Award-winning actress and Dayton native Nancy Cartwright, best known as the voice of Bart Simpson, will return to the Miami Valley next weekend for a series of performances with the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra.
In addition to the DPO’s “Stories and Dreams” classical programs on Friday, March 7, and Saturday, March 8, the popular voice artist will be featured in the “Musical Fables and Tales” family program on March 9.
At each of these shows, Cartwright will be narrating “The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics,” the popular children’s book by Norton Juster. The story will be accompanied by a full musical score composed by Robert Xavier Rodriguez and large screen projections of the book pages.
The Friday and Saturday night concerts will also include music by Carl Maria von Weber and Pyotr Tchaikovsky. Sunday’s program will also feature music from Candide and Mother Goose, a performance of the William Tell Overture and an animated film with score written by composer-in-residence Stella Sung.
We asked Nancy Cartwright about her growing up days in Kettering and her fascinating career.
ON DAYTON DAYS
Q. What are some of your early memories of growing up in Kettering?
A. Oakview Elementary; St. Charles Borromeo; Barnes Jr High and Fairmont (West) — I loved school and made many friends. Very involved with gymnastics, marching band, orchestra, theater, speech. Lots of signs early on that foreshadowed my career.
Friendly’s Ice Cream: my first job. Loved it. Loved the ice cream better. I waited on Jim Bennett, Pres/Gen Manger of WING Radio at the time and he sold me on idea of working at WING the next summer — one of the best decisions I ever made. WING Radio kick-started my career by doing a bit with drive time deejay Ken Warren. Also was introduced to Daws Butler, voice of Yogi Bear, through a contact at WING. Another great decision.
I remember being very active with the Kettering Parks and Rec. Loved arts and crafts. Loved my neighborhood and I was surrounded by lots of playmates. Good times. Club Marinol was a godsend to my parents as we rode our bikes up Ackerman to spend the entire summer swimming and playing in the pool.
Q. How did you first become interested in performing?
A. I heard of a speech contest at St. Charles and performed Rudyard Kiplings “How the Camel Got His Hump” complete with sound effects. It wasn’t written particularly funny but somehow it turned into a comedy and I walked away with first place. But it was the making people laugh that really turned me on. I loved it and continued to pursue this in my youth.
Q. What are some of the highlights of your return visits to Dayton and to Ohio?
Some of my highlights include doing an interview with a young reporter from the Dayton Daily News when the CBS Movie-of-the-Week “Marian Rose White” aired on television. I played the title role and that kicked off my on-camera career. Then about six months later I flew back to Dayton for a screening of “Twilight Zone, the Movie” at the Dayton Mall. Tons of friends and family were there. My dad rented a limo and that was the first time I had ever ridden in one. Another highlight was being honored by (installed in) the Dayton Radio and Television Hall of Fame. Lots of employees from WING and my old neighborhood attended and I was quite touched.
ON YOUR CAREER
Q. What’s the biggest challenge of being a vocal performer?
A. Creating new and different sounding voices. So many of them have “hints” of Bart, Nelson, Ralph, Kearney, Todd, Database and/or Maggie.
Q. How do you care for your voice?
A. I don’t do anything that would cause it damage. I don’t drink, smoke or do drugs. And when I lose my voice, I just shut up.
Q. What do you think are some of the factors that have made The Simpsons such a popular and long-running show?
A. The writing is the No. 1 reason why the show is so successful. And that it is animation, the characters can be young, old, go back in time, go into the future, etc. There are no limitations to what the writers can do because the “actors” don’t age. And something about an ensemble that works as well as we do has to be mentioned. We love our jobs and it continues to not only provide more work, but it continues to be fun to do.
Q. What were some of the challenges of playing Bart and other characters?
A. The biggest challenge in playing Bart (or any other character, for that matter) is maintaining a consistency in sound. With 25 years under our belts, if you watch any of the earlier shows you will slight inconsistencies in our characters as we were developing them. It is all a part of the process. What I enjoy most is the freedom the show gives me in terms of creative license. The writers like it when we improv because we are contributing to the overall effect that will create on the audience. Obviously I don’t have any “say” as to which take they will use, but that doesn’t stop me from contributing.
Q. What’s your advice to parents whose children would like to do something artistic and creative?
A. I believe it is a parent’s job to provide a safe and loving environment and guide his/her child in the direction the child is leading, i.e. encourage and help that child to get his/her dreams. A child is depending on his/her parent/s to show the way. I would also advise not making less of or quashing a child’s goals. Help him/her be the best he/she can be. Always support in the way of admiration and focus on the good rather than the bad.
Q. How did you become so involved with philanthropy and young people?
A. With a career in voice-overs and a joy of acting, it has always been there just waiting for me to run with it — after all, I make a living being a kid.
In 2004, I realized that I wanted to reach out more into the community and help others who didn’t have it as good as I did. My children were doing very well and learned some simple rules for “how to get along better in life.” I raised them by using a little book called “The Way to Happiness”. Although it was written by L. Ron Hubbard—founder of the Church of Scientology—the booklet itself is perhaps the only non-religious guide for making good choices.
Q. What are some of your favorite projects?
A. My favorite project is my “Good Choices Program” that is successfully being run in after-school programs throughout California, Ohio, Seattle and South Africa. You can find out more about it by going to www.goodchoicesprogram.com.
Q. Who influenced you in terms of philanthropy?
A. Warren Buffet and Bill and Melinda Gates created The Giving Pledge as an effort to help address society’s most pressing problems by inviting the world’s wealthiest individuals and families to give more than half their wealth to philanthropy. Although I hardly scratch the surface of their incomes, my own viewpoint on contributing to social betterment activities is very much aligned with The Giving Pledge philosophy. Whether it is donating to help those whose human rights have been violated, or assisting firemen/policemen exposed to toxic waste as in 9/11 or an effective drug rehab program, I have invested most of my money the same way.
Q. What would you like to do that you haven’t done, either personally or professionally?
A. I’d like to have an exhibition of my sculptures some day. This is a newly found artistic talent and I just love it. I am on my third piece and it is hard to describe the joy and peacefulness I get when I am alone and sculpting.
ON THE UPCOMING CONCERT
Q. How did the idea of performing with the orchestra come about?
A. Dick DeLon got in touch with me. He is the Dayton Philharmonic board chairman and just the man to do the job. He emailed me a couple years ago and I couldn’t be more thrilled. He got me in touch with Neal Gittleman, the artistic director of the Dayton Philharmonic Orchestra and the rest is history.
The 1965 Emmy-award winning short animated film, “The Dot and The Line,” was written by Chuck Jones (“Road Runner,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”) who I had the pleasure of working with. What a delightful story that will pull at the heart of anyone who has had any challenges in falling in love. It will be such fun to perform in my hometown.
Q. What would you like your audience to take away from the concert?
A. That falling in love is a game that two people have to create. It just doesn’t “happen” — you have to make it happen.
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