The Cherry Orchard Theatre offers ‘An Evening with the Duke’

David Broyles Staff Reporter

September 10, 2013

ARARAT, VA. — Fresh from his portrayal of General Ulysses S. Grant in the Cherry Orchard Theatre’s production of “Far Appomattox,” local actor Dan Hornak, also known as Jake Thorne, saddles up to bring another show to the theater this weekend.

The six-foot four -inch Mount Airy resident, will bring back his show “An evening Evening with the Duke. The Life and Legend of John Wayne” this Friday and Saturday. He promises a moving, funny, and at times unexpected portrait of the Hollywood film legend.

The alias Jake Thorne has been adopted by the playwright and actor as a way to keep a safe distance from his creation.

“There lots of impersonators who can get wrapped up in it,” said Thorne. “This way there’s no problem of letting it go to my head.” Thorne said the show was well received in 2010 and he continues to improve on the original work to keep it fresh. The first show was staged in a reader’s theater format with Thorne in costume and a script at Orchard Theatre.

“It rained on two out of three nights for the first show,” recalled Thorne. “There was an audience of ten the last night and they were laughing so much I remember thinking I wished they would stop so I could get on with this thing. That’s the way John Wayne would have liked it, though. When he visited troops in Vietnam he didn’t want to play to the big crowds like (Bob) Hope. One audience member on that last night was actually in a unit visited by Wayne.”

Thorne said he “talked himself” into doing the performance as a stage production at the Festival of Western Film in California as well as recent runs in various North Carolina venues and has most recently performed in 2011 and 2012 on the Earle Theater Stage.

“This will be the last time (performed) here,” said Thorne. “I’m not getting bigger than my britches but it is. I have to pick my battles. This play will run me around.”

His performances typically play great attention to detail to look and sound as much as possible as Wayne but do not rely only on visual appeal. The actor indicated what really sets the show apart and makes it memorable is the events of Wayne’s life which included defeats as well as his triumphs.

Thorne said the show is really about three John Waynes. The young John Wayne before the movie Stagecoach, Wayne at the peak of his career when the movie Rio Bravo came out and an older Wayne, who after his film The Shootist was looking at life and death. This is the period before Christmas in 1978, a month before his stomach cancer was diagnosed.

“Thirty-four years after his death people are still hungry for him. They love him. Wayne can’t do anything new, but I can,” said Thorne. “He never did tell his story. I’m 3-D, high definition and surround sound in living color which is what live theater is. People want to see his life. They are on the outside wanting to see in to John Wayne and I’m on the inside looking out to see him, too. I’m doing this for people and for me too.”

The shows will be held this Friday and Saturday at 7 p.m. Admission is $10. Persons who would like more information may call 276-755-3593 or 336-786-4316. Maps may be found at

Thorne likens his show to an amateur fighter. If he were to perform as a professional he would be “fighting” flat-footed and cautious. He said amateur fighters (actors) throw everything they have into their show. He also hopes to one day be able to perform the show in front of Wayne’s family to benefit the John Wayne Cancer Foundation.

Reach David Broyles at or 719-1952.