Jenni Burnam CCBC Dundalk
Actor-storyteller and Vietnam Veteran Troy Evans decided to be an actor while serving time in a Montana prison. “I bet nobody ever asks an actor if he has a felony conviction,” he thought one day sitting in his prison cell. His plan worked. Now more than 30 years later, with over 400 television episodes and 50 films to his credit, he is touring the country telling the stories of his own real-life adventures.
Evans will come to CCBC Dundalk to perform his moving, highly entertaining one-man show, “Montana Tales, and Other Bad Ass Business” in Room 101 of the Roy N. Staten building, courtesy of the CCBC Student Veterans of America and Student Life.
The event will begin at 12:30 with a ceremony at the flagpole to honor the Veterans. Tickets are free of charge but must be obtained in advance by calling the CCBC Box Office at 443-840-2787.
Fans of the show “ER” know Troy Evans as Frank the desk clerk, the curmudgeon with a sharp word for everyone but a good heart beneath it all. Evans lent a few key details of his story to the character Frank. Like Evans, Frank had undergone surgery for a hip replacement, and like Evans, Frank had served in Vietnam. Frank the character was an ex-cop; Evans the man was an ex-con.
He was born in Missoula, Montana in 1948. He was “Mr. Clean-Cut Young Guy,” class president; sure he’d follow in the footsteps of his politician grandfather, wanting to be the first Western American to run for President.
Like so many of his generation, Evans was drafted to serve in Vietnam when he was barely out of high school, throwing a wrench in the plans he’d made. He returned to Kalispell, Montana from a 16-month tour with the 25th Infantry Division during the height of antiwar sentiment in America.
Home less than eight hours, in full uniform and the medals he had earned, a mounted police officer started shooting rock salt at his back. It was the start of Evans’ “bad attitude,” he says–three years of brawling and drinking that would finally land him in prison for aggravated assault.
During those years, with a successful bar and a hand in local community theater, Evans didn’t realize at the time that he was suffering Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). He was out of his mind, he says, and didn’t know it. Now he looks at the situation wryly, saying, “I ended up with what you might call ‘bottle fatigue.’”
Evans said calmly of the incident, where he came to the aid of a customer’s wife who was being harassed. “I broke his leg, fractured his skull. They teach you those things in the Army.”
Faced with aggravated assault charges and looking to lighten what could be a lengthy prison sentence, he convinced them he was crazy by showing up to the exam as Grouch Marx, and it worked. Released after 19 months, Evans returned to school on the GI Bill and a year later moved to Santa Maria, Ca. to accept a scholarship to the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts. His appearances in “40 to 60” plays there over four years was a fitting launch to the prolific career he would go on to have.
It’s a safe bet that most people who have watched TV or movies over the past 30 years-even those who missed ER- have seen Troy Evans in one of the hundreds of character parts or featured roles he’s played.
He has appeared in an eclectic mix of projects: NCIS, CSI, The Jamie Foxx Show, Hannah Montana, Cheers, Night Court, The Practice, Mama’s Family, Reba, The Stand, Twin Peaks, Planes Trains & Automobiles, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Phenomenon, and the animated feature Epic, to name a tiny handful. He’s been featured in major roles in the film Agent 99 as a soldier and the TV show China Beach as an army sergeant.
Evans knows the secret to working as much as he wants to: he can be counted on for a good performance, and whether he’s the lead or has just one line he’s never acts like a prima donna.
His stand-in for the 1995 film Woman Undone described Troy Evans as a cool guy and a good example. He reported Evans was never demanding though his lead role would have allowed it, and he ate with the cast and crew, and never acted like a prima donna.
Anne Hearn, who played opposite Evans in a 1985 play, remembers the indelible character he created in the hulking but childlike man Walker. When Walker’s love was rejected by Hearn’s character, the outpouring of emotion and wounded dignity touched everyone in the audience.
Even then, Evans was already working on his storytelling, and Hearn recalls the impression he made telling his stories at a small venue. “Troy was always amazing as an actor. Never had I heard anything of such power and fascination–Troy still remains a high bar with those talents.”
Evans never became a politician like his grandfather, but he did follow in his grandfather’s footsteps. His strongest memories of his grandfather were of him telling stories. “My grandfather could tell you a story about a bug and it would be scintillating.”
And storytelling was always something Evans had done.
“Montana Tales” began to take its current shape in 2010, after Evans learned of his father’s missions in Iwo Jima and his family’s part in the Montana gold rush of the 1860s. Revisiting his old stories through the lens of these two events as the key to his underlying origins, the show is a semi-scripted monologue that takes the listeners on a different journey each time, as he selects 20 specific stories out of his 300 for each venue he performs.
Though Troy Evans has walked some rough roads in his life, he promises to keep the material light, with a comic edge to even the prison stories. In recent years, after a moment of inspiration at the Washington Monument, he began to included his Vietnam stories with the hope that people will be filled up by them and that “at the end audiences feel …idealistic.”
The CCBC Community is in for a unique and memorable experience this Veterans Day with what many audience members have called their favorite theatrical experience ever.
Tickets are required. Call the CCBC Box Office, 443-840-2787
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