Mark Twain’s newly discovered comedy, Is He Dead?, recently premiered on the Peninsula Players stage on July 29. The show will run through August 16, with a post-show discussion set for Tuesday, August 11.
Is He Dead? was written by Twain in 1898. Bram Stoker was interested in producing it on stage, but it was never published. Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin, a professor of English and the director of American Studies at Stanford, rediscovered the work in a file drawer at the University of California’s Bancroft Library in Berkeley while doing research on racial themes in Twain’s work.
“Is He Dead? caught my attention for several reasons,” said the Players’ Artistic Director Greg Vinkler. “First and foremost, upon reading the script adapted by Ives I was laughing so hard I had tears running down my checks! I knew immediately I wanted to do it and that our audiences would love it. Then I also thought of the many artists living in Door County. Having visited many of the wonderful galleries in the area I thought what fun it would be to mount a show about a painter and the comedic mess he creates for himself.”
The show is a madcap tale about Jean-Francois Millet as a young painter who stages his own death to drive up the price of his paintings. The plan works and his paintings skyrocket in price – because they’re now the works of a dead artist. Shenanigans ensue when Millet, who is now supposedly dead but wants to use his newfound fortune to help his girlfriend out of debt, disguises himself as his own widowed twin sister.
Cast in the dual roles of Millet and his twin sister widow Daisy Tillou, is Peninsula Players veteran actor Kevin McKillip. McKillip is the recipient of a Tyrone Guthrie Award from the Stratford Festival of Canada, where he appeared in Antony and Cleopatra, Troilus and Cressida and The White Devil. He has also received three Joseph Jefferson nominations in the last five years – once for Best Actor and twice for Best Supporting Actor.
Directing the Midwest première of Is He Dead? is Karen Sheridan, who directed last season’s smash hit Rumors. Sheridan is a Players veteran who has directed and performed in many Players shows. She has performed in many theaters in the Chicago area and spent six years teaching for Ringling Brothers Clown College.
Co-conspirators in Millet’s subterfuge include Hans Von Bismark, aka Dutchy and Agamemmnon Bucker, aka Chicago. Cast as Dutchy is Joe Foust, and Chicago is played by Sean Fortunato. Other familiar faces in the ensemble cast include James Leaming, Tim Monsion, Carmen Roman, Cassandra Bissell, Maris Hudson, Neil Friedman, Maggie Carney and Patrick New. Newcomers Adrienne Buenzli and Loren Watson round out the cast.
Is He Dead? is on stage through August 16. Curtain times are Tuesday through Saturday at 8 pm and Sundays at 7:30 pm, with the exception of the closing performance, August 16, at 4 pm. Individual ticket prices range from $30 to $35.
For more information or to reserve tickets, call 920.868.3287 or visit http://www.peninsulaplayers.com.