Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!Tuesday, April 9, 2013 - 7:30pm
Hal Holbrook's legendary one-man show Mark Twain Tonight! brings the beloved author to life with irreverent humor and astonishing authenticity. Millions have enjoyed the show since its original Tony and Emmy winning performances on Broadway and on television, and Hal Holbrook continues to perfect it, drawing upon his vast experience on the stage and screen.
Hal Holbrook was born in Cleveland in 1925, but raised mostly in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. His mother disappeared when he was two, his father followed suit, so young Holbrook and his two sisters were raised by their grandfather. It was only later he found out that his mother had gone into show business.
Holbrook, being the only boy, was sent away at the age of 7 to one of the finer New England schools where a Dickensian headmaster beat him regularly. When he was 12 he was sent to Culver Military Academy, where he discovered acting as an escape from his disenchantment with authority.
In the summer of 1942 he got his first paid professional engagement playing the son in The Man Who Came To Dinner at the Cain Park Theatre in Cleveland at $15.00 per week. That fall, he entered Denison University in Ohio, majoring in Theatre under the tutelage of his lifelong mentor, Edward A. Wright. World War II pulled him out of there and put him into the Army Engineers for three years.
The Mark Twain characterization grew out of an honors project at Denison University after the War. Holbrook and his first wife, Ruby, had constructed a two-person show, playing characters from Shakespeare to Twain. After graduation they toured the school assembly circuit in the Southwest doing 307 shows in thirty weeks and traveling 30,000 miles by station wagon.
Holbrook's first solo performance as Mark Twain was at the Lock Haven State Teachers College in Pennsylvania in 1954. While hunting for a job in New York, the show was his desperate alternative to selling hats or running elevators to keep his family alive. By then he had a daughter, Victoria.
That same year, fortune struck by way of a steady engagement on a daytime television soap opera, The Brighter Day, but the following year Holbrook pursued the Twain character at night in a Greenwich Village night club while doing the soap daytimes. In seven months at the club he developed his original two hours of material and learned timing.
In 1959, after five years of researching Mark Twain and honing his material in front of countless audiences in small towns all over America, he opened at a tiny theatre off-Broadway in New York. His overnight success was as stunning to Holbrook as everyone else.
Among years of TV, film and stage credits, Mr. Holbrook has toured this show in some part of every year since 1954 - giving his 2234th performance in November 2011 - making 2012 the 58th consecutive year for this remarkable one man show. Mark Twain Tonight! has become perhaps the longest running show in theatre history. Holbrook adds to his Twain material every year, editing and changing it to fit the times and has mined over sixteen hours of Twain with more coming all the time. He has no set program - he chooses material as he goes along.