Marc Roberts has spent over 20 years performing in silence. Well, silence in voice, at least.
One can’t call being a member of the Blue Man Group silent, per se.
Since moving to Las Vegas from the midwest in 2003, Roberts has been one of many to don the blue body paint and bald cap. He’s brought joy to plenty a patron from his playing of drums, to splattering colored dye onto those front and center at the Luxor.
This time, Roberts is trying something different. His newest gig requires the use of an instrument, but not the percussion apparatus he’s been accustomed to.
Rather than drums, Roberts now possesses a trumpet; one that’s as tall as him, and that perfectly encapsulates the hilarity and obnoxious manner that has brought his new persona, Herald the Henderson Town Crier, to life.
“To get to use my voice and talk to people, and go to a different area I never got to go with Blue Man, it adds a layer of a challenge that is so exciting,” Roberts said in a phone interview with Vegas Hockey Now. “I haven’t gotten to use a stage voice in so long, I’ve got to get some honey in my throat before games to make sure my throat doesn’t go stale.”
Roberts, who hadn’t played the trumpet formally since seventh grade, is the man responsible for setting AHL Hockey Twitter, and Southern Nevada Twitter for that matter, ablaze with magnificent content.
After every Henderson Silver Knights goal at Orleans Arena, Herald has one important duty: scurry down seven rows of stairs where a microphone awaits him. Perched next to this mic is the aforementioned brass instrument.
Herald takes his place under the spotlight, removes his mask — because even in medieval times, social distancing matters — takes a large breath, and plays the horn to proclaim that there is an announcement to be made; that a goal has been scored by a ‘Sir’ of House Henderson.
It’s about as random as it sounds. Then it actually happens, and you find yourself hoping the Silver Knights score again to allow Roberts to do his thing.
“It’s so far out there that you’re like, ‘the first thing I’m going to do is ground it. I’m going to give Herald physicality, give him life,’” Roberts said. “He’s going to live in between the goals. He’s going to live in between the games. This is a character that you’re going to see and you’re going to know.
“I’m not sure what he does at his house, but I know it’s something along the same lines of the dramatic effect of announcing a goal. Like, his morning routine will be very specific and very loud.”
The Origin of Herald
From the moment the Silver Knights became official, the Vegas Golden Knights’ entertainment division went straight to work.
Weekly meetings were held. Vegas’ AHL affiliate was going to play its first two years at Orleans Arena before moving to the Henderson Events Center on Paseo Verde Parkway. The task was to try and make it as fun of an experience as you’d see at Golden Knights games.
Despite the uncertainty of when the AHL season would start, ideas kept pouring in; some even pushed to next season.
One idea that had to happen on opening night Feb. 6: Herald the Town Crier.
“We got through the first two preseason games, and I saw [Golden Knights vice president of communications and content] Eric [Tosi] walking the concourse after the game on [Jan. 30],” said Ayron Sequeira, the team’s executive director of entertainment experience. “He looked at me and said, ‘we need the town crier.’”
Roberts initially auditioned to be the Silver Knights’ in-arena host. That position was filled by Bojo Ackah, on-air personality for hip-hop station Q100.5 FM. Despite that, Sequeira wanted Roberts to be involved.
She called Roberts and thought Herald would be the perfect role for him. Roberts laughed and then said yes.
The in-arena host has to have a sense of improv, and that’s what impressed Sequeira during Roberts’ audition.
“Marc was so good with the little details,” she said. “I knew him from his performances at T-Mobile [with BMG]. To see him audition as a host, and to see his personality and to see how he is at improv, he’s an incredible performer.”
Fast forward to the first week of February, and everything was in place for Herald’s debut, except for one thing: the scroll.
Sequeira scrambled two hours before puck drop to find a scroll. She called everywhere, from prop houses to Hobby Lobby. Nothing. Then she looked to her right, placed on a seat inside Orleans Arena; the team ribbons displayed on the empty seats.
Just like that, Herald had his scroll, and he was off.
“Welcome to minor-league hockey,” Sequeira said.
The role of improv
Trying to get a scroll together wasn’t the only challenge that night. Roberts’ approach when he announced a goal modified each time.
Take, for example, Jake Leschyshyn’s first goal in franchise history at 1:41 of the second period. Roberts walked to the mic, played the horn, and announced the goal.
But there were no royal titles or ‘House Henderson’ at the end of his proclamation.
“In between moments where I’m standing up, shouting, and in between the period breaks, I’m thinking of physicalities,” Roberts said. “I’m thinking of ways to just round it out.”
When he went back upstairs and met with Sequeira, they enjoyed it, but Roberts felt he could’ve done more. After some slight thinking, Roberts told Sequeira, “I should call them lords.” And then said, “I should say House Henderson.”
Thus, at 4:29 of the second period, “Lord Jake Bischoff of House Henderson!” scored a goal.
Jake Bischoff scored. The game is tied 2-2.
— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) February 7, 2021
Less than nine minutes later, Dylan Sikura scored the third goal of the period for Henderson. Roberts hurried down the stairs, jazz hands and all.
He removed his mask, took a breath, and let out one of the most hilarious staccato-like sounds from a horn ever heard this side of the Mississippi. It had the feel of, “damn it, I have to announce this again,” but turned into a build-up of not knowing what Herald will do next.
“He’s already so ingrained in me, that the level of improv and the level of reality a lot of times are riding in the same moment,” Roberts said. “When I came down there, it was almost an exasperating, ‘another one! OK! Hmmph! OK, here we go!’ Like I’m about to eat a turkey leg or something up there.”
Town crier homeboy came up flat on ye ol’ horn. pic.twitter.com/oNeUnT5yZm
— Danny Webster (@DannyWebster21) February 7, 2021
During the intermission, after some research, Roberts discovered that they’re not called lords, but rather ‘sirs.’ That led to ‘Sir Danny O’Regan’ scoring at 18:02 of the third period.
“The human inside my head is saying, ‘let’s make sure we get the name right, let’s make sure you’re in the right spot, let’s blow a proper toot,” Roberts said. “And the other side of it is, ‘none of this rift raft now! Let’s get going! Come on! We have a duty!” I’m fighting inside my head with Herald himself, who is taking over my consciousness.”
It’s also the little things in his appearance. Like when Peyton Krebs scored his first professional goal the following game, Roberts came to the microphone with a much larger scroll than what was previously used.
Roberts made 11 goal announcements in two home games. As time went on, Herald kept setting up shop.
“Every time I walked down there, Herald just got a little more real estate in my conscious mind,” Roberts said. “He’s got a big red chair ready to go in my mind, he’s got banners up. He’s got this own personal system in my head.”
“This is just the beginning.”
Herald is just one component of many the Silver Knights hope to unveil this season.
Clark County is allowing 15 percent of fans to attend Golden Knights games beginning March 1. That also goes for Orleans Arena allowing 1,425 fans.
The first Silver Knights home game with fans would be March 18 against the Stockton Heat.
An inaugural season without fans isn’t ideal. The Silver Knights are using this time, however, as a work-and-go situation to figure out what works from a production standpoint.
“We’re still putting out a great product from our side, but we’re also taking advantage of the fact that we can make mistakes that won’t go noticed because we don’t have fans,” Sequeira said. “We’re thankful, kind of, to try and find the positives in this situation.”
This could be a warm-up time, too, for Herald. But such a man with his boisterous personality doesn’t believe in trial and error.
“I don’t think Herald has error in his mind,” Roberts said. “Even if Herald stumbles down the stairs, that’s what he’s meant to do. He believes in his duty to the team, so much so, that if he has to announce relish coming on a hot dog, that needs to happen at that moment.”
Sequeira said plans are in place when fans arrive.
The team plans to unveil the Henderson Jesters, their version of a hype squad. There will also be people doing balloon animals, as well as freestyle dancers for your entertainment. Sequeira added there will be an entity similar to the Golden Knights’ drumline, the Knight Line, but it won’t be a drumline.
That could be debuted this season but will more than likely be moved to 2022.
“It’s important for people to know that we’re doing the best we can with what we are all facing as an organization,” Sequeira said. “We’re all facing this pandemic and things are constantly changing and evolving. We’re thankful and really grateful that we get to give people an opportunity to escape their reality for a little while.”
As for Herald, he will debut a new costume Wednesday when the Silver Knights return home to face the San Diego Gulls. What, praytell, could this costume look like?
“The only thing I’ll say is, when I’m coming down the stairs, it’ll have some whip to it,” Roberts said. “People will know when I pass them.”
Hopefully, that’s not the only thing. Some have suggested that Herald — the closest thing we’ve had this century to a character in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” — be followed with the sound of clacking coconuts behind him.
Nevertheless, it’s been a collaborative effort between Roberts and the Silver Knights’ entertainment team. They’ve only scratched the surface for what they, and Herald, can become.
“The whole staff has been so incredibly supportive. The amount of potential of opportunities they’re going to give Herald, it’s exciting,” Roberts said. “The ideas they have, the windows that happen within a game, the moments that can happen, this is just the beginning.”