A new candidate has emerged in this year’s presidential race, and while his thoughts and theories aren’t always politically correct, they are always entertaining.
The Mark Twain for President Campaign is making its way across the U.S., and a lengthy promotional tour is scheduled this summer in Twain’s hometown, Hannibal. You can hear Twain’s political views at the Planter’s Barn Theater – where there’s no such thing as “equal time” for candidates from other parties.
“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it’s time to reform,” is the slogan you find printed on the Twain for President T-shirt worn by his supporters, many of whom are frenzied during his stump speeches at local fairs and festivals.
Although Twain won’t declare a political party – in his words, “I’ve voted for Democrats and Republications; I like to call myself an American” – he will make clear his thoughts on everything from foreign policy to patent legislation, which are among his key platform issues.
Twain, also known as Richard Garey, is a veteran stage actor entering his 10th season of performances at Hannibal’s Planters Barn Theater. Through his Twain for President shows, Garey offers lively presentations filled with Twain’s best material on all things political. Garey says Twain actually “ran” for president a couple of times, as a joke – a joke that examined serious issues of the day, including topics modern candidates still address.
“It gave him an opportunity to talk about the things that concerned him,” Garey says. “Sam Clemens was the vice president of the Anti-Imperialist League … He didn’t think we should have troops or colonies or bases overseas, that everything we had should be for defense. It’s amazing that Ron Paul is making those same arguments today.
“I think more than anything else, he wanted people to think about politics and to think about what they were doing, about how it would affect the future.”
Garey’s stage performances and stump-speaking engagements are designed to entertain audiences with Twain’s humor, while also making people stop to think about the content of his messages.
“He’s taking shots at politicians and how they live and the graft and corruption, which was rampant in the 1890s — far worse than today,” Garey says of Twain’s political writings and lectures. “We sometimes think, in the past, it was better, but it wasn’t.”
Garey draws upon many of Twain’s works, including “The Guilded Age” (which satirizes politics in post-Civil War America) for his performances, and all of the material is Twain’s.
“The most frequent question I get is, ‘When did you write that?’” Garey says. “But it’s all Mark Twain … What I have to do is pull it from letters and essays and various sources of the material. It’s all there, in his body of work. You just have to pull it together.
“The great thing about Sam,” Garey continues, “was that he had the gift of saying things we may have thought about, or considered before, but he puts in such memorable language. He just has that gift. And over and over, he does that, on almost every topic.”
With performances tailored for a variety of audiences, Garey is sure to generate a response with his stories, memorable quotes and anecdotes. He especially enjoys performances where he can participate with the audience, whether it’s a question-and-answer session with college students or having a little fun with someone in the crowd.
One popular bit involves selecting someone from the audience, portraying them as a congressman and then pulling out one of Twain’s famous quotes from Century magazine: “You know what a congressman is? A congressman is someone who goes to Washington to make laws. A senator is someone who makes laws when he’s not serving time.”
Like Twain, Garey strives for his presentation to be humorous, but he also wants people to know Twain was a lot more intelligent than he’s often credited as being.
“Mark Twain was an extremely intelligent man,” Garey says, “but his persona as a humorist kind of disarms that. An example of his intelligence was that he spoke French, German and Italian, in addition to English. When I tell people that, they are just shocked; their image is the Good Ol’ Boy from Hannibal.”
The Twain for President Campaign is underway, but will pick up steam in February 2012, when Garey begins a series of speeches all around the country; he’s booked from Ohio to Arizona and the New England area to California. Garey’s stage shows in Hannibal will resume in June and he plans to keep his regularly scheduled nightly performances at 5 p.m.
In addition to his stage show, watch for Garey, make that Twain, at various fairs and festivals around the Show-Me State; you never know where or when you might hear an unforgettable campaign speech.
Visit Garey’s website, www.HeritageStage.com for more information; if you’d like Garey – as Mark Twain, presidential candidate — to appear at one of your events, please call the Planters Barn Theater at 573-231-0021.