The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 6, 2014

GVT kicks off mainstage season with a laugh

For The Register-Herald

— The two-act comedy begins April 11-12 and continues April 17-19 and April 24-26 at 7:30 p.m. There will also be a matinee performance  April 19 at 3 p.m.

Tickets are $26 for adults, $23 for seniors and $20 for children. For tickets or more information, call the GVT box office at 304-645-3838.

A pay-what-you-can preview performance will be held at 7:30 p.m. the evening before the production opens.

Set in 1840s France, “Is He Dead?” tells the story of struggling artist Jean-François Millet, who knows his art is worth something, he’s just not receiving any money from it. To rectify this situation, he and his students hatch a plan to fake Millet’s death — everyone knows artists are only famous after they are dead!

Millet, now famous and wealthy, but living life as his own fake twin sister (Daisy Tillou), must face a new set of complications — including petticoats and unwanted suitors.

This farce, written by great American novelist  Mark Twain, remained virtually unknown until Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin discovered the manuscript tucked away in the Mark Twain Papers archives at the University of California at Berkeley.

After publishing the manuscript in 2003, Fishkin teamed up with long-time comedic playwright David Ives to adapt Twain’s work. Originally, Twain’s production consisted of three acts. Ives condensed the play to two acts, eliminated characters and incorporated additional scenes.

Millet, an actual Realist and Naturalist artist in the 1840s, painted many famous works including “The Sower” and “The Angelus,” both of which are among the paintings featured in “Is He Dead?” Though the actual Millet never faked his death, Twain uses the character and his situation to question the power art buyers and critics hold in the art world. In fact, the central themes are still relevant today, as people worldwide continue to ask “What is art?” and “Who decides the value of art?”

To help Millet leap from the page to the stage, GVT is bringing veteran actor Peter Herrick back to Lewisburg. First seen as Charlie in the 2013 production of “The Foreigner,” Herrick is excited to be part of the Lewisburg community again.