Maybe it's overstating the case to say that Joe Wiegand's personal experiences and career choices led inevitably to his decision to play President Theodore Roosevelt in a one-man touring show.
But you can see how Wiegand's upbringing and resume definitely pointed him in that direction.
Wiegand brings his Teddy Roosevelt show to Corvallis next week for a performance on Tuesday, Oct. 16 at the Whiteside Theatre, 361 SW Madison Ave. Showtime is 7 p.m. The show is a benefit for the Whiteside Theatre Foundation and the Benton County Historical Society.
Wiegand started performing as Roosevelt in 2004, but before that, he developed a taste for performance and for politics. He's the son of Jim Wiggins, a self-styled hippie comedian who performed under the name Jimmy Whig and who moved his family from Chicago to Los Angeles in 1976.
"I learned my stagecraft" from watching his father work, Wiegand told The E in a recent interview.
But Wiegand's politics took a decidedly different turn. As the son of a hippie comedian, Wiegand said, "the only way to be a rebellious teenager was to volunteer for Ronald Reagan."
And that led a 25-year career in politics, which came with plenty of evening affairs that followed the same dreary pattern: "You get a bad piece of chicken and and then you get a speech that makes the chicken look good by comparison," he said.
He started to wonder: How could those endless dinners be enlivened? And those thoughts meshed with a timely Christmas gift: In 2001, he received a copy of Edmund Morris' magisterial "The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt."
It helps that Roosevelt offers such rich material: He looms larger than life over so many aspects of American history, and Wiegand can summon any number of stories involving the 26th president: He can tell the story of the young Roosevelt, summoning the will to overcome childhood asthma. He can talk about his career with the Rough Riders. He can call upon Roosevelt's legacy in conservation — and that's just scratching the surface.
"The stories are thrilling, and there's a lot of humor along the way," Wiegand said.
During his Oregon tour, he also can illuminate Roosevelt's numerous connections to the state.
And he can do it in a scripted show — and also in question-and-answer sessions afterward during which he remains in character as Roosevelt.
Despite the various stories Wiegand can call upon, there's only one way to play the former president on stage: "Full steam ahead. There's a great deal of energy and vitality that comes with the performance."
And after nearly 15 years of the one-man show, Wiegand doesn't seem weary of it.
"I'm glad to have the opportunity to keep that life alive," he said.
He's also grateful that he bears a physical resemblance of sorts to Roosevelt.
"I'm glad I don't look like Calvin Coolidge," Wiegand said. "I'd be doing very short programs in Massachusetts."