life, we see a refreshing change; an educational, thoughtful, and often times humerous look at one of America’s most beloved figures.

The production is a one-man play, written, directed and masterfully performed by Ray Flynt, who is a theatre veteran, having performed in over sixty-five productions. He has portrayed Ben Franklin in the musical 1776 in Erie, Harrisburg and Annapolis, MD. His goal is to travel the country with this show, in order to educate our young people about the “first true American.” In the past, I’ve sometimes found one-person performances a bit longer than they needed to be. Not so, in this case, and the reason is due to Flynt’s captivating performance. It’s not a stretch to say that at times, you actually forget you’re watching an actor play Ben Franklin, instead of Ben Franklin himself.

Through the actor’s words, emotions and facial expressions, we get a rare glimpse into the soul of Ben Franklin, his nature and how his personality and ambitions were shaped by his early experiences, such as when he was denied permission to write a letter to The New England Courant for publication, young Franklin began submitting letters under the name of Mrs. Silence Dogood, the quality of which caused quite a stir among the townfolk. His brother James, upon learning of the ruse, became very angry, which led to Franklin’s search for greener pastures in Philadelphia.The highlights of the show are the insightful and thought provoking observations that are as valuable today as they were centuries ago. Certainly he is famous for his curiosity concerning the harnessing of electricity, and the inventions which grew out of his inquisitive nature, such as bifocals, the Franklin stone, and the lightning rod. When he discusses the game of chess however, and how we can learn so much about life from it, we begin to see Ben Franklin’s true genius. 

Other observations are a bit more light-hearted, such as the reasons why it is better to fall in love with an older woman. “They’re just so darn grateful!” He also speculates about the possibilities of gaseous releases being pleasant rather than offensive, by simply adding lime to certain foods. The character also discusses his passion for colonial unity and his opposition to the famous Stamp Act, which led directly to the Revolutionary War. The French admired his diplomacy and because of this, Franklin was able to secure valuable shipments of munitions during the war. A little known fact about Franklin is that after the war, he freed his own slaves, and became a well-known abolitionist.

If you’re an American history buff, or would just love an education about one of the world’s most influential figures, come see Ben Franklin: An Ingenious Life.
 

History Comes Alive via Ben Franklin show

By Erin McCarty, Erie Times-News - May 8, 2014

One of America's most fascinating figures has stepped out of the pages of history and onto the stage at PACA. Through the one-man show “Ben Franklin: An Ingenious Life,” Ray Flynt presents the brilliant and quirky Founding Father in a manner that is both educational and entertaining.

Flynt’s rumbling voice and twinkling eyes are a perfect combination as he welcomes audiences into his home like old friends. While there is great dignity in his bearing, his congeniality makes an even bigger impression. There’s a folksy quality to his deliver, making this legendary figure feel very approachable and surprisingly contemporary.

True, some of his vocabulary comes from an earlier time, but the wording is such that most adults and many children will have an easy time following his train of thought, which meanders pleasantly from autobiographical anecdotes to historical commentary with plenty of aphorisms skillfully woven in. The wit and wisdom he shares with his “visitors” is largely timeless.

The play is broken into two acts, given a natural pause through his dialogue with his daughter Sally, whose pleas for him to come to dinner are unheard by the audience. The first half deals primarily with Franklin’s early days, from his experiences with his brother’s newspaper to his arrival in Philadelphia, the city where he would spend most of his life. The second half focuses largely on the American Revolution and concludes with some of his more spiritual musings.

Flynt keeps the tone well balanced, moving from sage to somber to smiling and never going more than a few minutes without cracking a joke or two. From zippy zingers to rambling oratories, he keeps the audience laughing. Particularly amusing are his extended reflections on the evils of gout and the joys of being allowed to break wind freely.

With the aid of Robert Mikrut’s distinguished costume and Jeannie Santos’ wig, Flynt transforms himself into Franklin, cultivating a sense of intimate communion with this fascinating, multifaceted man. Fit for all ages, this show offers a wonderful way to breathe fresh life into history. 
 

AUDIENCE COMMENTS (via Facebook and email)

 

  • "I don't know which I enjoyed more, the quality of your performance as Benjamin Franklin, or the skill and craft displayed in your writing of the script. I only know I enjoyed them both immensely. A BRAVO performance as good as any one man stage performance I have ever seen, including James Whitmore as Will Rogers, and Hal Holbrook as Mark Twain. Somehow, this shows needs to be seen by millions of people. The history of it, the voice of the man, and the quality of your performance, I repeat, BRAVO.” - David Bishop, author of mysteries.

  • "Great show--a friend suggested it--so a bunch of us went on Saturday. It was funny, sweet, informative, and topical. I highly encourage everyone to see it. This show is a MUST see!!"

  • "My wife, as myself, most enjoyed your show. Not remotely her kind of show but your knowledge and talent got her attention. She's been talking it up ever since."

  • “What an amazing show!!!! ...I really, really enjoyed it! Ray Flynt was in every way Ben Franklin!" - from an Erie theatre blog

  • “Wonderful play.”

  • “I thoroughly enjoyed your portrayal of Mr. Franklin and found the play to be amusing, educational and highly entertaining. One-man plays never fail to impress me - and you were astonishing. Seeing the world through Ben Franklin’s eyes, listening to him describe his struggles with (and responses to) the problems of his time, left me with a sense of hope: an emotion I haven’t experienced in quite a while.”

  • “A GREAT show! Don’t miss it!”

  • “As of last night I picture the young Ben Franklin walking thru Philly for the first time, disheveled and exhausted with a loaf of bread under each arm and wearily eating a third.”

  • “Saw an amazing one man show on Ben Franklin tonight, conceptualized/written by and starring Ray Flynt!!!”

  • “We enjoyed the ‘conversation’ with Mr. Franklin, and talked about your show with friends for a long time afterwards. Kudos!”

  • My husband and I attended last Friday’s performance of Ben Franklin... and absolutely, positively enjoyed ourselves. It was a wonderful 90 minutes ...and I felt like I really was visiting Ben, himself.”

  • “I wanted to tell you how much I enjoyed your show and your portrayal of Ben. He really came to life for me.”

  • “Quite wonderful.”

  • “Bravo Ray Flynt!!! BEN FRANKLIN: AN INGENIOUS LIFE was charming, insightful, cautionary, and inspiring - well conceived and confidently performed.”