Following the quarter-page article about my portrayal of Dr Franklin in an April 2019 edition of the Wall Street Journal, Andrew Levine, the creator and publisher of the podcast “Second Act Stories” (www.secondactstories.org) contacted me earlier this year to interview me for a podcast dealing with how and why I decided to portray Dr Franklin, and included an interview with the iconic Ben himself.
That interview was released August 31, 2020.
I have created a link for anyone wishing to hear the podcast –
Please enjoy, and let me know what you think of the interview.
Reprint Courtesy of:
The Wall Street Journal - April 22, 2019
He Used to Be a Financial Adviser. Now He’s Benjamin Franklin.
April 21, 2019 10:02 p.m. ET
Hometown: New Berlin, Wis.
Primary career: Financial adviser
Current path: Benjamin Franklin re-enactor
Why this path: “So that people can understand what he was like. What did he do as a founding father? What kind of person was he?”
On a typical summer weekend, Terry Kutz can be found under a canvas canopy in a sunny field, advertising his talents with a sign that says, “Dr. B. Franklin, Postmaster.”
To all who stop to listen, the portly 67-year-old with shoulder-length white hair and spectacles, dressed in a puffy shirt and colonial pants, will speak about such “current events” as the American Revolution, the need for French support against the British, and his recent discovery of electricity.
Mr. Kutz, who retired two years ago as a financial adviser in New Berlin, Wis., is a historical re-enactor specializing in portrayals of Benjamin Franklin. Now, instead of helping people reach their financial goals, he devotes himself to bringing Franklin back to life, helping people better understand the inventor and statesman, and the times he lived in.
“It makes me think about what we were doing at that time, what kind of people we were and what we were trying to accomplish then,” Mr. Kutz says. He particularly appreciates being able to explain “what people did during the American Revolution to give us the freedoms and ability to do things today.”
Mr. Kutz’s journey back in time started in 1999, when he went with a friend to see a Revolutionary War re-enactment in Milwaukee put on by a group called the North West Territory Alliance. A booklet produced by the group led him to recall that one of his ancestors had served in two of the original units represented in the event. This inspired him to join the alliance the next year and to become a rifleman in the re-enactments.
Then, a few years later, he was asked to portray Franklin on the first day of a two-day re-enactment.
“I said, ‘Sure, I’ll try it for a day,’ ” he recalls.
In a gentleman’s overcoat made by his wife, Vicki, and a wig he found on eBay, he made a good impression as Franklin, he says. So, for a few years he portrayed Franklin and a rifleman, switching back and forth. But eventually, running through fields in midsummer carrying a heavy rifle became too much, so he switched to Franklin exclusively. Now his hobby has become a full-time occupation.
He typically spends about 20 hours a week preparing, performing and doing research, he says, though weeks with multiple performances can sometimes require 75 to 80 hours. In his spare time, he’s also an election official for his city, serves on the board of directors for a support group for his local library, and is active in his church.
Mr. Kutz has come to resemble Franklin. He wears the bifocal glasses that Franklin invented, and keeps his white hair long. “I can slip into this persona very easily,” he says.
He performs at a variety of venues, including Revolutionary War re-enactments, folk fairs and schools. And he does his homework. He says he has read some 130 books about Franklin and his times.
“Sometimes my wife says, ‘You’re taking on a little too much,’ ” Mr. Kutz says. “She says this is an obsession. But she understands this is my interest.”
The process of translating 18th-century English into meaningful modern-day conversation “keeps my mind sharp,” he says. “As long as I can go out into the field, I’ll continue doing this as long as I possibly can.”