Hal Holbrook to perform at Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum

Posted: Nov. 13, 2012 10:18 am Updated: Nov. 27, 2012 11:15 am

Herald-Whig Staff Writer

HANNIBAL, Mo. -- Hal Holbrook will bring Mark Twain back to the author's birthplace.

The 87-year-old actor has played Mark Twain since 1954. In that time, he's performed in Hannibal twice, and now the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum has invited Holbrook to help celebrate the museum's 100th anniversary. The performance will be at 8 p.m. Saturday at Hannibal High School. Tickets range from $40 to $125, and can be bought by calling (573) 221-9010, ext. 404, or by visiting the second floor of the Museum Gallery at 120 N. Main between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

In Mark Twain Tonight!, Holbrook adapts uses Twains mannerisms and speaks his words in a one-man show.

"He smokes a cigar, and he paces the stage," said Cindy Lovell, the museum's executive director. "He's a gifted actor and a brilliant actor, and he really embodies this man."

Twain's daughter, Clara Clemens, died in 1962, but before she passed Holbrook sought to authenticate his performance with her approval. While he studied the author using newspapers and Twain's writings, he wanted to validate the performance. The actor visited Clara and asked for her blessing, which she granted.

"It's just one degree of separation (from Twain,)" Lovell said.

Holbrook uses Twain's writing and pairs them with modern occurrences. In past performances, Lovell has seen Twain address topics such as Wall Street and insurance companies.

"It shows us how little things have changed," Lovell said.

She speculates that with the recent election, Holbrook will have plenty of commentary to share.

Lovell has seen Holbrook portray Twain eight times and looks forward to bringing this highlight to Hannibal.

"He's memorized so much Twain that he never ever does the same show twice," Lovell said.

The museum has also awarded Holbrook with the first Mark Twain Lifetime Achievement Award. The Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum will present this award every two years to someone whose life work has significantly furthered Twain's legacy. Holbrook has performed as Twain more than 2,000 times.

"He's been playing Mark Twain longer than Sam Clemens played Mark Twain," Lovell said.

Even with an extensive theatrical career, Holbrook has performed as Twain every year. In addition to Twain, he's also appeared in a variety of productions such as "Buried Inside Extra," 1983; "The Country Girl," 1984; "King Lear." 1990; "An American Daughter," 1997; and a national tour of "Death Of A Salesman."

He's also been featured in more than 40 movies, including "Magnum Force," "Midway," "All The President's Men," "Capricorn One," "The Fog," "Creepshow," "Wall Street," "The Firm," "Men of Honor," "The Majestic," and "Into the Wild."