Ken Bradbury: Simply the Best

By Andy Mitchell

In case you haven’t heard, Ken Bradbury was recently crowned “Best Living Local Author/Writer” by the Illinois Times. While I wasn’t privy to the voting figures, suffice to say there was no recall. And for good reason. Ken is more prolific in his pinky – have you seen it strike those ivories? – than the rest of us in all our extremities combined. And it’s all good stuff. Sure, it’s easy to churn out fluff, but what he turns out is never that. He never reaches but always attains. It’s effortless, or at least appears so, which is tantamount to the same thing. He is quoted as saying, “I used to think that to write for a living, you had to be creative. I’ve since learned that’s not the case. You just have to be human.” Well, if that is indeed the case, and far be it from me to contest his wisdom, I surmise that he is superhuman. For, how else might one account for so much gosh darn creativity?

Year after year he writes musicals, articles, poems, travel pieces, and pretty much anything else he puts his superhuman mind to. Oh, and did I mention that he plays the piano? Perhaps you’ve heard him? Surely one or two of you have. With all that talent I think he just might go places someday. But seriously he could have gone to New York or LA and made a splash. But he chose to remain in downstate Illinois where he is a bonafide legend. In Arenzville they’re fond of saying, “He’s bigger than burgoo.” And if you’re from around these here parts that’s sayin’ somethin’. One time in the bookstore there was a couple talking. The man said to his wife, “Isn’t he the guy that writes science fiction?” “No,” the wife responded. “That’s Ray Bradbury. Ken is a real writer.”

And she’s right. Ken is a local author that transcends the label. He is a local author the way Mark Twain was a local author in Hannibal. Lucky for us Ken didn’t move to Connecticut. And lucky for us he has decided to keep his exceptional talent a secret from Hollywood and Broadway.

Playing ticket office for the Playhouse on the Square has been a role I’ve enjoyed at the bookstore. And I’ve joked with Rich McCoy, the playhouse owner, that he should attach Ken’s name to every show (even if it’s just “Ken Bradbury recommends this,” with his name in bold letters). Because every Ken Bradbury show is a sell-out. That’s a given. And a testament to his well-deserved superhuman reputation.

My sister, Sherri, who played a lead role in Pearl’s Place, told me what a treat it is to work with Ken. She said he takes care of his cast, his people. Watching the show I was struck by the ease with which he guided the production, serving as director and pit player as well. His presence is one of benevolent command. And he’s also known to have a sense of humor. That’s why, after the show, I waited until everyone else had congratulated him on another stellar production. I offered him my hand to shake and said, “Mr. Bradbury, I think you’ve got potential.”

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