The Incredible Bob Hall
Do you start with the measles? Do you start with the vomiting and the rash behind his ear? Do you start with the comic books? With Donald Duck? Batman? Or do you start on stage? Do you start with Shakespeare? With The Passion of Dracula?
Perhaps you start with hell. Perhaps, to explain how a kid from a blue-collar family in Lincoln, Nebraska, finds himself home again at 73 years old with a portfolio running the gamut from Marvel Comics to off-Broadway theater, you start with the City-Wide Gospel Tabernacle. Perhaps you start with all those flannelboard stories of the rapture.
“My Sunday School teacher was an expert storyteller,” says Bob Hall, sitting in a small metal chair in the corner of Lincoln’s Iron Tail Gallery, surrounded by his MFA thesis show, “The Quick and the Dead,” a series of portraits both painted and drawn. He’s wearing a black newsboy cap, black slacks and a loose-fitting three-button suit jacket — also black. His dimples are hidden by a patchy white beard but when he smiles, one can spot the boy he never quite left behind.
He still remembers her name, Evelyn, the Sunday School teacher, and how she once filled a cigar box with sand; how the pins represented those who believed, and the matchsticks those who didn’t. He remembers how she slowly lowered that magnet toward the sand, and how all those pins — all those souls — shot up toward the heavens.
“I began to pray incessantly for all my friends and my family,” he says, “and I became terrified that my folks might be going to hell, since they didn’t go to church.”