by Alan Hodge
When seasoned actor Barrie Howard, of Lincolnton, takes the stage as Mark Twain, he says the suit and wig he wears are so white they are “dazzling.”
That same word might also be used to describe the performance Howard will bring to Unity Presbyterian Church when he presents his highly popular one-man tribute to Twain in Denver Friday, April 29, at 7 p.m. The Gaston-Lincoln Library System sponsors the event.
Charles R. Jonas Library supervisor P.J. Overholtzer thanked Howard for giving his time and talent to a library program. “He’s a good friend of ours and will put on the show at no charge to the public,” Overholtzer said.
According to Howard, the Mark Twain bug bit him after seeing actor Hal Holbrook’s portrayal of the author.
“That really gave me the fever,” Howard said.
He also cites reading Twain’s work “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” when he was 10 years old as another factor that led him to his decision to portray Twain on stage.
When it comes to becoming Twain, Howard strives for accuracy in everything from the type of clothes the author wore, to his snow-white mustache and hair. Howard does his own makeup, a lengthy process that includes donning a wig, fluffing his eyebrows with a toothbrush to achieve a proper state of bushiness and applying various paints and foundations. The handlebar mustache is Howard’s own.
Howard highlights Twain’s life in 1909, when he was 74 years old and a world-wide celebrity.
“That’s the time that most people think of him in,” Howard said.
Howard, one of the founders of the Lincoln Theatre Guild and a veteran of stage, movies and television commercials, not only dresses and acts the part of Twain, he also wrote the script for the show, which generally lasts about an hour and a half. Howard touches on subjects that Twain was fond of presenting to audiences, including his adventuresome life and the state of the world in general.
“He was like a stand-up comic, a humorist,” Howard said.
With all the effort he puts into the act, it’s no wonder Howard’s portrayal of Twain has been wildly successful.
“I’ve done the program at Rotary clubs, retirement homes, schools, the Eden Historic Society, and libraries,” Howard said. “The performance I gave at the Jonas Library in Lincolnton filled it to capacity.”
Another factor in the Twain equation is the recent release of his 750-page autobiography, a volume that has fueled a recent upsurge in curiosity about the man and his life.
For more information about Barrie Howard’s upcoming Mark Twain show at Unity Presbyterian Church, 8210 Unity Church Road, Denver, call the Charles R. Jonas Library at 704-735-8044.