I prefer the wise, charming, older types. So when my ski weekend was cancelled, I took my friend Brian up on his offer to see Hal Holbrook’s one-man play, Mark Twain Tonight!
Hal created it in 1954, and has been performing it ever since, first in smaller theaters, then on Broadway, and then, in 1967, it was broadcast on CBS, and had 30 million viewers. (For perspective, the huge finale of “Breaking Bad” had 10.3 million viewers.)
Hal developed 15 hours of Twain selections to choose from, so the play is never the same performance twice. I saw it Friday, Inauguration Day, so most of Hal’s material was political. What quickly became evident: politics haven’t changed in 150 years. Mark Twain complained about congress and politicians as much as anyone today.
After the play, we were able to go backstage and meet Hal. He was still in costume, and smart and gracious. At 91, he’s the oldest person I’ve ever met, and I couldn’t help but tell him how much he inspired me. (He’s won five Emmys, a Tony and been nominated for an Oscar) Brian caught the tale end of my conversation, in which Hal tells me about his grandson, who is also an actor:
I can never say it enough: have heroes.