Posted on 11/4/2016

Clemens Comes to Life in "Whiskey with Twain"

Ryan Clemens as Huckleberry Finn. Ryan Clemens as Huckleberry Finn.

In a show filled with humor and great acting, Ryan Clemens, the three times grandfather's brother's son of Samuel Clemens—Mark Twain, brought the thoughts and stories of the great author to life.

Clemens performed what was a one man show featuring characters drawn from the short works and novels of his famous ancestor.

Clemens and Whiskey with Twain

The evening, titled Whiskey with Twain, did a wonderful job of tracing the authors life through his work, from his earliest recollections of a bucolic life in Hannibal, Mississippi, where he grew up, to Twain the Elder, handing out wisdom with a piercing wit as he sipped whiskey—probably scotch, reported to be his favorite spirit.

As Twain the Elder, Clemens starts off telling the audience, "It's better to be silent and have everyone think you're ignorant that to speak and prove them right."

He describes our nation's capital as the "...grand asylum for the insane they call Washington."

As funny and fun as it was to meet Mark Twain as an accomplished man of letters, what may have been the most effective piece of theater was Ryan Clemens' depiction of Huckleberry Finn wrestling with the moral dilemma of the runaway slave, Jim.

For the vast majority of Americans in 1885 when Huckleberry Finn was published, the idea of an African American who had dreams, aspirations and hopes for the future was incomprehensible. By having Huck Finn, ignorant and uneducated, yet with an extraordinary moral compass, floating down the Mississippi and exploring those very human characteristics of Jim, Twain created one of the great novels of world literature.

Clemens, in a ten minute skit, brings Huck to life and creates a compelling piece of theater.

It was a marvelous evening, typical of the performances that the Don and Catharine Bryan Cultural Series have been bringing to the Outer Banks. The show was performed at the Hilton Garden Inn in Kitty Hawk. Next up, An Evening of Opera & Broadway, November 30.

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