Emmy Winner Hal Holbrook Comes to Baylor with ‘Mark Twain Tonight!’ Performance Nov. 15

Mark Twain Tonight!
Nov. 1, 2016

Show is “as close as one can get . . . to see Mark Twain perform around 1900,” scholar says

WACO, Texas (Nov. 1, 2016) — “Mark Twain Tonight!”, Emmy Award-winning actor Hal Holbrook’s one-man show about iconic American writer Mark Twain, will come to Baylor University’s Waco Hall on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016.

“Seeing Hal Holbrook perform in ‘Mark Twain Tonight!’ is as close as one can get to experiencing what it must have been like to see Mark Twain perform around 1900,” said Joe Fulton, Ph.D., professor of English in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences.

“Hal Holbrook has studied Twain’s style of delivery. In fact, early in his career, Holbrook visited with the son of Twain’s booking agent to get his opinion of his speaking style,” said Fulton, who has published five books on Twain. “Holbrook’s efforts really shine in his performance. As Mr. Holbrook himself has said, playing Mark Twain is ‘the role that has defined my life.’”

The Baylor event is sponsored by the department of English and the College of Arts & Sciences. Leading the effort to bring Holbrook to campus were Fulton; Kevin Gardner, Ph.D., chair of Baylor’s department of English; and Scott Livesay, B.A. (Chemistry) '68, M.D., of Waco, an alumnus of Culver Military Academy, which Holbrook also attended.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $10 to $50.

Waco Hall is at 624 Speight Ave. in Waco between Fifth and Seventh streets, with parking available at a number of locations. To purchase tickets, call (254) 710-3210 or visit Baylor tickets.

A publicity bio of Holbrook noted that his Twain performance doesn’t stop evolving. Said Holbrook: “Mark Twain never stops surprising me. He keeps firing me up and asking questions.”

Coming to Waco is in a sense coming back home for Holbrook, 91, Fulton said. He began performing Twain in the late 1940s, traveling by car through Texas and Oklahoma to perform pieces from Twain and Shakespeare in high schools.

Retired English professors Bob and Dorothy Weathersby, longtime fans of Holbrook and friends of Fulton, saw Holbrook’s Twain performance at Chattanooga’s Tivoli Theater in September and commented that even though the house was packed, the audience fell silent the instant “Mark Twain” stepped onto the stage.

“Mr. Holbrook held them in rapt attention the entire time,” Fulton said.

A review by The Washington Post called Holbrook’s characterization of novelist/storyteller Twain “so complete as to be almost unsettling at times. The combination of Holbrook’s physical and vocal talents and the potency of Twain’s words is a mesmerizing thing to behold.”

The Desert Sun of Palm Springs, California, described the performance as “all very politically incorrect and very, very funny. Holbrook as Twain had the nearly full house screaming with laughter and crying for mercy. If you had closed your eyes during Holbrook’s tour de force, you’d have sworn this was a contemporary commentary.”

Holbrook’s “Mark Twain Tonight!” began when he sat at his desk in a small $79-a-month New York apartment in 1954 and began searching Twain’s writings for material that might work on the stage and feed his family. One key decision he made was not to update Twain.

“Portray Mark Twain as the aging character the world recognizes – a wild white head of hair, beetle brows and mustache, the white suit, and never break the illusion that it is Twain himself speaking in his own time,” Holbrook said. “Let the audience update him. That has made the show more powerful because human behavior doesn’t change. Neither does its foolishness. That’s the joke.”

Holbrook has received an Academy Award nomination and several Screen Actors Guild nominations, with one of his best-known films being “Into the Wild.” He also has won five Emmy Awards and received 12 nominations for roles in TV films and series, among them “The Senator,” “The Pueblo” and “Sandburg’s Lincoln.”

In 2003, Holbrook received the National Humanities Medal from former President George W. Bush.

The Baylor event is sponsored by the department of English and the College of Arts & Sciences. Leading the effort to bring Holbrook to campus were Fulton; Kevin Gardner, Ph.D., chair of Baylor’s department of English; and Scott Livesay, M.D., of Waco, an alumnus of Culver Military Academy, which Holbrook also attended.

Doors open at 7:30 p.m., and the show begins at 8 p.m. Tickets range from $10 to $50.

Waco Hall is at 624 Speight Ave. in Waco between Fifth and Seventh streets, with parking available at a number of locations. To purchase tickets, call (254) 710-3210 or visit Baylor Tickets

ABOUT BAYLOR UNIVERSITY

Baylor University is a private Christian University and a nationally ranked research institution. The University provides a vibrant campus community for more than 16,000 students by blending interdisciplinary research with an international reputation for educational excellence and a faculty commitment to teaching and scholarship. Chartered in 1845 by the Republic of Texas through the efforts of Baptist pioneers, Baylor is the oldest continually operating University in Texas. Located in Waco, Baylor welcomes students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries to study a broad range of degrees among its 12 nationally recognized academic divisions.

ABOUT BAYLOR COLLEGE OF ARTS & SCIENCES

The College of Arts & Sciences is Baylor University’s oldest and largest academic division, consisting of 25 academic departments and 13 academic centers and institutes. The more than 5,000 courses taught in the College span topics from art and theatre to religion, philosophy, sociology and the natural sciences. Faculty conduct research around the world, and research on the undergraduate and graduate level is prevalent throughout all disciplines. Visit www.baylor.edu/artsandsciences.

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