As a child of the ’80s, I remember the glory days of Nickelodeon. One show in particular holds a special, joyous, slimy place in my heart. I remember coming home from school, grabbing some sugary snack from the kitchen, and plopping myself on the couch to watch Double Dare — a riotous, messy, laugh-filled show that seemed to be made just for kids like me. Standing in the middle of all that fun and joy was one man — Marc Summers, gameshow host and (as it seemed to me back then) a big kid who loved all that messy fun as much as his contestants and audience did.
As host of Double Dare and The Food Network’s Unwrapped, among other projects, Marc Summers has brought joy to audiences worldwide. This Friday, September 14, the Bloomington Playwrights Project (BPP), in cooperation with IU Cinema, presents On Your Marc, a documentary about Summers’s life. On Your Marc shares Summers’s deeply personal story of the joys and difficulties of hosting the messiest of TV shows while struggling with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), as the film simultaneously follows Summers through the process of putting on a play about his life.
In April 2016, Summers, who was born and raised in Indianapolis and graduated from North Central High School, returned to the Hoosier state to try something completely new: starring in a play. Everything In Its Place: The Life and Slimes of Marc Summers — written by Alex Brightman and music by Drew Gasparini — was produced by and debuted at BPP.
According to Chad Rabinovitz, producing artistic director of BPP and director of Everything In Its Place, “The play is about a man who became famous for the line, ‘Take the physical challenge.’ That’s what we know him for, and in his life, he has taken the physical challenge in every way. He is a survivor of cancer, he’s publicly struggled with OCD, and he also broke every bone in his face in a taxicab accident. He’s overcome all those physical challenges, and the play tells that story in a gameshow style.”
Through each and every one of these challenges, Summers has learned how short and precious life can be. So in his 60s, he made the decision to check a big item off of his bucket list. “One of the things that I always wanted to do in my life was theater, and I never did it,” says Summers. “I’ve almost died twice now, and I don’t know if I’m going to get many more chances. I thought, ‘If I don’t do it now, it’s never going to happen.’”
One of the main aspects of Summers’s story in both the play and the documentary is his very public struggle with OCD; Summers first came out as having OCD in the mid-90s on Biggers & Summers, a talk show he co-hosted, and discussed it again on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
In the play, co-star Mike Nappi plays opposite Summers as 34 other characters, including a physical representation of OCD. “The OCD character was definitely one of the biggest challenges for me because of the complexity of personifying a crippling disorder,” says Nappi. “I knew it was hard for Marc to relive a lot of those moments, but it was inspiring and captivating to see him confront it head-on every night in the theater.”
Everything In Its Place was a sold-out success that just happened to coincide with a growing interest in bringing Double Dare back to TV. When I mention that, Rabinovitz jokingly takes full credit for the revival of Double Dare. Summers just laughs, and says, “Well, everything helped, you know. The timing was sort of perfect; the right place and the right time for everything.”
Summers is looking forward to returning to Bloomington for the documentary release. “I just love the community,” he says. “I’m from Indiana; those are my roots. I probably understand the people there better than any other place in the country. It’s like coming home.”
Summers’s love for Bloomington is apparent in how heavily it features in the documentary, which shows him enjoying ice cream at The Chocolate Moose (before it was torn down), pizza at King Dough, and other iconic Bloomington sites. Of course, the film also offers a behind-the-scenes glimpse of the rich and lively theater community here in Bloomington through shot after shot of rehearsals and performances at BPP. The documentary highlights what Bloomingtonians already know: Our town is awesome!
For those of us who grew up with Marc Summers and Double Dare, the screening of On Your Marc is going to be a real treat. Not only will we learn more about a personality we grew up with, we will also get to see our hometown featured on the big screen. With plans to pitch this movie to a national online streaming service like Netflix or Hulu, we can say we saw it here in Bloomington first!
[Editor’s note: On Your Marc will play at the IU Cinema on Friday, September 14, at 7 p.m. Summers will introduce the documentary, and then return after the show with Rabinovitz and Nappi for a Q&A session. You can purchase tickets online or at the IU Cinema box office.]