Practice Makes Perfect
CHATHAM - With only two weeks left until the debut of a brand new production, the theater company for the play GRANT & TWAIN has their work cut out for them. The carefully assembled cast and crew will be the first to create a production for this play – bringing characters to life who have only been a “concept” on paper until now.
GRANT & TWAIN opens Thursday, Sept. 27th at PS21 Chatham and will run for 5 performances. Evenings, Sept. 27, 28 and 29 at 8pm and matinees on Sept. 29, 30 at 2pm. For tickets go to http://ps21chatham.org/event/grant-twain/.
The true story, brought to life by local playwright Elizabeth Diggs, recounts an interaction between these two well-known individuals at a time when a young Twain was in his ascendency and Grant was close to death. Most of the action took place at “The Cottage”, now a National Historic Landmark near Saratoga, New York.
“Casting is always the first challenge”, said Director Regge Life. “The two main characters have to carry the show – it’s all about their relationship. Then, too, we’re not just viewing history from a distance. These are people just like you and I. We need to see their struggles and identify with them.”
Added to the challenge of casting is the preconceived notion of Mark Twain as created by Hal Holbrook. Diggs’ true-to-life portrayal of Mark Twain is at a much younger age. It leaves the actor with a tough challenge.
“I’m going to try to forget I’ve ever seen Hal Holbrook,” said Todd Gearhart, this production’s Mark Twain. “I’m finding the parts of me that I share with Twain and play those up. I’m concentrating on his words and intentions. Thankfully,” he added, “Elizabeth’s play gives me a lot to work with.”
“I didn’t want to tell the life story of Grant,” Diggs explained. “In all my research, this brief encounter seemed to be virtually unknown. And yet, it was dramatic and made a difference in the future of his family and, in fact, in our understanding of this great man. I am thrilled that his importance and strength are again being recognized.”