We met Jake a few years ago by way of mutual friends. Seems Jake - Looks like "John Wayne"...Talks like "John Wayne...and has a philosophy similar to John Wayne. So much so, he has developed a one man show - Jake Thorne: "The Life and Legend of John Wayne.”
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We invited Jake to join us at this past year's Lone Pine Film Festival. Jake's two "sold out" performances were the talk of the weekend. Here is the 2013 Festival website's prentation as to Jake's performance.
The play is performed by its author Dan Hornak who takes on the persona of Jake Thorne - portraying John Wayne. The performance is in three acts and reveals Wayne’s life and character in the first person during pivotal points of his career.
“Everyone who knows and remembers John Wayne has a personal opinion of him. When people see this play that opinion will change,” Hornak says. “They will understand him better and they will feel closer to him. That is the goal I have set.” The Jake Thorne persona came from a John Wayne-like character in a 1970’s movie script that was never produced. Hornak says, “It works for me, because that way I don’t get a big head or carried away with myself.” The show isn’t just a living reconstruction of John Wayne’s personality and image, but the ideals he stood for as well.
“What’s great about America is the people!” Hornak stresses. “Young Americans and new Americans need to be reminded of this. The Duke strongly believed people make America great.” His performance isn’t just for the audience. “I’m like everybody else-hungry for the Duke.” Hornak adds, “They come, because they want to see John Wayne. Guess what, I’m on the inside looking out and I want to see John Wayne, too.”
Hornak was born and raised in the Midwest. Growing up he found a role model in John Wayne. Ever since he was ten, he wanted to “Walk the walk and talk the talk” of his hero. Unfortunately, ten year olds just don’t sound like the Duke! That would come later when his voice changed and he grew to his six feet four inches. In high school he played football and boxed. Hornak caught the acting bug while attending Western Michigan University. On an impulse he tried out for a part in a musical at the New Vic Theatre in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He got the part without any acting or singing experience. While rehearsing for his next play the idea came about of playing a comical British army sergeant as John Wayne. The audience loved it. Hornak would hold on to the idea of playing his hero in earnest for many years.
After graduating from WMU he played many roles not on stage, but in the real world, that of a teacher, sheriff’s deputy, telemarketer, TV cameraman. In the mid 1980s, Hornak moved his family to Washington, D.C., and began a government career at the U.S. House of Representatives Recording Studio. There he spent countless hours running cameras and directing television floor coverage of House proceedings. Twenty years later he was able to retire and pursue the three things he wanted to do most: paint, write and act. So Hornak painted the walls of his North Carolina vacation home, started writing and acting in earnest.
Bearing an uncanny resemblance, in both appearance and voice, to the Duke, it was only a matter of time before it would lead him to developing and performing a serious play about the life of John Wayne, a work that nobody else in this country has tried to do.
This is what he says about his role: “Now that the Duke has been gone for over thirty years all Americans need to be reminded of what he believed in and stood for. I’ll stand up for that any day!”
When not on the road, Jake spends his time on his little spread, Trails End, located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains just outside of Andy Griffith’s hometown Mount Airy, North Carolina.
“The Life and Legend of John Wayne” premiered as “An Evening with the Duke” at the 2010 Lone Pine Film Festival. Since then it has been performed across the country. Its return this year is being greatly anticipated.