On April 15, 1907, Mark Twain attended a performance of a play based on his book, The Prince and the Pauper. According to reports in the New York Times the next day, he thoroughly enjoyed the show, and noted that going to the theater was an elevating event. “We should have a body of educated theater-goers,” Twain remarked. “One of the best gifts a millionaire could make would be a theater here and a theater there.”
On Friday and Saturday, March 22 and 23, the Arts Center at Dunham and the Sunset Players welcome Mark Twain in the guise of actor Gary Caplinger, a long-time community theater devotee. Fittingly, the one-man show he wrote and performs, An Encounter with Mark Twain, is a fundraiser for the Arts Center, a newly renovated community theater and event space in Price Hill. Half of each admission for the performances (tickets are only $10) will benefit the ongoing theater renovation project at Dunham.
In the show, Caplinger brings Mark Twain’s writing to life in his own performance and in multimedia presentations that he has created from his own reading of the legendary writer’s work. For many years, Caplinger has been involved with the Footlighters, the Rivertown Players, and most recently, the Sunset Players, who make their home at the Dunham Center for the Arts. Although he remained a supporter of community theater, a stroke in 2004 has kept Caplinger from performing for almost ten years.
Two years ago, Caplinger began reading Mark Twain’s voluminous body of work and became fascinated by his life and his outlook on living. “I wasn’t initially planning on putting together a one-man show,” Caplinger said, but he was anxious to return to the stage and saw the idea of a one-man show as a way of returning to acting without “jeopardizing anyone else’s show.”
As it turned out, he successfully took to the boards again as Mark Twain, and the show has been a hit with audiences around the tristate. Caplinger has performed the show at the Walnut Theatre in Lawrenceburg and the historic Hoosier Theatre in Vevay, Indiana. “It was gratifying to have a number of educators as well as Twain historians and fans in attendance who went out of their way to congratulate us on the professional quality of the show in all aspects—their words, not mine,” Caplinger said.
An Encounter with Mark Twain is appropriate for all ages and will be presented for two nights only at the Arts Center at Dunham, 1945 Dunham Way (off Guerley Road) in Price Hill. With luck, perhaps one of Twain’s millionaires will show up to underwrite the theater there, but in the meanwhile you can help by buying a ticket or two for a great show. Ticket are $10 for all ages and ticket information is available online at the Sunset Players website or by calling 513.588.4988.