Bringing Cronkite to Life

By Daniel Cobb

March 28, 2014

By Brooke Anderson As you walk through the exhibits in the Cronkite Memorial on campus, you are practically strolling through the life of Walter Cronkite himself. Dr. Vartabedian, president of Missouri Western, and Bob Willenbrink, dean of the School of Fine Arts, are planning to bring a little more life to the exhibit. “What we are working on is the development of a one-man show that would be a capstone for the people that would visit the Cronkite Memorial,” Willenbrink said. The show is based on an actual event that occurred in Cronkite’s life. Vartabedian explains how the show will reenact Walter Cronkite at the age of 85, one year after the 9-11 attack. “It’s based upon one year after 9-11,” Vartabedian said. “Cronkite appeared on Larry King Live, and as the dean of journalism of the United States and beyond. He was asked to comment on one year after 9-11, and also to comment on other huge events that he covered along his career.” The presentation will include many special effects to bring the show to life. Vartabedian expects to have videos of Cronkite playing in the background. “I think it will be particularly interesting, because we have so much access to so much rare footage and rare photos that we can flash on the backdrop behind our actor playing Walter Cronkite,” Vartabedian said. “It’ll be a multimedia presentation.” Willenbrink also commented on his expectations of the multimedia presentation. “There will be video clips of things like different historical events that Walter Cronkite was involved with,” Willenbrink said. “That will make it a very dramatic presentation to bring Walter to life.” The casting for Walter Cronkite will take place very soon. Vartabedian and Willenbrink are looking across St. Joseph and Kansas City for the right actor to play Cronkite. “We’ll be broadcasting all over St. Joseph and Kansas City,” Vartabedian said. Willenbrink wants to find two or three actors to fulfill the role of Cronkite. Each of these actors will be on-call for the days the presentation will take place. “A part of [Dr. Vartabedian’s] vision is that elementary students who come would start in the planetarium, and then move through and look at the exhibit, and then have a one-man show of Walter Cronkite,” Willenbrink said. “It will be available to different school groups who come, and they would schedule a half a day here on campus and see the show.” Working and directing this live presentation for different schools and audiences to see has been a new experience for Willenbrink. “Professionally, it’s a new adventure for me,” Willenbrink said. “Working on this and having the opportunity to help craft something to memorialize or to bring to life a great news person who fit into the history of this country so well and also to bring this alive to students and have them be a part of this living history is just a unique opportunity.” Vartabedian and Willenbrink hope to see the live presentation available to audiences this fall. They want it to be a fun and educating experience for anyone who comes to visit the memorial. “I think seeing this presentation, they’ll be able to see a real icon of American journalism come to life, and perhaps know him better than if they would have just hearing about him,” Willenbrink said. The show requires obtaining copyrights from CNN for the recreation of Larry King Live, as well as approval from the Cronkite family. “We’ve been trying to do everything to the satisfaction of the Cronkite family. We don’t want to step on their toes in any way,” Vartabedian said. The live presentation will let the life of Walter Cronkite come to life, and let students experience an icon of journalism in a new and exciting way.