The Kroll’s West Local Series at the Ashwaubenon Performing Arts Center begins with Mark Twain Revisited with Parker Drew on Friday, October 11, 2019 at 7:30 p.m. Sponsored by Dolly’s Manure Fund, the show is a critically acclaimed tribute to renowned American author and humorist Mark Twain. Through Mark Twain Revisited, Twain’s unique humor and timeless wisdom are brought to life by veteran television, radio and theatrical performer Parker Drew.
Drawing words from Twain himself, Drew’s one-man show has toured more than 500 theaters in 37 states, and this October 11th show marks his 50th anniversary performing this role.
In advance of tonight’s show, we asked Parker Drew a few questions:
Q: How did this tribute performance come about? When did you first start channeling Mark Twain?
A: The show began very small. A five-minute forensics speech based on Twain’s ghost story “The Golden Arm” when I was at Washington Junior High. I won the competition and was encouraged by a teacher to expand the presentation and add makeup and costume. I was given half of the school play time to do that first performance on May 9th, 1969. Long story short, it continued to expand…shows and venues got bigger…then I was signed to a major lecture bureau in New York City…and ended up touring the US on the college circuit. It’s now been over 500 shows, 37 states, and tens of thousands of air miles! As almost any touring performer will tell you, it’s the constant travel that wears you down.
Q: No recordings of Mark Twain’s voice exist. How have you crafted his stage presence and cadence?
A: There are no audio recordings, but there are many old newspaper accounts of his on-stage persona. There’s also a very short film clip of Twain at home. My walk comes from that, and observing older folks. A tremendous resource for me has been a rare book called “The Trouble Begins at Eight.” It is a very thorough account of Twain on the lecture circuit, including actual speeches he gave. Of course, like other Twain impersonators, Hal Holbrook’s characterization in “Mark Twain Tonight” was a good starting point for the voice and demeanor when I first started. One begins by imitation, then hopefully finds ways to make it one’s own character.
Q: What is your favorite Mark Twain quote?
A: Favorite quote is a tough one. There are so many. Three bits that ALWAYS get big laughs are:
“One time I was introduced by a fella who said “I’m not gonna say anything about Mark Twain ’cause I don’t know anything about him. That is to say I do know two things about him. One thing I know is he’s never been in the penitentiary. The other is I don’t know why.”
“I wonder about people in Hell. Where do they tell people to go?”
“When I arrived at the hotel, I had caught a terrible cold. The lady at the front desk told me the best way to cure a cold was to drink a quart of whisky every 24 hours. Another friend of mine told me the same thing. That made it half a gallon. I’d been drunk before, but THAT was a masterpiece.”
Q: Why do you think the works and humor of Mark Twain have stood the test of time?
A: Pure genius. A man with such incredible insight to the human condition that his commentary is timeless. His wisdom was far ahead of his time, much like Einstein’s. I’m often asked who the modern-day Twain might be. I think Garrison Keillor is pretty close. A great writer, and incredibly funny monologist.
Q: Have you ever considered portraying another historical figure or celebrity through a one-man show?
A: I also perform as Will Rogers, although not as extensively. I also do a show called “The Twain Shall Meet.” That’s Twain in the first act and Will Rogers the second act. Intermission is pretty frantic for that show! Massive makeup and costume change in fifteen minutes. Twain and Rogers remain this country’s greatest humorists.
Tickets to Mark Twain Revisited are $20 each with subscriber and group discounts available. To purchase or learn more about this or other upcoming events, visit ashwaubenonpac.org or call (920) 494-3401.