Bill Robling, Reinventor

01 Nov 2016, Posted by Founding Franklin in Get To Know Bill Robling, The Franklin You Thought You Knew

If the title above looks vaguely familiar, it is because last month’s piece was entitled, “Benjamin Franklin, Reinventor”. When I thought about recent experiences in my work as Benjamin Franklin interpreter, it occurred to me that there has been a bit of re-inventing for me as well. In any profession or pursuit, there is a temptation to steer a narrow, familiar path. Don’t change what works, and all that; but there is also danger in not keeping oneself open to new experiences and new avenues of expression. The ultimate danger in following the safe road is stagnation, both in terms of creativity and business success.

When I began to pursue historical acting and educating as a full-time career, my re-invention began. Gone was the steady paycheck, but also gone was the devastating effect of an unsatisfying, often toxic job. Once this new career was begun, the work was usually predictable. There would be a day spent greeting visitors, or a photo session. As I sought to be as knowledgeable about Franklin and his times, I re-invented myself as a serious student of history, no longer interested but now passionate. Soon I was to re-invent as a film and video actor as well.

A few years ago, I was approached by a couple who wanted Dr. Franklin to preside at their wedding. I said, “why not, that is a great idea.” Now I have done seven of those events, in many types of venues.

The most recent re-invention, however, is the most radical one. I was approached a couple of months ago by a hip-hop artist and his manager, asking if I would do a photo shoot with Jay IDK for his debut album cover. I would go to New York, work with people in an industry fraught with negative stereotypes, and shoot a cover with negative images for anyone who did not understand the concept of the album. They would also give me a fistful of cash, but I still balked. Finally, I told myself that this could be just the experience to break out into yet another avenue of expression, and so I agreed to be in New York the next week. After that shoot, then another day of radio station interviews and a live feed from Twitter headquarters, and a day at a music festival in Maryland, I found that the negative stereotypes about the rap music world were just that, stereotypes. I have never worked with a more professional, hard-working, decent people that with Clayton, Jay and the Tribe. This was reinforced last week, when I got a call on Friday night, asking me to be in Miami on Saturday morning for an appearance with JayIDK at the Revolt Music Conference. There I met a few hundred similarly clean, sober, committed members of the music industry, and had a great time.

The message that I am attempting to convey is this: the more we open ourselves up to change and fresh ideas and experiences, the more we grow and flourish. It is working for me, even in my seventies.

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