The Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame Association
John James Lepiarz Inducted 2015 - Class of 1969
"We lived for 30 years on Clay Street, three blocks from Woodward. We had a big house, a barn, six kids in the house, fifty kids on the block, and Stanley's Supermarket close by. What more could a kid want?" To simplify things all of John's brothers and cousins were called "Lep," and the friendships formed in kindergarten with Eddie Solden and Jerry Martz would guide the trio through Hamilton. As they entered Woodward the trio widened to include Laurie Youngman, Annie Maish, and Rick Magely.
At a school assembly during his Woodward tenure, several students dressed up as Woodward teachers. Each student mimicked one of their favorite teachers and gave a one minute "Pep Talk." The most commonly heard comment from the teachers was "Do I really talk like that?" This one minute exposure to an audience provided the footing for John’s entertainment career.
Just a little encouragement from his speech instructor, Mr. Smythe, and the kindly advice of Keith
Biler, Woodward's Band Director, was all the prompting that John or "Lep," needed to pursue key roles in Woodward's "Extrav." "You don’t have to be a great singer for these roles, we can always change the key."
Under the direction of Richard Hoffman, John owned the character of "Fagin" in the 1968 production of Dicken's "Oliver," and in 1969 John was the devil himself as "Applegate" in "Damm Yankees." After his performance in "Oliver," his father who had been in the audience, asked him if he was going to pursue a career in theater, and when John replied yes, his father said "Well, I think you're good enough."
After graduating from Oberlin College and the LeCoq School of Mime and Clown in Paris, John spent the next seven years as the featured clown with New York's Big Apple Circus. Highlighted appearances on HBO and ABC's International Circus Festival have only added to his standing. Altering his career choice only slightly, John developed an on-stage persona, "Mr. Fish." As "Mr. Fish," "Lep" used an amusing collection of circus and magic skills, coupled with the antics of his fellow performers, created visual images to teach young children difficult scientific concepts. Quoting the New York Times, 'The beguiling Mr. Fish looks as if Mark Twain and Albert Einstein mingled molecules in a time machine."
The Super Scientific Circus or Mr. Fish's Seven Routines have been performed in all the Canadian Provinces and the 50 States, along with selected countries throughout the world.
John and his wife, Linda Van Blerkom, are the proud parents of four children and live in Madison, New Jersey, and New York City, New York.