Bill Oberst, Jr. On Stage At Art Station
“Children and fools always speak the truth. The deduction is plain: adults and wise persons never speak it.”
-On the Decay of the Art of Lying- by Mark Twain
By Doc Lawrence
STONE MOUNTAIN, GA-Portraying America's best storyteller on stage would be daunting for any actor. Mark Twain, whose final volume autobiography was just released last October, remains a fresh face thanks to Hollywood, PBS, American literature classes and years of Hal Holbrook’s wildly popular stage interpretations.
“I decided it was time to reintroduce him after a 10 year hiatus,” said Bill Oberst, Jr., the accomplished actor just prior to the highly anticipated limited run of his “Mark Twain Live,” at Art Station Theatre in the Historic Village of Stone Mountain near Atlanta. Asked if the world was ready for a Mark Twain beyond Holbrook’s version, Oberst, well-known for his performance in Lewis Grizzard Tonight, where reviewers found him to be the alter ego for two hours of the Southern humorist, said that while he was influenced by Holbrook, he felt that the time was right to share Twain with today’s audiences. “Holbrook re-defined how people saw Mark Twain, making him accessible. I want to take Twain’s always fresh material and entertain audiences who might find him very relevant.”
Twain's characterization of Congress as "that grand old benevolent national asylum for the helpless" is as hilariously biting and relevant today as it was in the 19th century.
Mark Twain’s early days fascinate Oberst. “He came from an unremarkable childhood,” Oberst observed, and still managed to “pull some nuggets from his experiences. He took ordinary people and put himself into them.” The result was “a body of literature for the ages.”
America has historically called on Mark Twain to speak truths we avoid saying for ourselves. Note that The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a fixture on the American Library Association’s list of most frequently banned books, a strong recommendation for occupying a seat in this cozy theater to enjoy some pure Americana. Twain brought a sensibility to bear on the kaleidoscopic spectacle of American life and we have every reason to suspect that Mr. Oberst’s portrayal will include moments where the sharp hairpin of well-positioned, brilliantly crafted words will let the air out of some human targets too full of themselves.
A native of coastal South Carolina, Bill Oberst, Jr. lives in Los Angeles. He has appeared in over 100 films and television productions. His critically acclaimed theatrical portrayals of Jesus, Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy will soon include accolades for Mark Twain. Oberst has a display case filled with top awards for acting.
Mark Twain, Live runs Jan. 13-17. Tickets and more information: www.artstation.org. (770) 469.1105.