Stan Gill climbed the stage chomping on a lighted cigar, his white hair bright in the spotlight.
"Ladies and gentlemen, I wish to present a man of great learning, exceeded only by his quick wit and modest temperament," he said to the crowd.
In true Twain style, Gill could not be tied down to a formal script. He did, however, print a program with options that he would chose from, or for those in distress who wish to fan themselves. His audience was kept guessing which of Twain's works he will perform next, which added to the charm of his show.
The Piccolo Spoleto show, "Mark Twain's Final Tour," which Gill has been performing for years, is based on Samuel Clemens' final tour around the world. Gill, 64, first performed it in 1971, and he makes you feel like you're in the presence of the great man. Typically used at historical society meeting and in school classrooms, Twain's material comes alive on stage, and Gill remains true to the author's witty and informative style of storytelling.
Directed by Michael Burns and Stan Gill, "Mark Twain's Final Tour" re-creates 1905 at The Footlight Players Theatre. Gill does it by expertly melding story and character. The show, which began as an undergraduate independent study project at Michigan State Universit, has become a staple of Gill's repertoire.
Much of his show consists of Gill physically and mentally embodying Twain, and delivering his ideas in an engrossing way. Huckleberry Finn and Adam and Eve make appearances, and Gill delights the audience with selections that include visits from local interviewers, foreign tour guides and Satan.
The show presents a well-rounded version of Twain, and includes references to some of his older works, helping the audience grasp his essence better.
The highlight of the performance is Gill's dramatic reading of Adam's "The Dairy of Eve," a conversation between the first man and woman in which Adam wishes his mate would stop talking and leave him alone. This skit, along with others has the audience oscillating between uninhibited laughter and distress.
Arshie Chevalwala is a Goldring Arts Journalist from Syracuse University.