Mark Twain… his is a household name and one of North America’s most famous literary icons. But what was he really like? Audience members learned all about the famous author at the South County Library on Tuesday, October 23. Through the live portrayal of the renowned humorist, storyteller David Ehlert, brought Mark Twain back to life. Throughout the evening, he unwrapped the author’s life until the audience discovered that Twain was truly a man before his time. He was a social critic, a humorist, a writer… among many other things. He was a strong supporter of abolition and emancipation, as well as being a supporter of women’s rights. Ehlert included many of Twain’s most famous lines and stories… and even quoted an entire chapter from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Ehlert’s performance was very entertaining, enlightening and certainly kept everyone’s attention throughout the evening.
Ehlert is highly respected for his absorption of Twain’s life and his work. From Ehlert’s website, a professor who teaches Twain studies at St. Mary’s College in Maryland wrote: “What I found most refreshing is that [he] clearly had absorbed the essence of Twain’s words, and rather than just repeat them [he] found refreshing contexts in which to put them. It’s obvious that [he] embraces his subject…”
Ehlert began performing as Mark Twain when he was asked to fill in when a scheduled performer was unable to make it. He only had a week to gather as much information about the famous author’s background as he could, before he was set to perform. Now, that’s all history. Now, Ehlert could be described as a Twain expert after having spent years perfecting his performance. During his first year performing as the author, he was booked for six programs every week! He performed in Branson, Missouri and then started branching out… eventually traveling across the country, performing at theaters and libraries across 38 states.
A Visit with Mark Twain was the second in a three part series focusing on 19th century authors, called Dead Authors Month, hosted by Roanoke County and Salem libraries. The series included a visit from Jane Austen as well as a special Halloween event featuring Edgar Allen Poe.