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Marc Summers Is Still Up for a Double Dare. (Hold the Green Slime.)

Marc Summers Is Still Up for a Double Dare. (Hold the Green Slime.)


Rehearsing at a studio house in Times Square earlier this month, Marc Summers was crouched low, engaged in a dialog with God. Such scenes are staples of one-person exhibits like the sort that Summers is bringing to Off Broadway, however his arch tone instructed he wasn’t approaching this existential second too earnestly.

“What is my objective in life?” Summers known as out, questioning what he ought to do if he encountered disappointments or impediments on his journey.

A booming, recorded voice answered that life could also be stuffed with ache and regrets, however it additionally gives humor and pleasure. “The solely query,” the voice mentioned, “is are you prepared for it?”

After additional contemplation, Summers answered confidently. “I believe I’m prepared,” he mentioned, pausing for impact. “I believe I’m able to take the bodily problem!”

Summers is 72 with a head of principally white and grey hair, however his toothy smile and exuberant cadence nonetheless make him simply recognizable to the era of tv viewers who have been launched to him because the host of the kids’s sport present “Double Dare.”

“Double Dare,” which debuted in 1986 on Nickelodeon, blended a trivia competitors with outrageously messy impediment programs. A crew of two youthful contestants may dare a rival duo to discipline a query, however their opponents, in fact, may double dare them again. In that case the unique crew needed to both reply the query or undergo a bodily problem.

Throughout the present’s seven-year run of simply over 500 episodes (which included incarnations like “Family Double Dare” and “Super Sloppy Double Dare”), Summers was there, typically carrying a pastel go well with or a sports activities jacket and denims, encouraging gamers as they rummaged for flags inside an enormous nostril or dived headfirst right into a kiddie pool of inexperienced slime.

This is a considerable a part of the unpredictable showbiz profession recounted in “The Life & Slimes of Marc Summers,” which opens on Feb. 22 at New World Stages, however it’s not the whole lot of the present.

Written by Alex Brightman, the Tony Award-nominated star of “Beetlejuice” and “School of Rock,” “Life & Slimes” additionally tells how Summers emerged from suburban Indianapolis, idolizing entertainers like Johnny Carson and Soupy Sales, to grow to be a TV character in his personal proper. The present chronicles how he grappled with obsessive-compulsive dysfunction all through his life and battled persistent lymphocytic leukemia (which is now in remission).

Summers has gone on to host different exhibits on Nickelodeon, Lifetime and PBS, in addition to host “Unwrapped” and produce “Dinner: Impossible” for Food Network; he’s a husband (he and his spouse will have fun their fiftieth anniversary in June), a father of grown youngsters and a grandfather. He is grateful that “Double Dare” helped put him on the map, although he nonetheless wonders if it would endlessly overshadow these different accomplishments.

A press consultant from Nickelodeon didn’t reply to requests for remark.

On a current go to to New York from his dwelling on the central coast of California, Summers defined in an interview how, even within the heyday of “Double Dare,” he bristled at being described as a children’ present host. “I used to hate that, as a result of I used to be greater than that,” he mentioned.

As Nickelodeon shifted its focus to animation and tween-oriented sitcoms and dramas, Summers has felt the sting of neglect from the community. “I made Nickelodeon,” he mentioned. “I’ll be the primary to say that, they usually’ve by no means truly mentioned that to me. I modified that community. And no person’s ever mentioned thanks.”

But bringing his biographical present to Off Broadway is an achievement that Summers has discovered to be as satisfying as using down a spiraling slide into an enormous ice-cream sundae.

Comparing himself to a minor-league baseball participant, Summers mentioned: “I’ve all the time wished to get within the majors however may by no means make it. I’m that man who’s been using the bus all these years, who obtained shut however not fairly there. And now, in some way, I’ve managed to get there.”

Over a lunchtime dialog at Joe Allen, the restaurant and theater-district hangout, Summers recalled a truism he had been instructed about who achieves success within the leisure trade. “It’s the individuals who have lesser expertise however extra dedication, extra ardour and extra drive to get there,” he mentioned. With audible self-deprecation, he added, “I by no means thought I had an oz. of expertise.”

Even so, Summers had the moxie to grow to be a teenage stage magician within the mid-Nineteen Sixties; a author for Bob Barker on the sport present “Truth or Consequences”; and a fitfully employed standup comic in Los Angeles within the Nineteen Seventies and ’80s.

When he discovered about an audition in 1986 for the “Double Dare” host — from a ventriloquist good friend who didn’t need the gig — Summers had been getting cash serving to to promote a South African model of smoked salmon to delis and warehouse retailers.

Amid an ’80s-era growth for cable TV, “Double Dare” helped set up a rebellious id for Nickelodeon and made a star of Summers, who simply grasped why the present appealed to its audience.

“The children have been residing vicariously by way of their mother and father, watching ‘The Price Is Right,’ however they didn’t have their very own sport present,” he defined. “Their entire lives, they’re instructed, ‘keep neat, keep clear’ — now we’re rewarding them for getting messy.”

Though Summers was in his 30s and 40s on the time, he might be extra like a goofy older brother to the younger “Double Dare” gamers. He would entertain them together with his impersonations of classic Hollywood stars like Ethel Merman and Paul Lynde, and search for methods to attach with the contestants, who had been recruited largely from the Philadelphia space. (The present was initially filmed in Philadelphia, after which in Orlando after Nickelodeon opened a studio there.)

“The Philly accent, I couldn’t determine,” Summers recalled. “I’d say what do you want doing? ‘Go downa Shore.’ Excuse me? ‘Go downa Shore.’ I’d cease tape and say, What did he simply say? ‘We go down the Shore.’ I needed to be taught what that meant.”

Brightman, who was 9 or 10 when he first met Summers at a reside “Double Dare” occasion in San Jose, Calif., mentioned that the host has all the time been motivated by a real curiosity concerning the world and the folks he encounters.

“He was asking children barely advanced however accessible questions that made them really feel like associates, and never lesser than that,” Brightman mentioned. “I believed that was a masterful high quality in him.”

When he has heart-to-heart conversations with Summers now or sees him speak to different folks about their lives, Brightman mentioned: “He’s not asking as a result of he’s performing for you. He’s genuinely curious about what you’re doing.”

As an actor, Summers has principally been forged as himself on sitcoms and animated exhibits, although he made a foray into regional theater, taking part in Vince Fontaine in a 2011 manufacturing of “Grease” on the Surflight Theater in Beach Haven, N.J. It was there that he befriended considered one of his co-stars, Drew Gasparini (now a composer and lyricist whose tasks embody the musical adaptation of “The Karate Kid”).

Gasparini, a good friend of Brightman’s, reconnected him with Summers, who proposed the thought of placing his life story on the stage. Brightman admitted to some skepticism on the time — “I believe you’re fascinating, however do you assume that may translate to anyone else?” he recalled asking Summers.

Gradually he and Gasparini have been received over by Summers’s seemingly boundless reserve of showbiz tales and the theme of endurance that ran by way of them.

“We discovered this core of a candy, great story of redemption and hope, and by no means saying no,” Brightman defined. “Whether he was fascinating or not didn’t matter — he’s — however the story grew to become extraordinarily fascinating and private and distinctive.”

Life & Slimes” advanced because the collaborators noticed Summers’s strengths and proficiencies. Gasparini, who created the unique music for the present, mentioned, “We rapidly pivoted from making him sing 10 songs within the present to creating this a one-man play that’s supported by musical motifs and themes.”

Brightman and Gasparini spent weeks interrogating Summers about his private historical past, looking for materials for the present. “I do know when Marc Summers misplaced his virginity,” Gasparini confided. “That didn’t make it into the present, however I like that I do know that.”

“Life & Slimes” was first produced in 2016 on the Bloomington Playwrights Project in Indiana, and has had runs on the Adirondack Theater Festival in Glens Falls, N.Y., the Mt. Gretna Playhouse in Pennsylvania, and the Alleyway Theater in Buffalo, N.Y.

Over the years, as their particular person careers pulled them in several instructions, the “Life & Slimes” crew members mentioned they needed to discover motivation of their ardour to inform Summers’s story.

“This was so area of interest and so bizarre, a couple of quirky little nook of tv and an individual that not all people has heard of,” mentioned Brightman, who’s at the moment starring within the Broadway revival of “Spamalot” and performing in a workshop for a stage musical adaptation of the TV sequence “Smash.”

But, Brightman added, “Marc’s dream is to be onstage, and there’s one thing about that. He’s not a younger dude and he’s being courageous sufficient to be susceptible onstage for over an hour. To be capable to give him that shot, I couldn’t think about a greater consequence for this.”

Despite the nostalgic draw that Summers and “Double Dare” supply to a sure demographic of theatergoers, nobody fairly is aware of what to anticipate when the present opens in New York, which Brightman known as “the judgy-est place on earth for theater.”

In the rehearsal house in Times Square, Summers was working with the present’s director, Chad Rabinovitz, on one of many segments by which the host will work together instantly with viewers members in a recreation of a “Double Dare” contest.

The full set of the present features a trustworthy recreation of the outdated “Double Dare” stage, together with a garishly coloured podium for Summers to face behind, although the “Life & Slimes” artistic crew was coy about whether or not they had Nickelodeon’s blessing for the manufacturing. “It isn’t the story of Nickelodeon,” Rabinovitz mentioned. “It’s the story of his life.”

Summers has misplaced none of his well-honed aptitude for taking part in off the unpredictability of a reside crowd — onstage, if he sees a contestant together with his fingers in his pockets, he’s liable to say, “I’d shake your hand, however I can see that you simply’re busy.”

As a lot as he appreciates the chance to share his private journey with audiences, Summers mentioned he’s trying ahead to participating with them once more in some outdated “Double Dare”-style antics and having the ability to relate to them, lastly, as one grownup to a different.

“When these folks get onstage, they’re orgasmic,” he mentioned. “It’s insane to look at. So that’s enjoyable for me. And now I can say issues to them that I’ve all the time wished to say to them, that I couldn’t say after they have been 8 or 9. So we’ve quite a lot of enjoyable, we actually do. And we get slightly messy.”

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