Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Mark Twain Unlearns Racism at St. Joseph's

Actor Cal Pritner will perform his original one-person, one-act play, Mark Twain: Unlearning Racism, at St. Joseph College’s Hofmann Auditorium in West Hartford on Tuesday, Feb. 2, at 7:30 pm.

Pritner embodies the spirit and struggles of Mark Twain in the play. Taking on a tough subject, even for 21st century audiences, Pritner delves into Twain's racial attitudes and how they changed over the course of his life.

“Sam Clemens, our Mark Twain, was born in 1835 into a slave-owning family, and by today’s standards he was a racist until well into adulthood,” Pritner says. “But he married into an abolitionist family and made huge changes in his racial attitudes. Unfortunately, as St. Joseph College Professor Kerry Driscoll’s research demonstrates, he remained prejudiced against American Indians.”

The event has been organized by Dr. Driscoll, a nationally regarded Mark Twain scholar who has long been associated with The Mark Twain House & Museum. Chair of St. Joseph College’s English Department, she frequently leads teacher workshops and serves as an advisor for events and exhibitions at the museum. Her work on Twain’s attitudes toward Native Americans has received frequent praise in scholarly gatherings and in the media.

Pritner was the founding artistic director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival and chaired the department that produced the founders of Chicago’s Tony Award-winning Steppenwolf Theatre Company. He is known for his one-person shows on the controversial defense attorney, Clarence Darrow, and the Protestant Reformation religious leader, Martin Luther. He had a recurring role as a prosecuting attorney on "Chicago Story," was a detective on HBO’s "The Speck Murders" and most recently appeared on film as the governor of Missouri in Robert Altman’s Kansas City.

Though admission is free, seating is limited and audience members must be ticket holders. For tickets, please call the St. Joseph College box office at 860-231-5555.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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