The Powell Playhouse is a community theater focused on showcasing local talent.
A performer will be featured Saturday at the Powell Playhouse Comedy Night. He started ventriloquism in the early 1950s to be part of his father's and grandfather's magic act.
"It's called a ventriloquist figure but everybody calls him a dummy," ventriloquist Wade Johnson explained. The dummy on his knee responded, "Everybody calls him a dummy too."
Fifty nine years later Wade Johnson and Willie Siegle are still a pair. Though the original dummy was smaller and one of a kind.
A larger, more sophisticated version came along in the early 1970s. They started performing for larger audiences, with bands, and on television.
"This one here is the last of his kind made by Clint Detweiler and so he's priceless as well," Wade said. Willie asked, "So are you priceless?" Wade said, "No, no." Willie quipped, "He's worthless."
Wade Johnson teaches psychology at Roane State in Oak Ridge but over the years he's traveled a lot.
"For quite awhile there I was doing 2,000 miles a week for Little Debbie Snack Cakes. Every day a different city. And we would go do TV things or whatever," he said.
In the different towns, Wade and Willie would go to children's' hospitals.
"I want to see them smile, see them laugh. Especially those who have cancer or some horrible thing," he said.
He enjoys inspiring kids to try ventriloquism.
"These little kids they have this doll and they can play with it. Well, when they get a dummy all the sudden the dummy comes to life. And they can do things and they can tell people things through this dummy," he said.
Willie Siegle comes to life with finger movements to control his expressions. Wade will enjoy letting Willie say what he wants when they perform together Saturday night.
"The show we're going to do with Powell Playhouse, I've got a bluegrass band," Wade said. Willie added, "What they do is bluegrass what we do is crabgrass." Wade laughed, "Forget about that. He's in a mood."
He's in a mood to have fun.
"The last show we had we had them glued to their seats," Wade said. Then Willie said, "That was a sneaky way of keeping them there I'll tell you that."
The show Saturday starts at 7:30 at the Jubilee Banquet Facility on Callahan Road. It features not only the ventriloquist but also comedy, music, and magic.