Visit the Aull Center next Tuesday to learn about Mark Twain’s life from the man himself.
Mark Twain once wrote, “Clothes do not merely make the man … clothes are the man.” If that is the case, then Tunnelton’s Doug Riley is indeed American author and humorist Mark Twain.
Riley has been portraying Mark Twain since 2007 with startling accuracy. He joined up with the West Virginia Humanities Council and the History Alive! program a few years later to help educate people about Twain’s influence across the American literary and cultural scenes. With his work, Riley is able to make history more accessible—and interesting—to a broader audience. “If you bring about the important and interesting parts of history, the dates will come,” says Riley, a former history teacher who used to bring History Alive! actors into his own classroom.
When it comes to the prep work behind the role, Riley says Twain is a much more involved character to play when compared to his other persona: Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. “Stonewall is finite—he had 39 years, did these things in this war. Twain, on the other hand, had 74 years, wrote at least 34 major works and more than 100 major publications, thousands of newspaper articles, presentations, letters—research on him is infinite. I spend 75% of my reading time on researching.” Because of this research, Riley’s presentations are always shifting and changing in small ways, adapting to new information as he discovers it.
On Tuesday, January 17, at 6:30 p.m., you’ll be able to see Riley bring the man behind the Twain alias—Samuel Clemens—to life in a free presentation at the Aull Center, hosted by the Morgantown Public Library. Mark Twain Comes to Morgantown is your opportunity to learn more about the writer we heard about in English class, with a twist.
Arrive early to be greeted by Twain as you settle in. As the presentation begins, you’ll be treated to a first-person recounting of Twain’s early years, from birth to his early career as a 30-something war deserter in San Francisco, told with the humor and levity Twain is famous for. Stick around after the presentation for a short Q&A. Finally, end the night with Riley breaking character for a “Quiz the Scholar” session where you can learn more about his research process and other anecdotes.
This is only the first of Riley’s four Twain presentations, so be sure to show your interest in the event if you want to hear more in the future.
Find out more about this and upcoming MPL events online. If you are interested in booking Riley or any other History Alive! actor for your classroom or event, visit the West Virginia Humanities Council website to learn more.