- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 2, 2014

WASHINGTON (AP) - Hal Holbrook is in the midst of a marathon of theater and has no intention of stopping.

This marks the 60th consecutive year he has staged his one-man show “Mark Twain Tonight,” keeping alive the satire and commentary of the late writer and humorist for audiences today.

The 89-year-old actor began playing Twain solo in a 1954 assembly at a Pennsylvania teachers college. He’s taken the show to Broadway, to the South during the civil rights era and on a world tour, and he has made a TV special.

Ahead of Holbrook’s stop Friday and Saturday at the National Theatre in Washington, he said Twain’s commentary is ever relevant. Holbrook recently added new material on the Bible, the labor movement and a number from “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

This year’s tour continues on to Concord, N.H., Jefferson City, Mo., and Santa Clarita, Calif., through May.

Holbrook spoke to The Associated Press about his passion for Twain.


AP: What drew you to Mark Twain and this role for the stage?

Holbrook: I tended to lean toward character work. I love to disguise myself.

When I got to New York as a young actor, I had been working on the road with my first wife doing a variety of characters in this little two-person show we put together. We had just had a baby. My wife had a nervous breakdown. She couldn’t work anymore. Our two-person show was gone.

I walked the streets of New York for two years begging for a job, and I couldn’t get one. Finally I went to see this man … his father had been Mark Twain’s lecture manager. I sat there in his office, and I said, Bim, do you think I could book this two-person show and get somebody else to take Ruby’s part? He stared at me for a while and said, “Why don’t you do it solo?”

“What do you mean?” I said.

“Of Twain,” he said.

“You mean go out on the stage alone? Jesus, I’d be scared to death.”

“I think you could get bookings.” That’s all he said.

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