David Epley will perform two shows as Doktor Kaboom at 5 and 7 p.m. today in Smith Wilkes Hall.
Doktor Kaboom was born of an experiment.
Initially educated as a hard scientist, actor David Epley became interested in performing in college. Seven years ago, he combined his two loves in a successful chemical reaction, producing the mad scientist “Doktor Kaboom.”
Epley will perform his show “The Science of Santa” as Doktor Kaboom for the Family Entertainment Series at 5 and 7 p.m. tonight in Smith Wilkes Hall.
“I started out expecting to be a scientist in life,” Epley said. “My focus was on physics and chemistry. At a young age, I wanted to be an astrophysicist. But then I moved toward chemical engineering, and then I moved toward biomedical engineering. Then I got into theater.”
Catching the acting bug after he graduated from his science-focused high school, Epley moved on to theater in college and then to developing his character Doktor Kaboom at renaissance festivals. The product was a comedic act that combined scripted experiments, improvisational interactions with the audience and a German accent.
“I take some standard demonstrations that teachers used to do — that they don’t have the budgets for, or safety precautions for — or things I just create on my own, and I make them bigger and sillier and wrap the character around them,” Epley said. “The structure is loosely scripted, but anything can happen along the way.”
“The Science of Santa,” Epley’s first show written specifically for an elementary school audience, will bring Christmas in July to Chautauqua.
“The content of the show is that science and magic are the same thing, so Santa must be the greatest scientist ever, because he does these incredibly magical things — which doesn’t sit well with Doktor Kaboom’s ego,” Epley said.
The scientist will investigate how Santa hurdles down chimneys, makes reindeers fly and decides who is naughty and nice, in hopes of one-upping Santa Claus in science.
To discern Santa’s tricks of the trade, Doktor Kaboom will experiment with a hovercraft, a quadrocopter drone and an exothermic reaction in the performance.
This show will be Doktor Kaboom’s third visit to Chautauqua, where Epley said the “whole vibe is positive” and he enjoys the educated audience.
“I love Chautauqua because the audiences are smart,” Epley said. “Sometimes, you have to throw in extra words in jokes to make sure they understand exactly what you’re referencing, but Chautauqua has room for subtlety.”
Above all, Epley said Doktor Kaboom’s goal is to connect with younger audiences to teach and entertain, which keeps him coming back to Chautauqua and traveling as the mad German scientist.
“The thing I love most is when I bring a kid up onstage and I make them the hero of that moment in the show. I bring them out of their shell a little bit and they’re playing along,” Epley said. “The power of theater mixed with science is just fantastic for kids. You see them light up and go for it, especially when they’re normally shy or reticent to involve themselves. It’s incredibly rewarding for me.”