Jay Frank was born for the limelight.
From the first play he wrote when he was 17 to being cast in 1997 in MTV's reality series The Real World, the 35-year-old Kennewick broadcaster has bloomed on stage.
By the time he was 19, Frank was performing a one-man show across the country that taught a bit of history as well as entertained.
"Storytelling is one of the oldest forms of theater," he said. "And the magic is in the audience. It's an experience you can't find watching TV, reading a book or even in a movie theater.
"When you're taken to another place by language and image in the magic of candlelight, you can't help but feel more alive than when you walked into a theater."
But storytelling doesn't pay the bills, so Frank spends his mornings as co-anchor of KEPR TV's morning news show.
But on Saturday nights, he slaps on his storytelling suit and heads for the Zinful Panini Bar in downtown Kennewick to perform his show, A 10-Cent Treasure.
The restaurant is lit only by candles. And on one of the brick walls, a visual story is projected along with Frank's storytelling.
"There's no obscenity in this show, but I also wouldn't recommend it for small children," Frank said.
The play details three stories about a treasure, a disappearance, and a kidnapping and murder, he said.
"The treasure is what some consider the Holy Grail of the coin-collecting world," Frank said. "The series of dimes minted in the San Francisco mint in 1894. The last one of these dimes to change hands at auction sold for $1.3 million. That's the 10-cent treasure."
The play, in part, aims to solve the ancient mystery behind the minting of that 1894 S dime, plus reveal how the kidnapping of a pioneer schoolteacher in 1879 was memorialized in an 18-foot silver statute that had hunks of silver stolen from it when it was loaned to the 1893 Chicago World's Fair.
"I love this story," he added. "During the first act, clues are laid out. In the second act the evidence is revealed. There are 120 historical photos in the show, which is about an hour and a half long."
But there's more to this show than conspiracy theories, he said.
"It's the people, the history and the remarkable photographs that make the stories come alive," Frank said.
Zinful owner Cheri Manley hopes the storytelling nights will branch into more casual dinner theater nights, featuring a variety of entertainment on a regular basis.
"Every table has been full for the last three shows, and everyone came early to have dinner or appetizers, wine, dessert or coffee," Manley said. "I'm hoping more individuals will approach me to perform."
Frank wrote his first play called Bedroom when he was 17 and living in Portland. It was about a teenager with insomnia who performs monologues in his room.
The play won a National Foundation for the Advancement of the Arts award. And that led to an internship at the Sundance Playwrights Lab at Robert Redford's retreat in Utah, followed by being named a 1994 Presidential Scholar in high school that also came with a $3,000 cash award.
"I spent the $4,000 renting out the Delores Winningstad Theatre in downtown Portland and performed Bedroom there after graduation," Frank said.
He made $12,000 the weekend he performed his one-man show and used that to live on while in London performing on MTV's The Real World.
"They don't pay you (to be on the show), just cover your rent and plane ticket," Frank explained.
But don't think Frank plans to give up his journalism career for theater.
"I worked very hard to earn my broadcasting degree, and I take pride in my journalism," he said. "Many of the skills cross over, and I'm a better broadcaster because of my playwriting.
"Theater builds culture, but local news broadcasts build community. I'm lucky to have a hobby that makes a little extra money and brings people downtown on Saturday nights. The shows are magic."
He is scheduled for every Saturday night through January. Showtime is 8 p.m. There is no cover charge but reservations are recommended and dinner is available. Call 586-6100. The restaurant is at 114 W. Kennewick Ave.
*Dori O'Neal: 582-1514; firstname.lastname@example.org