Lou Del Bianco wasn't always a natural on stage.
The children's entertainer and Port Chester native described himself as "very shy growing up," and while that may be hard to believe after half a dozen albums and hundreds of stage performances, his songs and skits were born in childhood solitude.
"I began by creating characters using a tape recorder," del Bianco said.
Del Bianco was born and raised here, and for the past 23 years, his songs and stories have inspired countless children to laugh -- and sing along. He credits his upbringing in Port Chester for inspiring him to entertain children. It was at Port Chester High School that he got his first taste of life as a performer.
"I decided to audition for the school play and discovered I really enjoyed it," he said, "and [I] began to land some leading roles."
Soon, del Bianco began to make a name for himself by impressing the small community with his quiet talent.
But at 6'5", he found some stages -- and casting directors -- weren't always welcoming. At that height, people think basketball, not leading man. When del Bianco attended the New York Film Academy, he realized his height often led to rejection at casting calls.
But the young actor discovered his calling at an after-school program where he worked with his wife, Camille. Without a lifetime of TV and film images to tell them what an actor or comedian should look like, the children got a kick out of the Port Chester man's songs and skits about building clubhouses, playing with friends and staring in wonder at the adult world.
"I realized I could create my own material," del Bianco said. "I didn't fit the mold, so I learned to create specific roles revolving around specific talents I have."
His compilation of family-fun stories, "Making a Good Choice!" was made into to a CD, so kids could listen at home or in the car. The effort earned del Bianco a Parents' Choice Award. After selecting the album for recognition, the Parents' Choice Foundation lauded Del Bianco's "lessons about self-respect, acceptance and tolerance come from truth, warmth, and just enough self-effacing humor."
In the album "For Kids Only," del Bianco tells stories and sings about places across the world. Described by Booklist as "an enjoyable collection for young listeners," the track list includes titles like "Homework Blues" and "Kindergarten."
Del Bianco has penned more than fifty childhood stories, exploring historical characters and multiculturalism from a kid's point of view.
He was invited to Washington D.C. in 2009 to perform a well-known skit in which he dresses up as Abraham Lincoln to tell the story of America. The show was sponsored by the Bicentennial Commission, an organization dedicated to preserving Lincoln's legacy.
There's even a bit of American history in Del Bianco's blood, history he shares through his storytelling.
"My grandfather was one of the carvers of Mount Rushmore," he said. "He didn't receive the credit he deserved, so I'm trying to spread the message by telling his story in performance."
His one-man show about his grandfather's experiences was recognized by the Italian American Museum in New York City, where there's a permanent exhibit in his honor.
Del Bianco is set to perform his "Around the World" performance Thursday, July 15 at 7 p.m. at Gardella Park in White Plains. He's also scheduled for a performance at Hershey Park on July 31, for UNICO's (an Italian American organization) national meeting, where he'll tell the story of his grandfather, "In the Shadow of the Mountain: Louigi Del Bianco & Mt. Rushmore."