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News for Norther Colorado and the world

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Is He Dead? a Late Taste of Mark Twain


Is He Dead Promo Pic Is He Dead? a Late Taste of Mark Twain
Scene from "Is He Dead?"


OpenStage Theatre presents a fast-paced, art-world farce

Fort Collins, Colo. – For something that’s lain dormant more than a century while gathering dust in archives, Mark Twain’s Is He Dead? has a remarkably sprightly step.

Written in 1898, the great American author’s play was never published or produced until a researcher found it mothballed in the academic archives at the University of California, Berkeley. With a contemporary adaptation by David Ives, it subsequently had a successful run on Broadway in 2007 and 2008.

OpenStage Director Wendy S. Moore said playwright David Ives’ update, “makes Is He Dead? crisper with a more modern vernacular, but it still has every bit of Twain’s signature satire and cynicism. The whole notion of the art world is typical Twain. ”

Set near Paris in 1846, Is He Dead? presents a lineup of cultural and farcical stereotypes that echo the same winking style Twain brought to his classic travelogue “The Innocents Abroad. ”

At the show’s center is a fictitious characterization of real-life artist Jean-Francois Millet, a brilliant but penniless painter. As so often happens with artists, Millet cannot sell a landscape to save his life. His trio of bohemian friends – not unlike the Three Stooges – convince the artist to stage his death, thus increasing the value of his work. “The deader he is, the better he is, ” claims one of the stooges. The ruse works magnificently and Millet returns as his widowed sister to collect the proceeds.

Twain uses this burlesque setup to pose questions about fame, greed and the value of art, while poking mischievous fun at all involved.

“This is an absolute joy of a play, ” said Moore. “ There is certainly no deep, dark message here. It is just silly and fun. If you are willing to go on a ride with Twain you will have a blast. It makes fun not only of the art world, but also of celebrities and culture snobs who insist on airing their views.

Not much has changed since Twain, noted Moore. “If you think about Michael Jackson, much the same happened after his death when his music was resurrected to great acclaim. Normal Rockwell also is experiencing a renaissance, with art collectors snapping up his work. Sadly, it happens all the time. ”

No doubt Twain is laughing in the great beyond.

Performances of Is He Dead are at 8 p. m. Friday and Saturday nights from April 2 to May 1, with Sunday matinées at 2 p. m. on April 18 and April 25. Performances are at the Lincoln Center, 417 W. Magnolia in Fort Collins.

Individual tickets are $20 adults, $15 seniors, students, and groups of 10 or more. Matinee tickets are $13 per person. Tickets for FAB Friday, sponsored by Boulder Beer, on April 9, are $12 and include a free beer at intermission.

Admission to the “Pay What You Can” preview performance on Friday, April 2, at 8 p. m. will be at the door; no advance sales. Donations for “Pay What You Can” are cash or check only.

Tickets are available from 12 p. m. to 6 p. m., Tuesdays through Saturdays, through the Lincoln Center box office at (970) 221-6730 and online at www.LCTIX.com. Childcare will be available for the Friday performances on April 2 & 16, through Young People’s Learning Center, 209 E. Plum St. Call Young People’s Learning Center at 970-482-1212 for childcare reservations.

A post-show discussion with Old Firehouse Books will be held on Saturday, April 24.

A free performance for students and educators, funded by The Thornton Family Foundation, will be presented on Thursday, April 1, at 7:30 p. m. To make reservations for the student/educator performance, contact OpenStage Theatre at (970) 484-5237.

A play guide containing information on the play and the playwright is available online at www.openstage.com. Click on Is He Dead? and then select the Play Guide icon at the top of the show page. Audiences are invited to meet the cast of Is He Dead? following every performance. Free covered parking is available exclusively for OpenStage audiences at Lincoln Office Center, 419 Canyon Ave.

Major funding for Is He Dead? is provided by the Lincoln Center Support League, Mawson Lumber and Hardware and Style Magazine. Additional funding is provided by Carousel Properties. OpenStage Theatre’s 2009-2010 season is sponsored by Witt Gross of Coldwell Banker and Shaw & Associates, CPA. Currently celebrating its thirty-seventh season, OpenStage Theatre is supported by the Downtown Development Authority, the Colorado Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the City of Fort Collins Fort Fund and the Thornton Family Foundation.

For more information, visit OpenStage’s website at www.openstage.com or call 970-484-5237. Founded in 1973, OpenStage Theatre is a recipient of the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts and a member of Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for not-for-profit professional theaters.

A not-for-profit organization, OpenStage Theatre relies heavily on the support of sponsors and patrons who help make each season a success. With assistance from corporations, foundations and the general public, OpenStage has been able to maintain high quality productions for 37 years. For information on sponsorship and charitable gifts and on how you can support OpenStage Theatre, please call (970) 484-5237. # # #

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