It’s easy to appreciate the wonder of life when you’re a child, but with age comes the curse of adulthood—jobs, bills, stress and the erosion of wonder.
Combining deft slight-of-hand magic, humor, flawless miming, Japanese origami and astounding feats of shadow puppetry, the rousing stage act of Maine resident Leland Faulkner—entitled World of Wonder, which he preformed recently at the Syosset Public Library—drives home his philosophy quite aptly; that everyone needs to be reminded of the wonder that surrounds us each and every day.
Faulkner can certainly can boast of extreme diversity in his life. A Native American of the Chippewa Tribe, he was born in Afghanistan while his father, an employee of the U.S. Department of State, was there with his family on business.
“I had dual nationality, which is very unusual,” he said. “However, when I was 16 I had to make a choice…will I be a U.S. citizen or become an Afghan? Obviously, I chose to be a U.S. citizen…I didn’t feel like hiding in caves and fighting Russians.”
Thanks to his father’s career path, Faulkner lived in a great many foreign countries—including Iraq and East Africa—and only first set foot on American soil when he was set to enter the sixth grade. He said his multi-cultural upbringing not only had a huge influence on him, but upon the content of his stage act as well.
“I do all kinds of things from all over the world…there’s mime, there’s storytelling, there’s magic,” he said. “It’s called World of Wonder, and I’m trying to invoke wonder from people, no matter how old they are. I want to remind then that there’s more to live theater than you can find a film or on a cell phone…the live interaction is real, it’s tangible. Something happens with your imagination that doesn’t happen with those other mediums. It’s very much like reading a book…you get to make the dream as a spectator.”
Faulkner first felt the acting bug bite him at the age of 13. It was at that time that he took his first acting class, and from there the dream of performing on-stage never left him. Taking a diverse series of courses throughout high school ranging from improvisational acting to mime, Faulkner eventually apprenticed and toured for three years with Tony Montanaro, a professional theater teacher with whom he created and honed his current family-friendly World of Wonder act.
“Tony was a magnetic personality, hugely charismatic and his acting was brilliant,” he said. “He totally transformed my view on theater, acting and art. He has passed away since, but I still feel like he’s teaching me…I hear his whisper all the time.”
One of the most striking aspects of Faulkner’s World of Wonder is his ability with shadow puppetry. Blessed with seemingly snake-like digits, his hands, once behind his large back-lit prop screen, are able to conjure up almost any creature the animal kingdom can muster. He accentuates the fluidity of their animation—again, using only his hands—with spot-on vocal mimicry of his extensive bestiary, all to the delight of his audience.
“The shadows are not just static figures,” he said. “I try to make them come alive with movement, with just with a pair of hands.”
Sue Ann Reale, the head of children’s services at the Syosset Library, said that he had heard of Faulkner and knew his astounding talents would go over well with local residents.
“He seemed really different, with the shadow puppets and the storytelling,” she said. “I thought it would be very interesting to our patrons, and seeing that the auditorium is nearly filled to capacity for Mr. Faulkner today, I guess that is the case.”
Syosset resident Joanne Krasuer and her two sons, Sam and Roger, were among the audience members at World of Wonder, and they came away with quite wowed by Faulkner’s showmanship.
“It was a lovely show, unique, entertaining and inspiring from start to finish,” Krasuer said. “He’s such a talented man, and people could learn a thing or two about what he said about remembering to embrace a sense of wonder, which is harder and harder to do when you grow up and take on grown-up responsibilities. He reminded me of that today, and I want to thank him for that.”
Faulkner currently performs World of Wonder all over the world, and said that he still gets excited before every moment before he steps out onto the stage. That sense of wonder within him, he said, will never die—it is what keeps him going.
“I’m trying to appeal to a very broad range of ages…I’m trying to bring a sense of wonder to everyone, no matter how old they are, or how young,” he said. “To this day, I still get giddy when I hear the venue fill up with the sounds of kids, and I always will. I love what I do.”
To find out more about Leland Faulkner, visit his Facebook page at www.facebook.com/faulknerfilm.