The Entertainment department plays one of the most important roles at Great America. When it comes to being in charge of all of the shows, it can be difficult to fill every character. Entertainment Production Coordinator Brian Miller is a one-of-a-kind, all-around character. Brian has played the role of multiple characters through his time at the park—he even voices many ride announcements and the front gate speil. I sat down with Brian to learn more about his unique position, talent and background at Great America!
What is your job here at Great America?
I’m a production coordinator. I build rehearsal schedules and contracts for entertainment venues. But primarily my job is to make sure that the shows have everything they need so that they can open on time. I also do the creative side of things like write scripts and direct.
How did you begin your journey here at Great America?
My first season was 2009 and I started as a Haunt monster. I would bug the Haunt supervisors every single day and be like, “So how do I work here during the summer?” and they were like, “Just audition!” The next season, I auditioned to be a host named JT, which was the first year the PEANUTS came to Great America, so I was the very first host for the shows with the PEANUTS.
Another one of the first shows I did here was Charlie Brown’s Hoedown. After that first season, the supervisors were like, “Can you do another show to fill in for this girl?” I was a ringmaster for the Backyard Circus show, which was basically like an imagination show.
How many characters have you played?
That’s a hard question because it’s a lot. I’ve played characters multiple times in other shows. But It’s been at least 7, which doesn’t seem like a lot.
What’s your favorite character you’ve played?
I would say that it's this character, Zinidini, that I played in a magic show in 2010. Clayton, the entertainment manager, was like, “We’re doing a magic show… Brian is writing it and performing in it... and here is your assistant... you have one month... go!” I also had to write the song for it too. To this day, I’m really proud of it.
Jack Frost has been really awesome. I think one of the most unique things about my role here is that I’ve not only played a lot of characters but I’ve also created characters. The way the character exists at Great America and at other parks is influenced by me, which I think is really cool.
In high school, what did you want to do?
I did theater in high school, and it turns out that theater and the theme park theater are different. The interaction with the audience at a theme park is very different. When you go see a musical, they just talk to each other. In theme park shows, it’s all about connecting to the audiences. But my personality is very outward, and I’m pretty silly already, obviously, so it was a good fit.
Do you still play characters at the park in your role now?
This season it’s more rare. I’ll jump into Mass Effect sometimes. I also jumped into Cable Car Connection because we needed a swing last minute. I directed and wrote the script for this show so you'd think I’d know a little bit. But I wasn’t there for rehearsals all the time, so there was a lot of choreo I didn’t know. I spent two days with the cast getting brushed up on it, and then after that I jumped in. I was only doing two shows, so there was a little room for error, but I tried to do my best.
Do you like performing or being behind the scenes?
I like performing. There’s something really rewarding about both. Performing is definitely more instant gratification. When you’re in a planning role like this, I’ll do a rehearsal schedule and it will be ready; then they’ll do it, but no one's ever like, “Hey--that was awesome.“ It’s usually like, “Okay it happened… nothing went horribly wrong.” When you perform people applaud and so you’re like, “I did it!” But performing is a lot more physically demanding.
Do you remember the scripts from your previous shows?
Yeah! For Mass Effect, sometimes I’ll go in and do that. In 2016 I did it a whole bunch. In 2017, I did it a little bit, and this year I’ve done it like one time. But it’s amazing how fast it comes back to you. Also sometimes choreography pops into my head and I’ll be like, “Hey, that’s from 2012!”
How do you get into character?
Well I just put on the pants… No, but that is an interesting question because every actor is different. Honestly the costume does help make you feel like the character. For Jack Frost, it's fun to put on the costume because then you already feel like him. Jack Frost is grumpier than I am in general, so if somebody’s waving to Jack Frost, personally I’d be like, “Hello! Hi!”, but Jack Frost would sort of just smirk at them.
What’s your most memorable guest interaction?
I was doing the magic show and a mom came up to me. She said her kids had seen the show last week and when they went home they were playing as my character. They were doing magic tricks as The Great Zindini! I also had a couple good experiences as the Mayor. Some guy tried to tip me once and I was like, “I don’t take bribes--not for my political campaign.” As Jack Frost, there was a kid that I saw earlier in the day and I was like, “What are you doing next?” And he said he was about to go ice skating. I went to ice skate later, and the kid would not leave my side. It was just a really good interaction.
What’s your ultimate dream job?
In the general sense, as long as I can spread fun, happiness and a little bit of silliness, then that’s good. In a more practical sense I want to perform and be part of the entertainment industry in some way, shape or form. Writing and performing feels good!