updated December 2010
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT ALAN SEMOK (and THE DUMMY DOCTOR)
Actor ALAN SEMOK leads a double life.
In some quarters, he is known as a Doctor.
The Dummy Doctor.
The reason? for the past 44 years he has made a specialty of repairing and building ventriloquial figures (more commonly known as "dummies") and other types of puppets since 1966, when difficulty in purchasing a suitable puppet for his own use led him to take up the tools at the age of 14.
When the veteran New York magician and magic dealer AL FLOSSO (the legendary "Coney Island Fakir") saw Alan's first finished figure, he asked for a few specially made figures to sell in his landmark magic shop on 34th Street in New York City. The following year, the first of these was offered for sale by Flosso.
In the 40 years that have passed since
that first figure sold to Flosso-Hornmann Magic Co., Alan has
designed and hand-built more than 200 vent figures, hand puppets,
and marionnettes for professional performers around the globe.
With the encouragement of Al Flosso (and the rather brutal
critiquing which was part of his brand of tutelage), Alan continued to improve on his figures and before long began
restoring and repairing vintage figures for Flosso on a regular
basis, including work by the greats of the field: Theo & Charles
Mack, Frank Marshall, Jack Coats, George "Pinxy"Larsen,
LeMare, Revello Petee, Len Insull, John Carrol, The McElroy Brothers,
and many more. It was as if Al Flosso was the principal, and these
fantastic creations of the past masters were the teachers. As
word of mouth spread, Alan also began providing figures to the
famous Tannen Magic Company in New York.
After an educational sabbatical and upon finishing college with a theatre degree in 1975 and embarking on an acting career, Alan once again took up the tools and began making "dummies" on a larger & more complex scale to supplement his show-biz income, and very quickly became one of the most sought after suppliers of professional ventriloquial figures worldwide. During this period, he was also employed as an assistant to his TV idol, Paul Ashley (from New York Channel 5's "CHUCK McCANN SHOW" ). Paul helped Alan further hone his sculptural skills and before Paul's retirement, he and Alan together built several puppets for Paul's fantastic cast of characters. The work of Paul Ashley and Chuck McCann have had a lasting effect on Alan's work and career.
By 1980 Alan was already known around the world for his very individual style of ventriloquial figures, which are also recognized by the experts in the profession as having the most reliable mechanical construction in the industry in addition to having faces that possess uniquely photogenic and Television/Motion Picture friendly characteristics. His work has become highly sought after by the film and television industries.
In addition to his hand built
creations, Alan is regarded one of the recognized experts in the
repair/restoration of ventriloquial figures and puppets of every
type. He has done repair and restorations on everything from original
Edgar Bergen and Paul Winchell figures to the original
Howdy Doody marionette.
When not in his workshop studio, Alan continues his work as an actor , having appeared on stage, film and television in a variety of dramatic and comic roles. He has appeared with the Carolinian Shakespeare Festival as Friar Laurence in ROMEO AND JULIET. In February of 2000, he appeared as Aaron Burr on the PBS series, THE AMERICAN EXPERIENC E (The episode focused on the events leading up to the famous 1804 duel with Alexander Hamilton in which Hamilton was killed). In 2008, he appeared Off-Broadway at New York's prestigious SIGNATURE THEATRE COMPANY in a new play by author Charles Mee entitled "PARADISE PARK"
Alan (along with his many voices) has also appeared in a number of national radio commercials and TV commercials and series (including some with his own dummy partner , "Eugene"), and is also currently supplying the voices for "The Three Stooges" in a variety of merchandising, commercial, and animation projects.
For many years he was also the voice of "Tex" on the award winning and now classic PBS children's series SHINING TIME STATION, starring Ringo Starr & George Carlin.
He has worked occasionally as a puppeteer and puppetmaker with FLEXITOON / Dimensional Entertainment, a New York company specialising in puppetry for television and motion pictures. He is responsible for many of the intricate mechanical mechanisms in their puppets (FLEXITOON was a 1996 recipient of the Henson Foundation/UNIMA USA award for excellence in broadcasting).
Alan is also VERY experienced as a consultant for television, motion picture, and theatre projects involving ventriloquism and portrayals of the art, with a long list of references. His consultant credits include work for TIM ROBBINS for his 1999 feature film, CRADLE WILL ROCK (along with fellow consultant Todd Stockman).
Alan was a consultant for the recently released theatrical feature film DUMMY starring Academy Award winner Adrien Brody; prior to the commencement of shooting, Alan worked closely with the film's producers and the director, and then spent an intensive two weeks personally training Adrien Brody to be a ventriloquist, and also in the technical aspects of manipulation and puppetry of the film's title character (which Alan also built). Alan's teaching program was so successful, that in the end no overdubbing of dialog or hidden puppeteers were neccessary...Mr. Brody was able to perform these tasks live on set!!
More recently, he served as consultant on the motion picture comedy THE TEN , starring Winona Ryder.
Alan has also appeared as a "guest expert" on the PBS television series, HISTORY DETECTIVES.
THE "DUMMY DOCTOR" monicker was bestowed on Alan by the international ventriloquial community in the late 1970's, with a happy nod and a tip of the hat to the late author and ventriloquial figure expert, Mr. George McAthy. In May of 2007, the "doctor" title was made official when Alan was awarded an honorary Ph.D in Fine Arts from Iowa's BUENA VISTA UNIVERSITY.
In recognition of "outstanding contribution to the art of ventriloquism," Alan Semok was named VENTRILOQUIST OF THE YEAR at the 13th Annual International Ventriloquist Convention.
Alan is a member of the Screen Actor's Guild, Actor's Equity Association, and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
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All text, photos, or other material contained herein is ©1994 - 2010 by Alan Semok.