INA – Celebrated actor Robert Valentine will bring “Mark Twain: On the River” to The Lake in two weeks.
Rend Lake College, through its Big Read grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, will host the free, one-man show at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Wednesday, March 25, in the RLC Theater.
“I can’t tell you how exciting it is for a guy who loves history and historic places,” says Valentine, who is known as one of Kentucky’s foremost storytellers and has publicly performed as Twain for more than 30 years.
“Mark Twain: On the River” is a series of humorous lectures in Twain fashion. The feature is part of The Big Read at RLC, a program enticing local citizens to read Twain’s great American novel “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and instill the importance of literature and literacy in America.
The guest appearance of “America’s finest and best-loved teller of tales” will introduce audiences to the style of “comedic lecture” that made him famous, accompanied by storytelling lectures and demonstrations.
Some of Twain’s own favorite tales will be included, and the presentation “will be pure humor in the classic style of Twain.”
Mark Twain died of heart failure April 21, 1910. However, as the 100-year anniversary of the writer’s death approaches, there are still some surprises, according to Valentine.
“Some recent discoveries of letters and manuscripts have given us some additional material,” said the Murray State University acting teacher. He points to the recently-discovered chapter from an unpublished book about Huckleberry Finn in the old west, and a toast given at a newspaper correspondents’ dinner that lay unknown as an exercise in a dictation textbook.
“If you thought you knew Twain, you might be surprised,” he said. “He’s very, very funny, but he’s incredibly touching, too.”
Valentine has performed as Twain on stage, TV and film since 1973. The Rend Lake performance follows an appearance on Kentucky Education Television where he appeared as 19th-century inventor Nathan B. Stubblefield.
Valentine was born in New York City in 1946 and now lives in Paris, Tenn., with his wife, Vicki Jo.
The first of four sons born to William and Mildred Valentine, he was raised in the Midwest and graduated from the University of Kentucky with a bachelor’s degree in History. After military service, he returned to Kentucky where he was awarded a master’s degree in communications.
He has taught and performed professionally on stage, radio and television, and has written for all three media. He is Senior Lecturer in Mass Media and Theatre for Murray State University where he was also Director of Forensics during the 1970s and 1980s. He has been a lecturer in speech communication at the University of Kentucky and served as guest director of theaters at Bethel College in Tennessee.
In 1981, he first performed his one-man play, “Edison: A Man,” which was subsequently featured at the 1982 Knoxville World’s Fair. After three touring seasons, the “Edison” program was suspended when he became producer of live theatrical exhibits for the National Scouting Museum.
He has worked in television and radio as an actor and producer. His video productions include instruction and information tapes for The Tennessee Valley Authority, Commonwealth of Kentucky, the Council of State Governments, Fisher-Price Corporation, and others. His voice has been featured on a number of nationally-aired radio commercials.
He presently serves as chief consultant and president of Theatre Arts Enterprises, an independent media production and market consultation company. He created the live storytelling exhibit for the National Scouting Museum in Murray and originated the national storytelling tour. He is a Fellow of the F. O. Birmingham Memorial Foundation and serves as Executive Editor of Murray Life Magazine.
Valentine has continued to perform his one-man show, “Mark Twain: A Reminiscence,” since it was first staged in 1973. He has logged over 1,000 performances, including having been the featured guest artist at Point Park College in Pittsburgh.
“The ‘Twain’ Show,” he says, ‘is the essence of storytelling. It’s like studying with a master storyteller, so that your own storytelling seems to improve without even trying. Telling a story is the most engaging, rewarding and exciting art form I can imagine.”
Numerous events are coming up in the surrounding communities aimed at celebrating Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” and inviting individuals to read the novel. For a listing of events in your area, visit online at www.neabigread.org and find Rend Lake College in the community events section.
The Big Read is an initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Arts Midwest.