A transplanted actor from Los Angeles, who not only tells stories but puts on one-man shows dramatizing the works of horror master H.P. Lovecraft and Charles Dickens, David Neilsen also keeps his own trove of tales in a little brown book. Just say the word; he’d love to scare the daylights out of you.
Hometown: Santa Cruz, CA
Currently lives: Tarrytown
College degree: Theater, UC Santa Barbara
Early influences: I wanted to be an actor since I was six; I’m an only child and all I wanted to do was make-believe. I spent high school and college doing theater, and it’s such a huge part of who I am. Going into storytelling was a natural step.
Paying the bills: When I got to LA the Internet boom happened and I worked in Internet advertising and marketing for this thing called money for 10 years or more. I was miserable.
A storyteller is born: I came to my daughter’s fourth grade class to read “The Tell-Tale Heart,” by Edgar Allan Poe, for Halloween. One of the teachers asked me if I did this for a living, and it made me wonder why I wasn’t doing exactly that.
First gig: After I put on a show at the local library, Sleepy Hollow Cemetery approached me and I put together a program for them for Halloween. After that I started doing schools, the New York Botanical Garden, and Sunnyside, where I do “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.”
Best rehearsal space: I’ll do a one-person show in my car, babbling away at myself.
Biggest challenge: I can’t for the life of me do a Hispanic accent. It always comes out Indian.
Best-kept secret: Oddly enough, I’m naturally shy in a crowd.
Go-to story: It changes with the age group. I recently did a birthday party for a 10-year-old boy with a horror vibe, but I also do silly fables about dragons or wizards for the younger crowd. I have a whole bookcase of stories and fables from different countries, but I don’t memorize them. That’s where my actor improv training comes in.
Proudest possession: I keep a little brown book of scary stories, some that I find and change and others that I’ve written.
Strangest moment: One time I was telling scary stories at the Botanical Garden and all I did was open my mouth and say the first word and a kid started screaming and crying hysterically. I was dressed in a normal suit and tie, so I don’t know what set him off.
Looking ahead: I’m shopping around two novels for middle schoolers that are supernatural adventure. I also have horror stories coming out in anthologies in 2015.
For more information: www.neilsenparty.wordpress.com