"THE HUMBOLT BEACON"
Thursday, February 1, 2001, B-1
"Pritner's Twain Inhabited With Absolute Charisma"
Review by Betti Trauth
In his one-man show "Mark Twain Tonight", Hal Holbrook set a standard of excellence that remains an artistic summit for other actors to reach. Jan. 19-21 at Dell'Arte a distinguished actor and director named Cal Pritner came close.
Written, directed and performed by Pritner, his "Mark Twain: Traveling" played for three sold-out performances as part of "Dell'Arte Presents" -- a series of performances throughout the year featuring Dell'Arte performers and guest artists.
According to the program notes, "Mark Twain is not Cal Pritner's first encounter with great men in one-person plays." He has also impersonated legendary lawyer Clarence Darrow, Protestant Reformation religious leader Martin Luther, and (as himself) a one-man show about William Shakespeare and his attitudes toward women.
Pritner's impressive artistic background also includes featured roles in television and film. He was founding chairperson of the Illinois State University theatre Department, founding artistic director of the Illinois Shakespeare Festival, and is currently the chairman of the University of Missouri-Kansas City's Department of theatre.
Prestigious credentials do not necessarily mean that an actor's performance will be extraordinary. However, in this case, the man more than lived up to his advanced billing. In fact, Pritner inhabited Mark Twain with such absolute charisma and pure, wicked relish that the audience could not have been more entertained by Twain himself.
The thing that I liked best was Pritner's choice of material -- choosing and using some not-so-well-known stories and anecdotes from Twain's vast library of humor and observations.
For about an hour and a half he held us in his thrall, filling the space simply with himself, a wooden podium, and a coffee cup (from which he occasionally swigged liquid libation) set on a small side table.
What one comes away with, after an evening in the company of "Mr. Twain," is an overwhelming desire to discover -- or rediscover -- his words and works all over again. Thanks to talented artists like Cal Pritner, the torch of literate, literary satire is being passed along to yet another generation of rapt listeners.
Rick Plummer: "a must-see theatrical adventure"
July 11, 2001
To whom it may concern:
MARK TWAIN TRAVELING was a hit recently with both general audiences in a public performance as well as with students in several high school arts outreach programs here in rural Michigan. These performances were part of a 20-event cultural arts series produced by West Shore Community College.
In fact, I would say that Cal Pritner's MARK TWAIN: TRAVELING is a must-see theatrical adventure into the wit, humor, and insight of one of America's most celebrated authors! Cal Pritner brings his considerable acting, playwriting, and directing talents to bear in this tour de force presentation. As someone who has researched the one-person historical drama genre, it was exciting for me to see this sensational style of theatre performed with such expertise. Not only did Cal captivate audiences, but during one of the school performances he even fielded tough questions as Twain from students who were obviously studying Twain in-depth.
Considering the number of "garden-variety" Twain impersonators available today, I was particularly impressed with Cal's fresh "take" on Twain. Audiences are treated to a sensational performance of Twain's keen reflections on human nature and cultures in this exciting one-person biography drama.
I unhesitatingly recommend this production to anyone interested in delighting audiences with Twain's penetrating and often hilarious opinions of other peoples and other cultures.
Rick Plummer, Ph.D.
Director of Cultural Arts & Professor of theatre
West Shore Community College
Michael Fields: "an extraordinary portrayal"
"Dell'Arte presented Cal Pritner’s performance of MARK TWAIN: TRAVELING as part of our 2000-2001 season. Simply put it is an extraordinary portrayal of the man, his work, and his words. It reaches a great depth of both the revelation of Twain's personality and the breadth of his work, especially in regard to his point of view on travel and race. In Pritner’s portrayal he evidences a clear love of his subject, an understanding born of scholarship, and an advanced acting craft that allows us to delight in the humor, opinions, and genius of one of America's seminal writers."
Managing Artistic Director
20 August 2001
Jeff Church: "worked magic on our audiences using Twain's actual words"
Sept. 14, 2001
To whom it may concern:
I am pleased to write about Cal Pritner, a man of theatre who performed an adaptation of his one-man show as MARK TWAIN ON MONDAYS throughout the fall of The Coterie's "Banned Book Season"--to celebrate our theatre's 20th anniversary.
Cal--an expert on Twain--was remarkable in performing and interacting with educators and students of a wide variety of ages. Both funny and pointed, Cal leisurely worked magic on our audiences using Twain's actual words. His appearance is not approximate either.
Combined, the performance, the text, and Cal's work to recreate Twain's look created an amazing effect for Coterie audiences of all ages.
As Cal was able to customize this performance text to suit our "Banned Book Season," we were profoundly impressed with him, thrilled with his work.
I think you'll find Cal Pritner's TWAIN to be resplendent, not to mention properly hilarious.
Producing Artistic Director
Coterie Theatre, Kansas City, MO
816.474.6785 ext 4
The Coterie Theatre in Kansas City is a theatre for youth. They did a season of plays adapted from "Banned Books," and asked me to put together an hour of material addressing Twain and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" which performed as part of a program they called: "Mark Twain on Mondays."
Managing Director of the Arizona Classical Theatre Company, Prescott, AZ
Cal Pritner's Mark Twain: Traveling is like having Twain visit your English class and give a fascinating lecture on his journeys around the world.
No matter the venue, Pritner holds audiences in the palm of his hand. At the Prescott downtown square, he played to 400 people who laughed at the white-haired character's stories, jokes and quips.
And again at the Palace Restaurant and Bar on historic Whiskey Row, the audience was spellbound by Twain's humorous, touching and thought-provoking tales. The "lecture," gathered from Twain's own works and adapted for the stage by Pritner, takes us to lands beyond, spanning the globe from France to India.
As Pritner speaks with a voice and dialect that all but channel Twain himself,
Audience participates in a storytelling ritual that is almost forgotten. Twain's
stretched truths and outrageous insults are balanced by stories that cause us to
reflect on what makes us human. Pritner allows us to experience the man as the
quick-witted, eccentric, thinker he was. So take a night off from Garrison
Keillor and invite Mr. Twain over.