Sunday, February 2, 2014

Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight! at National Theatre April 4-5

Hal Holbrook returns in Mark Twain Tonight!

From our friends at the National Theatre...

Legendary 60-Year One-Man Show Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight! at National Theatre for Two Shows Only, April 4 - 5

Hal Holbrook's legendary – and possibly longest running – one-man show, Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight!, brings the beloved author to life with irreverent humor and astonishing authenticity. Millions have enjoyed the show since its original Tony- and Emmy-winning performances on Broadway and on television, and Holbrook continues to perfect it, drawing upon his vast experience on the stage and screen. Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight! plays a limited engagement at the National Theatre April 4 and 5 at 8 p.m.

Tickets for Hal Holbrook in Mark Twain Tonight! start at $48 plus applicable service charges, and are on sale now online at, by phone at (800) 514-3849, or in person at the National Theatre box office. Group orders of 10 or more may be placed by calling (855) 486-2516. For more information, call (202) 628-6161.

Throughout his years of television, film, and stage work, Hal Holbrook has toured Mark Twain Tonight! for part of every year since 1954, making 2014 the 60th consecutive year for this remarkable one-man show. Holbrook adds to his Twain material every year, editing and changing it to fit the times, and has mined more than sixteen hours of Twain tidbits. He has no set program – he chooses material as he goes along. He has said of Twain, “You can go into Mark Twain’s material and prove anything you want. He was against war. He was for war. He was against rich people and he was for them. He was a kaleidoscope.”

Holbrook was born in Cleveland in 1925, but was raised mostly in South Weymouth, Massachusetts. His mother disappeared when he was two, and his father followed suit. Young Holbrook and his two sisters were raised by their grandfather. It was only later he found out that his mother had gone into show business.

Being the only boy, Holbrook was sent away at the age of seven to one of the finer New England schools where a Dickensian headmaster beat him regularly. When he was 12, he was sent to Culver Military Academy, where he discovered acting as an escape from his disenchantment with authority.

In the summer of 1942, he got his first paid professional engagement playing the son in The Man Who Came To Dinner at the Cain Park Theatre in Cleveland for $15 per week. That fall, he entered Denison University in Ohio, majoring in Theatre under the tutelage of his lifelong mentor, Edward A. Wright. World War II pulled him out of school and put him into the Army Engineers for three years.

The Mark Twain characterization grew out of an honors project at Denison University after the war. Holbrook and his first wife, Ruby, had constructed a two-person show, playing characters ranging from Shakespeare to Twain. After graduation, they toured the school assembly circuit in the Southwest doing 307 shows in thirty weeks and traveling 30,000 miles by station wagon.

Holbrook's first solo performance as Mark Twain was at Lock Haven State Teachers College in Pennsylvania in 1954. While hunting for a job in New York, the show was his desperate alternative to selling hats or running elevators to support his family. By then he had a daughter, Victoria.

That same year, fortune struck by way of a steady engagement on a daytime television soap opera, The Brighter Day. By day, he worked on the soap, and in the evening, he perfected his Twain character in a Greenwich Village night club. In seven months at the club he developed his original two hours of material. Finally, Ed Sullivan saw him and gave Holbrook’s Twain national television exposure.

In 1959, after five years of researching Mark Twain and honing his material in front of countless audiences in small towns all over America, he opened at a tiny theatre off-Broadway in New York. His overnight success was as stunning to Holbrook as everyone else. After a twenty-two week run in New York he toured the country again, performed for President Eisenhower and at the Edinburgh Festival. The State Department sent him on a tour of Europe, during which he became the first American dramatic attraction to go behind the Iron Curtain following World War II.

While he was building his career on Broadway, and then television and film, he continued to do Mark Twain every year and in 1966, on Broadway, his second New York engagement won him a Tony® Award and a Drama Critics’ Circle Award, followed in 1967 by a 90-minute CBS television special of Mark Twain Tonight! which was nominated for an Emmy Award and seen by an audience of 30 million. Throughout his long career, Holbrook has continued to perform Mark Twain every year, including his third and fourth New York engagements in 1977 and 2005, and a world tour in 1985, the 150th anniversary of Mark Twain’s birth, beginning in London and ending in New Delhi.

In 1996, Holbrook received the Edwin Booth Award, and the William Shakespeare Award from the Shakespeare Theatre Company in Washington, D.C., two years later. In 2000, he was inducted into the New York Theatre Hall of Fame. In 2003, he received the National Humanities Medal from President George W. Bush and in 2010, a medal from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

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About the National Theatre:
Located at 1321 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, the National Theatre opened in 1835 and is one of the oldest continuously operating theaters in the nation. Over the years, the National has hosted a multitude of memorable events, including the pre-Broadway presentations of the musicals Show Boat; Hello, Dolly!; and West Side Story. Many of the world’s greatest performers have graced the National Theatre stage including Robert Redford, George C. Scott, Will Rogers, Helen Hayes, James Earl Jones, Eartha Kitt, Sir Laurence Olivier, Chita Rivera, Rita Moreno, Katherine Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Ian McKellen, Debbie Reynolds, and Audrey Hepburn. National Theatre Group, a partnership between JAM Theatricals, Ltd. and SMG, oversees the programming for and management of the theater.