Acclaimed actor and former Tuolumne County resident Randy Maple will chronicle Mark Twain’s life in a narration drawn from the wealth of his writings in his one-man show, “Mark Twain: Wit and Wisdom of an American Legend,” Dec. 9 through 11.
After a 13-year hiatus from the stage, Maple resurrects Twain’s spirit and relevant cultural commentary for four performances only at the Fallon House Theatre in this unique benefit for Sierra Repertory Theatre.
Maple first presented his show at Sierra Rep in 1982. He continued in the role for more than 20 years at theaters throughout the Gold Country and Central California, including a performance for the Mark Twain Project at the University of California, Berkeley, in 1998. Additionally, he provided the voice for the project’s award-winning film on the life of Mark Twain. His Mark Twain connection solidified after twice meeting Hal Holbrook, whereupon they traded Twainian barbs and discussed Maple’s now 18 years of research.
“SRT let me do this show for the first time, so now it’s my turn to give back in an effort to quell rumors of Twain’s death,” Maple said.
The Fallon House Theatre is located at Columbia State Historic Park. Evening performances will be given at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Dec. 9 and 10, with matinees at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, Dec. 10 and 11. All tickets are $25, available online at www.sierrarep.org or by calling the box office at 209-532-3120. All proceeds will benefit Sierra Repertory Theatre.
On the Tuolumne County stage, Maple was a popular and critical favorite for his role as Buddy in SRT’s world premiere of “The Gift Giver” in 1982. He had acclaimed roles in “The Foreigner” at Sierra Rep and “The Wild Guys” at Stage 3 Theatre in Sonora, where he also co-starred in the 2002 premiere of Sonora playwright Rick Foste’s original two-man drama, “Inventing the West: The Dangerous Friendship of Mark Twain and Bret Harte.” That production was repeated by invitation at the Mark Twain Center in Elmira, New York, in 2003.
Maple was born in Los Angeles in 1947 and moved to Sonora in 1979. He retired from the California Department of Corrections in 2000. Three years later, he and his wife, Rosa Lee, moved to Germany, where she fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams of teaching abroad. In 2006 they returned stateside and settled in Ashland, Oregon, to live near their new grandchildren.
Mark Twain is the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens, who was born Nov. 30, 1835, in Florida, Missouri, and died April 21, 1910, in Redding, Connecticut. He entered life in the year of Halley’s Comet, 1835, and died in the year of its return, 1910, one day after its closest approach to Earth. He wrote his first major fictional story while living on Jackass Hill in Tuolumne County during the winter of 1864-65.
William R. Gillis, one of the budding authors of Tuolumne County, recalled in his memoirs: “(Twain) has a mania for story writing, imagining his name to be handed down to posterity from generation to generation.” His life and writings resulted in unparalleled artistic achievements – and relentless personal suffering.
Maple is now 18 years into the research and writing of a book on the mythological lineage of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. He believes both are descended from the ancient Celtic myth “Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool),” and that James Joyce’s 1939 masterwork “Finnegan’s Wake” is in fact a deliberate, enigmatic retelling of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” published more than 50 years earlier.
“I have found verification after verification and it all resonates,” Maple said.
However, Maple’s show in Columbia will not venture into this area.
“One thing I’m adamant about is that when I’m in costume, it has to be Mark Twain’s words,” he said.
While striving to be entertaining, Maple’s goal is to introduce the depth of wisdom and substance lying just below the surface of the man and his humor.