GREENVILLE, KY (2/9/13) – John Chappell says it was a "bad case of mumps" that inspired his love of Mark Twain, long before he donned the minimal costume of unkempt snowy white hair, scruffy mustache, cigar and wrinkled white suit. You're invited to watch as Chappell transforms himself into "Mark Twain on Stage" in his critically acclaimed one man show.
Chappell will perform one show only at Greenville's Felix E. Martin Jr. Hall at 7 p.m. on Saturday, February 16th.
Chappell elaborated that it was a bad case of the mumps that gave him the "Mark Twain bug".
"I was sick in bed as a child, and I had read all the Hardy Boy mysteries. That was in the days before we had TV. Fighting boredom, I was forced to read 'Tom Sawyer', and I discovered I liked it!"
Chappell liked it enough to ask permission to perform a show similar to that of Hal Holbrook, who at the time in the late 60s had just won a Tony award for his Broadway show "Mark Twain Tonight".
"He gave me my start as a gift, by allowing me to use his editing of Mark Twain's material for my show,” Chappell said. "I asked him if I could do a show similar to his in 1968 and Holbrook said, 'I don't know why not, I appreciate you asking."
Mark Twain himself, Chappell says, had been forced to go on the road when his publishing house failed. Twain quickly became as well-known as a performer as he was a writer at the time.
"The idea of the show was to take this form, which was Twain just standing on the stage making people laugh... and use it as a window so that people will hopefully see Mark Twain on the stage, not John Chappell," he explains.
Chappell jokes a bit about his own years in Hollywood, where he had a small role in "Brubaker" with Robert Redford and bit parts on TV shows from "Matlock" to "W.K.R.P. in Cincinnati". He even had a role in the short-lived sequel to "Mash" titled "After Mash". Chappell jokes that many people called the show "Not MASH", “because while they were watching it they would look at each other and go, "Hey, this is not 'MASH'!"
Even though the Mark Twain one-man show has been tried on television, Chappell insists that there is nothing that comes close to seeing it live on stage.
"You can do a great TV show, which Holbrook did, but when you're watching it on TV you're always aware of the fact you are not really in the audience. Whereas the magic of the show, when you're sitting in a seat, you can fall into the reality."
Is Mark Twain's political wit still relevant today? Chappell cleared his throat in a Twain-like manner, quoting the author. "As far as we know, George Washington was the only president elected for telling the truth."
Chappell stars in "MARK TWAIN! On Stage" Saturday, February 16th at 7 p.m. The event is $10 for adults, $5 for students, and sponsored By Tucker Funeral Home and First National Bank.
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