Ryan Chartrand

Although he is 171 years old, Mark Twain will be coming to the Cal Poly Performing Arts Center Saturday night. No need to thank cryogenics, cloning or any other modern medical marvel, as the literary giant will appear in the form of actor Hal Holbrook.

Holbrook, who is 100 years the junior of the late Samuel Clemens, will resurrect the great American author in what has widely been described as a legendary stage performance.

The actor began the show “Mark Twain Tonight!” in 1959 at New York’s 41st Theater.

By 1966 the show debuted on Broadway, which earned Holbrook a Tony Award for his efforts. The performance was later recorded for CBS, earning Holbrook an Emmy award.

The performance has always been unique due to the fact Holbrook is completely alone on stage. The core of the act comes from over 14 years of Twain’s own material, including his legendary written works.

Holbrook recaptures the wit and intensity of an American legend. If there is any doubt as to the dedication Holbrook brings to the stage, consider the fact that filmmaker Ken Burns consulted Holbrook before beginning his documentary on Twain.

Halbrook is a veteran of numerous films and TV shows, including “All the President’s Men,” “The West Wing” and “The Sopranos.” By his own estimate, Holbrook has performed “Twain Tonight” more than 2,000 times. He has limited the show to 20 to -25 annual performances recently.

Twain is by all accounts the “father of the American novel.” Born Samuel Clemens, he took his pen name while traveling west on the Mississippi River. Riverboat captains used to shout, “mark twain” (or two fathoms), an axiom of the time for safe water.

Twain is best known for his fictional works “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” and “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.”

In addition to being an accomplished writer, Twain was a satirist and ardent social critic. Twain even refused to join the Confederate Army during his time in Missouri. Twain died in 1910, widowed and in debt.

The performance will begin at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Sidney Harman Hall at the Performing Arts Center. Tickets are sold out, but check for student rush two hours before the show starts.

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