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Hal Holbrook returns to St. Louis in ‘Mark Twain Tonight’

Courtesy Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum

For over sixty years, Emmy and Tony award winning actor Hal Holbrook has recreated the role of Mark Twain in “Mark Twain Tonight.” He has returned to St. Louis and will once again perform his one man show on Saturday in UMSL’s Touhill Performing Arts Center to benefit the Eugene Field House Foundation.

Holbrook told “Cityscape” host Steve Potter that surprisingly, he did not grow up reading books by Mark Twain but discovered the author as an adult. At a time when he was struggling, Holbrook picked up a copy of “Tom Sawyer” and found that it suddenly made him feel better. He also realized he could use the material to create a theatrical work.

Holbrook began his one man show in a small New York night club.  But his career soon got a boost when Ed Sullivan saw the show and invited him to perform on his famed nationwide television show.

One thing that bothers Holbrook is that the public remembers Mark Twain for his antics as a young boy in Hannibal, but forgets his role as a social critic. When Potter asked what he thought Mark Twain would think about our politics today, Holbrook responded, “I think Mark Twain would be disgusted, utterly and totally disgusted with how we have jerked our democracy around into some kind of a strange pretzel that will not work. You cannot treat democracy like an enemy. Democracy requires people to disagree with each other, make some kind of an adjustment and keep walking in the same direction. But when we turn it into a conflict, democracy will die and it’s on its way right now out the door, and we better watch out.”

Related event

Hal Holbrook in "Mark Twain Tonight"

  • When: April 11, 2015; 8:00 p.m.
  • Where: Lee Theater in UMSL’s Touhill Performing Arts Center
  • More information

“Cityscape” is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and sponsored in part by the Missouri Arts Council, the Regional Arts Commission, and the Arts and Education Council of Greater St. Louis.

Mary Edwards is a producer for St. Louis Public Radio's broadcast program, "St. Louis Symphony."