Admiring their creation of the widow, Daisy Tillou, are Barbizon students, Dutchy, Chicago and O’Shaughnessy. Featuring L – R, Chad Kawakami as Daisy, Matthew Stewart, Michael Elbs and Joe Armstrong. Actors are from the greater Belton-Raymore area.

Mark Twain’s long-lost play comes to Belton

Shelly Fisher Fishkin came across Twain’s zany, cross-dressing farce and knew the time had come for its production.

Is He Dead? A new comedy by Mark Twain

Main Street Theater in Belton opens its fifth season with Is He Dead? a recently discovered play by Mark Twain. Performances run on weekends from March 4 to March 20. 

Mark Twin in his Italian study 1908.

During a dark time in Twain’s life, after declaring bankruptcy, Twain moved his family to Europe to “do the lecture circuit”, to rebuild his wealth and repay his debtors. Twain placed one of France’s great painters, Jean Francois Millet, in the center of the story as a destitute artist unable to sell any paintings. When he is asked, “Is he dead?” by a prospective buyer, Millet faces the truism that he is worth more dead than alive. As Millet plans his own death, his students hatch a better plan: announce to the world that Millet is dying from a terrible disease, and have Millet become his “twin sister”, Madame Tillou. Running the estate his sister/himself benefits from the increased sales and income from this deception.

Twain penned the play in 1898. It was his dream to have his play open in New York and London simultaneously. When that dream was dashed, Twain filed the play away with his other writings and papers. 

Fast forward to 2002, when Shelly Fisher Fishkin, a professor at Stanford University, was doing research in the Mark Twain Papers at U.C. Berkeley’s library. She came across Twain’s zany, cross-dressing farce and knew the time had come for its production. Working with Broadway producer Bob Boyett and playwright David Ives, Fishkin obtained permission from the Mark Twain Foundation to edit the play from 3 acts to 2 and 35 actors to 11. The play premiered on Broadway in 2007.

 Main Street Theater is in the historic Old City Hall at 510 Main Street, Belton. Show times are Friday and Saturday evenings at 7 and Sunday matinees at 2:30. Due to very limited seating please call the reservation line at 816-406-9422 to reserve seats. Due to the very small intimacy of the seating area, masks are required inside the theater.

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