Alumni Magazine

SPR-SUM 2016

The alumni magazine for Franklin Pierce University.

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24 PIERCE / SPRING 2016 McKinnon grew up Avon, Mass., a small town nestled on the state's south shore. Her high school graduating class had just 45 se- niors, and instead of trying to run away from her roots, she wanted to replicate it. With its rural favor and smaller student body, FPU evoked the kind of close-knit community she cherished. "Many of the schools I looked at had beautiful campuses but I felt at home there," she says. "Things felt comfortable." So her journey began on a late August afternoon in 1995 in Rindge, N.H. Like so many before her, she'd come to Rindge with an under- standing of her goals. Then a funny thing happened on her way to laying the groundwork for her Hollywood career. She began studying American his- tory with Associate Professor Douglas Ley. The "History of New England" was frst. Then, others like "US History to 1812," one about Civil War-era America, and later more contemporary driven classes. "I'd always liked history, but he made me love it more," says McKinnon. "His classes were more like a conversation and less of a lec- ture. By my sophomore year he sat me down and said if I kept going I'd have enough to make it my major." So she did. Along the way McKinnon continued to study theater under Robert Lawson who, like Ley, pushed her to come at things differently. "I learned to love abstract theater because of him," she says. "His whole theory is that theater should be experienced, not just watched. You know, less like Damn Yankees and more like Rent. What I got from that is the abil- ity to look at approaching obstacles in life from different angles rather than straight on—the importance of seeing different perspectives." For McKinnon, these two passions—his- tory and theater—weren't separate entities. There was overlap and connections, and her pursuits at FPU, from her research on soldier letters she did for one of Lawson's plays to her junior year internship as a tour guide at the United States Supreme Court in Washington D.C., bore those out. They also spoke to McKinnon's willing- ness to experiment, to try diferent paths. It continued after she graduated. Following FPU, McKinnon, who majored in history and minored in theater, seemed to almost relish the variety that life threw her way. She drove a Boston trolley, worked as a deck- hand on a Tall Ship that shuttled between New England and Florida, then stayed south as a stewardess aboard a large yacht. A Job Tailor Made for Her In late 2000, McKinnon left Florida and returned to Boston. She'd been back a month when a curious job listing caught her eye. It was with Boston Duck Tours, whose well-known World War II style amphibious landing vehicles travel by land and water. The company was looking for new Con- DUCKtors, drivers/tour guides to help lead the upcoming season. The job seemed almost tailor made for her. She had experience on the water and a background in driving a big truck. More importantly, it tapped into her love of per- formance and history. ConDUCKtors aren't simply expected to recite the history, they are pushed to deliver it through the perspec- tive of a character they develop. Following a "grueling " audition process of interviews and improvisational sessions, McKinnon got the job and her character, PJ Keen, a narcoleptic tour guide who shows up to work in pajamas and slippers, was born. "You have to be a little wacky to dress in a costume and say the same thing fve times a day, but I loved it," she says. Considering the schedule, she sort of had to. Five times a day, four days a week, McKinnon led Boston visitors on an 80-minute sightseeing tour of the city. She'd amble through the thick city traffic to show off Quincy Market, Bunker Hill, and other highlights, then, to the delight and sometimes nerves of her passengers, plunge her truck into the Charles River for an up-close look at the Boston and Cambridge skylines. McKinnon ended up working for Duck Tours for 14 seasons, flling the winter months by returning to Florida to work on yachts. True, it didn't put her on the red car- pet like she had once dreamed, but it placed her front-and-center of an attentive crowd, some of whom were even celebrities. Driving Jimmy & Johnny In late October 2004, McKinnon, a self described "huge" Boston Red Sox fan, drove the frst truckload of players along the team's championship parade, celebrating its frst World Series title in 86 years. In the jump seat next to her sat the team's star center felder, Johnny Damon, who kept wheeling around to take in the thousands who jammed the sidewalks of the seven-mile route. "It was just amazing," McKinnon recalls. "I felt like I'd hit the jackpot. It was four hours straight of cheering and screaming. When we went into the water fans jumped in, too, and tried to swim to the Ducks. I know other people have said the champion- ship parades for the Bruins and Celtics were just as exciting, but there wasn't a compari- son for me." That same year McKinnon was tapped to drive singer Jimmy Bufett around Fenway Park to wave to fans before he kicked of his concert inside the stadium. As Bufett got comfortable and took in the throngs of fans who stood on cars and fences to cheer him 'You have to be a little wacky to dress in a costume and say the same thing fve times a day, but I loved it,' she says. DUCK TOUR PREVIOUS SPREAD: CHRISTOPHER BEAUCHAMP. FACING PAGE: COURTESY OF COLLEEN MCKINNON.

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