Saturday, February 02, 2008


Relive tales from the Titanic


Beloit Daily News
By Debra Jensen-De Hart
February 02, 2008

Anyone who has seen the 1997 version of the movie “Titanic” must remember the beauty and romance of the picture and in the end, the horrific tragedy of the 1912 shipwreck.

Narrated through the voice of a survivor, the audience is at once engaged in the great adventure at sea as well as the love and loss that is generated.

On Friday, Feb. 15, stories about the Titanic again will surface when Chicago actor R.J. Lindsey portrays Carr Van Anda, the New York Times night manager who broke the news of the disaster.

Sponsored by the Beloit Historical Society, Lindsey will give his presentation at the Lincoln Center, 845 Hackett St.

He will tell stories from people who survived the sinking, as interviewed by Van Anda, give a slide presentation and display corresponding artifacts.

Lindsey recently answered questions about his career as an actor who has come to portray a couple dozen characters as part of his living theater presentations.

It all started in 1988.

“When the writer's strike of 1988 shut down Hollywood for nearly six months, I returned to my hometown of Rockford, Ill. The now retired Second Congregational Church minister Dean Dalrymple asked if I would portray some Biblical characters for an evening Bible class. Five performances were presented over five weeks,” Lindsey said.

Then that same Rev. Dalrymple called Lindsey and asked if he could portray Abraham Lincoln. He agreed to do it.

“So I started the research, which takes 12-18 months, and presented Lincoln. From then on I have added a new character about every year and a half. I now have 24 characters, the newest one is Thomas Paine,” he said.

As for Carr Van Anda, Lindsey also did his homework.

“Carr Van Anda was the night manager for the New York Times. He had a nose for news and often scooped the other papers. He secured the only immediate interview on board the rescue ship Carpathia with the telegraph operator Harold Bride who heard the Titanic S.O.S. Van Anda was on duty that night when the AP news story broke over the wires about the Titanic collision. After analyzing all the information coming in, he concluded the ship had gone down and the Times was the only newspaper to first say so when everyone else said she was unsinkable.”

When asked why the story of the Titanic still interests people today, Lindsey said it is a compelling story.

“People will always find the Titanic story compelling. It is a great human tragedy. In the theater we all enjoy a good comedy but it is the tragedies that capture us emotionally and speak to us of our existence. Over 1,500 people lost their lives at sea. Why? How did it happen? We need answers to feel that we have some control in our lives when actually, we all get up each morning and walk out of our front doors with no real idea of what might happen.

“The Titanic is also a story of humans versus nature. We are always building the tallest skyscraper or the longest bridge or the first unsinkable ship. Our success leads to arrogance and mistakes and over-confidence. Along comes an iceberg or a hurricane or the O-rings on the Challenger and nature reminds us she has been here long before us and will be long after,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey's stories from the passengers are the result of much research he has completed from the various books about the Titanic that he has in his collection. He has selected various people with different reasons for their presence aboard the ship.


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