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Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
Sat, 29 Jan 2000 21:02:14 -0500
Mark Twain Forum <[log in to unmask]>
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"Kevin J. Bochynski" <[log in to unmask]>
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I am posting the following message on behalf of Hilton Obenzinger.  --K.B.

Hal Holbrook performed "Mark Twan Tonight!" at Stanford on Jan 21
(sell-out crowd), and I had the good fortune to arrange for Hal to
participate in a seminar the day before the performance for students in my
undergraduate and continuing studies (adult) Twain classes here at
Stanford.  The university managed to come up with a modest honorarium,
which Hal graciously donated to the Mark Twain Papers, and several members
of the English department, including Arnold Rampersad, Tom Mosher, and
Gavin Jones took him out to dinner.  Hal does not consider himself to be
much of a scholar.  Driving him to the airport after his performance I
assured him that he should never entertain that thought again -- he is
very much a scholar, one who has internalized Twain with sophistication.
At the seminar he gave a brilliant presentation on why he still finds
Twain fascinating, why Twain's social criticism, particularly of racism
and imperialism, is as relevant today as ever -- and some of the new bits
in his performance, such as one he calls "Get Rich!" directed to the
boom-time Silicon Valley audience, illustrated his point very well.  His
analysis of Huckleberry Finn -- revolving around Twain's deepening
understanding of racisim and the betrayal of Reconstruction reflected in
the stages the novel was written -- was incisive.  And when, at an
instant, he fell into character and recited portions, such as Col
Sherburn's speech, he was electrifying.  I had my students watch his 1967
video recently released and write commentaries, which I will send to him,
in order to prepare them for the seminar.  For the older students, they
knew him very well already.  When I asked in my continuing studies class
what they thought of when they recalled Mark Twain someone shot back, "Hal
Holbrook!"  And now many of my younger students feel that same
identification.  I was able to arrange for reduced-priced tickets for many
of my students, and I was able to bring a good number backstage after the
performance -- a total experience for them.  While he has spoken briefly
with students and appeared on a panel for ASA, he had never given a
seminar.  He enjoyed the experience -- the feedback and exchange.  It's
hard to book it into his schedule, but if there is time, I think he's
interested in doing it again. For those of you know who know Hal Holbrook,
you know how gracious, personable, un-Hollywood he is -- a real gentleman.
It was an honor meeting him, and it was a rare delight working with as
thorough-going Twain scholar as he is.

Hilton Obenzinger