"Twain" performance brings Harrington audience to its feet

Series: Harrington News | Story 54

November 7, 2019

Karen Robertson

Patrick Treadway performs "Memories with Mark Twain" at the Harrington Opera House on Sunday, November 3. Treadway also performed at the school for the 1995 HOHS fundraising benefit.

[Contributed by various citizens of Harrington, as our regular columnist takes another week off.]

Memories with Mark Twain

Sunday, Nov. 3, a group of 50 or so folks gathered at the Harrington Opera House in the afternoon to spend quality time with Mark Twain as presented by Patrick Treadway.

Treadway is the consummate actor. His clothing, gestures and manner of speech were striking. He was in character before the performance doing sound checks and visiting with volunteers. It was as if he had stepped into the auditorium, bringing with him the genteel nature that harkens back to a time long ago.

Linda Wagner welcomed the audience and then spoke about the 1995 HOHS fundraising benefit at the school, in which Treadway performed. Now, years later he is in the very building he helped raise money to restore.

The curtains then opened to a gentleman's study in the late 1800s. There amongst the vintage furniture and grand piano was Twain with his ever-present cigar moving about, picking up papers and putting them back down. He turns, addresses the audience and time stands still.

Twain told the audience that he had always been fascinated with memory. He said, "When young I could remember everything, whether it happened or not." At the beginning of his speaking career, he revealed, he thought he needed to rely on his notes. When that proved difficult, he tried reducing each sentence to pictures. He tried many different memory aids to assist him with his speeches, finally settling on speaking from his heart with purpose.

He then recalled events from his youth, telling the tale of how he helped his brother convince himself to climb across an icy, tiled rooftop to chase off cats that were noisily defending places next to the hot chimneys. A missed swat at a cat resulted in an inevitable slip and slide down the roof which landed his brother in the midst of a social gathering in the square below.

Another tale concerned "The first time I ever stole a watermelon. No, no, rather I withdrew a watermelon. No, that is not it. First time I ever extracted a watermelon. That is the right word, extracted, removed with precision from the farmer's cart sitting in the lane." The story continued that after extracting the melon, he took it away and threw it on the ground to break it open to feast upon, only in dismay realizing it was still green. As he struggled with his conscience, he remembered that George Washington believed that restitution was a proper thing to pursue. So Twain resolved he would return it to the farmer. When he did so, he took it upon himself to scold the farmer for selling such inferior watermelons to unsuspecting women feeding their families. The farmer was so taken with his words, fancied Twain, that he took back the fragments of the green melon and gave Twain another one, promising he would never sell another green watermelon again. As the horse and cart drove away, young Twain congratulated himself on a proper ending to his dilemma. He reasoned that the farmer was now a better man, as Twain had done him a great justice to show him the error of his ways!

Other tales involved stories of his journey west and an encounter with a shady auctioneer and a genuine Mexican plug horse. "Much superior than a simple American horse," said the auctioneer's brother. The bid was at $24 for the horse, saddle and bridle. Twain could not contain himself. He wanted that Mexican plug, although he confessed he had just learned how to tell a horse apart from a cow, so his horse knowledge was slight.

He jumped to his feet, and offered $27. He proudly walked his new purchase to the street where several gathered to hold the horse's head and tail to keep him attached to the ground while Twain climbed into the saddle. The story continues with the bucking and rearing and other horse behaviors that genuine plugs exhibit, "180 yards" he said "180 yards up into the air, then down again, only to repeat." The audience's laughter filled the room as he recounted the many ups, downs, twists and turns he endured that day.

Telling a fantastic story, fully expecting to be believed was Mark Twain. In his trademark style of humor, he presented outrageous exaggerations with absolute seriousness. Treadway in his performance remained true to Twain and did not disappoint.

After a standing ovation befitting the performance, Linda Wagner invited Treadway back on stage for another round of appreciation from the audience. Afterwards Mark Twain came out and socialized with the patrons for quite a while, a treat often enjoyed in the intimate setting of the Harrington Opera House.

Karen Robertson

Patrick Treadway as Mark Twain.


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