One-man show on Twain performed at MU

Thursday, November 18, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 9:36 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 16, 2008

On Wednesday night, Hal Holbrook brought his masterpiece, the one-man-show, “Mark Twain Tonight!” to a crowded Jesse Auditorium.

The show features 79-year-old Holbrook playing humorist and author Mark Twain. The show was written by Holbrook as a college honors project and began playing off-Broadway in 1959.

Holbrook used Twain’s works as the basis for the show, choosing subjects in Twain’s works that he discusses throughout the program. The subjects are still relevant today and include journalism, insurance and politics.

“Imagine you were an idiot. And imagine you were a Congressman,” said Holbrook voicing Twain’s opinion. “Oh wait, I’ve repeated myself.”

Holbrook also selected material relevant to the post-election political season.

“Election time. That’s when the flotilla of half-truths goes sailing by. (Politicians) become experts in duplicity.”

A self-proclaimed “student of Twain,” Harry Williams of Montauk attended the performance.

“Holbrook is an acquaintance,” Williams said. “I once received a letter from him after a performance that said that I ‘made a good Twain.’ That’s quite a compliment.”

Williams said he has seen many of Holbrook’s portrayals of Twain.

Carl Seitz of Jefferson City attended the show because he was looking for some light entertainment.

“I came because I’m a longtime fan of Hal Holbrook,” Seitz said. “I appreciate his presentation of Mark Twain’s thoughts and ideas.”

The show is in its 45th year and Holbrook estimates he has performed it more than 2,000 times. The show won him a Tony Award for best actor in a dramatic role when it opened on Broadway in 1966. In 1967, a taped version, which aired on CBS, earned Holbrook an Emmy nomination.

Over the years, Holbrook’s work in “Mark Twain Tonight!” has become the model for one-man theatrical performances.

The actor has also starred in more than 90 movie and television productions, spanning 50 years.

The roles he is most famous for include Reese Watson, opposite his wife Dixie Carter, on “Designing Women,” and Evan Evans on “Evening Shade.”

For more on Mark Twain, visit

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