Glasgow Daily Times, Glasgow, KY


August 12, 2010

‘Mark Twain’ opens tomorrow night at KRT

HORSE CAVE — Heralded as America’s most famous literary icon, Mark Twain, traveled the world as a humorist, sharing funny tales, which is in stark contrast to the trials and tribulations of his own life.

Robert Brock, artistic director for Kentucky Repertory Theatre, researched Twain for the theater’s upcoming production and learned Twain led a very sad life.

“I just began to see his humor as a way, I think, of dealing with all the sorrow in his life,” Brock said.

Brock will present “Mark Twain” as a one-man show. The play is scheduled to open Friday.  

As Twain, Brock will continue to share the funny tales the literary icon told audiences long ago, but he will also share stories about Twain’s mother and brother.

“It’s all his words, but I just pulled it out of a lot of different places,” Brock said.

Kentucky Rep chose to present “Mark Twain” this year because it is the centennial anniversary of his death. The theater presented the show in 2007, but Brock said Friday night’s opening performance is different from the one the theater did three years ago.

Twain died in 1910, but he didn’t want his autobiography published for 100 years after his death even though parts of it were published previously.

“The entire unexpurgated autobiography of Mark Twain is being released this year,” Brock said. “So, it’s sort of a Mark Twain year.”

For the play, Brock will transform himself into Twain.

“Makeup is always an interesting event. It’s part of getting into character. It’s just sitting in the mirror and watching your face slowly turn into another face,” he said. “It helps you go into that other person. It never feels like Mark Twain until I get the moustache and wig on.”

Brock will portray Twain when he was about 70 years old.

“He had quite a life all the way around. It was eventful all the way through. I think he was sort of  Tom Sawyer as a kid, but then his whole experience on the steam boat and then his newspaper work out West .. ... He pulled stories from his whole life. It’s just amazing all the things he did,” Brock said.

Brock has always been a fan of Twain.

“I’ve always loved reading Mark Twain and reading things from different periods of his life. He gets more cynical when he gets older,” he said. “He was just interesting all the way around.”

It took Brock a little longer to prepare for the role when the theater presented “Mark Twain” in 2007.

“This was not quite as long, but still I wanted to do new material,” Brock said. “Some of it was material I hadn’t used last time, but I had thought about it. I knew where to go for some of it.”

Brock read a recent Smithsonian Institute article about Twain and a relationship he had with a 14-year-old girl.

“He only knew her for three days,” Brock said. “They wrote letters the rest of their lives. She outlived him and burned all of his letters. Apparently, this was a platonic love affair. He was so smitten by her.

 “He was 18, 19 or 20 when he met her. He loved his wife, but there was always [this] thing. He talked about it a little bit in his autobiography.”

Brock clarified that a partial autobiography was released a few years ago.

He hopes when audiences come to see the play they will be drawn into Twain’s stories.

“It’s mixed up so there’s a funny one and then a sad one,” Brock said. “He was friends with General [Ulysses S.] Grant and so there’s some really interesting things about that. “

When Kentucky Rep did the play in 2007, Brock said Twain had a way of telling a story that really captured audiences.

“It was easy and fun everybody seemed to love it and hopefully, that’s what we will get again,” he said.

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