What's New

The Trouble Begins at 5:30: Mark Twain's Surrogate Wife

Wednesday, May 13, 5:00 p.m. wine and hors d'oeuvres reception; 5:30 p.m. talk

Continuing in our "Trouble Begins" series in the vein of Clemens’ relationships with women, we explore a highly controversial one.

Scholar Marie Lavendier  will speak on Isabel Lyon, Clemens’ secretary in his final years, after the death of Livy.  Lyon at one time held power of attorney for Twain and has been referred to as Mark Twain's surrogate wife – but their relationship ended in a bitter split a year before the author’s death.

Lyon was written out of his official biography.

Marie Lavendier is a lecturer at Tunxis Community College and lives in Lyon's former home in Farmington. 

"The Trouble Begins at 5:30" is The Mark Twain House & Museum's popular after-work lecture series on Twainian subjects, held on the second Wednesday of every month other than January and August. The series has offered good food and drink, good conversation and intriguing talks since 2010. It takes its name from Twain's own lecture posters, which were headed "The Trouble Begins at Eight." 

The series is supported by Connecticut Explored magazine, Hot Tomato's restaurant. Big Dollar Liquors of Bristol and The Friends of The Mark Twain House & Museum. ASL signing for the lectures is provided courtesy of students of the Interpreting 1 Class in Northwestern Connecticut Community College's Interpreter Preparation Program.  

$5.00; reserve at 860-280-3130 or click here.


Friday, May 8, 7:30 p.m., and Saturday, May 9 at 7:30 p.m.

The Mark Twain House & Museum is pleased to announce the return of drag chanteuse Varla Jean Merman in a new show especially created for the Museum—A Louisiana Skankee in Connecticut Court.

"Merman combines the physical presence of a buxom Russ Myer starlet with a hint of perky Doris Day and the brassiness of her spiritual mother, Ethel Merman." --Variety

Varla appeared at The Museum several years ago in the hilarious sold-out show “The Lady Behind The Mustache.”  Now the love child of Ernest Borgnine and Ethel Merman returns with this new show to delight and tickle of the fancies of (mature) audiences.

To get a hint of the hilarity in store, check out Varla’s YouTube Channel.  Just search online for “Varla YouTube”.

Varla is portrayed by actor Jeffrey Roberson.  As Varla Jean, Jeffery has filled cabarets and concert halls across the world including the Sydney Opera House, Carnegie Hall, the New York Public Theater, London’s Soho Theatre and LA’s Renberg Theatre. Jeffery wrote and starred in the short Improve Your History with Varla Jean: Stonewall, for the launch of the MTV’s television network Logo and was also seen in their One Night Standup: Dragtastic special. In addition, Jeffery starred in the musical Lucky Guy opposite Leslie Jordan in New York at the Little Schubert in spring 2011 prompting The New York Times to rave, “If Carol Burnett and Harvey Korman had stood in front of the right pair of funhouse mirrors, they might have resembled Ms. Merman and Mr. Jordan in stature as well as comedic talent”.

Adults only! Tickets are $30/$25 for MTH&M members. Please call (860) 280-3130 for tickets or more information, or click here.

Celeste Bedford Walker’s Theatrical Production BLACK WALL STREET

Friday, May 15, and Saturday, May 16 at 8:00 p.m. each evening at the Artists Collective, 1200 Albany Avenue in Hartford.

Presented by the Artists Collective and The Mark Twain House & Museum, for the 8th Annual Jackie McLean Memorial Celebration

 The Artists Collective’s eighth annual Jackie McLean Memorial Celebration, to be held May 15 - 16, 2015, will feature the historical theater production of Celeste Bedford Walker’sBLACK WALL STREET, directed by Michael Green, in collaboration with The Mark Twain House & Museum.

 BLACK WALL STREET brings to life a little-known portion of American history during the early 1900s-1920s. In the heartland of America, there was a Black community paradise. In the Greenwood section of Tulsa, Oklahoma, African Americans, Native Americans, and people of Jewish descent developed a networking relationship surpassed by none in modern day history, creating more than 600 businesses. There were 41 grocery stores, 30 restaurants, 6 privately-owned airplanes, 5 hotels, 3 schools, 1 hospital with 15 physicians/surgeons, a bank, a bus system, and 2 movie theaters.

It’s June 1, 1921- with an alleged incident involving a white female elevator operator and a Negro “shoe shine boy” which ignited the simmering resentment and jealousies of neighboring white communities. In the aftermath of the worst race riot in US history, the once thriving business district of Greenwood lay, smoldering and totally destroyed. 

Black Wall Street is produced by an award-winning creative team featuring Playwright Celeste Bedford Walker, Producer, Director Michael Green, and Executive Producer Voza Rivers. The production comes to life with a cast of award-winning actors and creative team. BLACK WALL STREET has received critical acclaim from audiences and critics alike for its successful run in New York.

Artists Collective Founding Executive Director Dollie McLean states, “Shades of Truth Theater with Voza Rivers/New Heritage Theater Group are two of America’s important vehicles for African American theater arts and artists.  We have been colleagues for many, many years through its Founder, the late Rodger Furman. They continue to produce thought-provoking, cutting-edge productions, featuring the nation’s emerging artists and themes. The little-known history of Greenwood, Tulsa, Oklahoma aka BLACK WALL STREET still resonates today nearly one hundred years later.” 

“The Artists Collective is extremely excited about collaborating with The Mark Twain House & Museum on this project. This project would not have been possible without the generous support of the Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation. We deeply appreciate the support for this production. 

The Mark Twain House & Museum’s Cindy Lovell states, “Artists Collective is an ideal partner for presenting a seldom-heard, but terribly important, chapter in our shared history.  This is our first major collaboration with the Artists Collective, Dollie McLean and her committed team. We can’t wait to bring this gripping production to Hartford.”

The performances will be held Friday, May 15 at 8:00 pm and Saturday, May 16 at 8:00 pm at the Artists Collective, located at 1200 Albany Avenue (corner of Woodland Street/Jackie McLean Way) in Hartford.  Ample free secure parking is available on-site.

The annual Jackie McLean Memorial Celebration reflects Artists Collective Founder and jazz legend Jackie McLean’s broad interest in music, art, dance, theater, literature, world history, socio-political issues and the human condition.

The Jackie McLean Memorial Celebration production of BLACK WALL STREET, in collaboration with Mark Twain House Museum, is made possible with the generous support of:The Edward C. & Ann T. Roberts Foundation with additional program support from: The State of Connecticut Department of Economic and Community Development, Connecticut Office of the Arts, Greater Hartford Arts Council, Bank of America, the City of Hartford, Pedro E. Segarra, Mayor, and our media partners, Northend Agent’s Newspaper, and CT NOW.

About Jackie McLean

The celebrated world-renowned alto saxophonist, composer, educator, and community activist, Jackie McLean, has been an enduring force in jazz since the early 1950s and a distinguished educator since the 1960s. His legacy continues today.  

During his lifetime, Jackie McLeangarnered numerous national and international awards including: Paris France Minister of Culture, Jack Lang Medal Officer de L’Ordre Des Arts Et Des Letters, Trinity College Honorary Doctorate, an American Jazz Master Honor from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Hartford (posthumous).

The African American Music Department at the Hartt School, University of Hartford, was founded by Jackie McLean in 1968 and was renamed the Jackie McLean Institute of Jazz in 2000. Jackie McLean initiated the founding of the Artists Collective, Inc. in 1970. Both institutions hold an exclusive place in the world for being founded by a living jazz musician and existing for over four decades. He was actively involved with both institutions until March 2006. Mr. McLean was born May 17, 1931.

Tickets for Black Wall Street are: $25 for advanced purchase general admission; $20 advance purchase for Artists Collective and Mark Twain House & Museum members, students, seniors and GHAC Lets Go Members; and $30 at the door for all.

Tickets are available via The Mark Twain House & Museum by calling (860) 280-3130 or by clicking here or by calling the Artists Collective at (860) 527-3205. Special Group rate tickets available. Call the Artists Collective for information. 

Writing in Mark Twain's Library

Monday, April 27, 6:00 p.m.

"To get the right word in the right place is a rare achievement. To condense the diffused light of a page of thought into the luminous flash of a single sentence, is worthy to rank as a prize composition just by itself...Anybody can have ideas--the difficulty is to express them without squandering a quire of paper on an idea that ought to be reduced to one glittering paragraph." – Mark Twain

Sometimes, what we need to write our great novel, or even just a good page, is just a little peace and quiet. Throw in some inspiration from Hartford’s favorite author and we’d call that a successful morning. That’s why we’re introducing a new series called “Writing in Mark Twain's Library.” Sign up for a writing session in the Clemens family home: participants will have the house to yourselves. Feel inspired by the beautiful sounds of the fountain in the family conservatory; rest your eyes upon Twain’s bookshelves as you ponder your next word. You’ll spend three hours of quiet in the historic library of our very own Sam Clemens. No doubt you'll begin your own masterpiece.

This is NOT a writing course-- by popular demand, this program is uninterrupted writing time in the Twain House. A mini-residency of sorts.

ALL FUNDS FROM THIS PROGRAM go toward preserving and restoring the house.

Tickets for three quiet hours in Mark Twain's Library are $50. Please call (860) 280-3130 or click here.

New Exhibition on Display: Travel Is Fatal To Prejudice

Mark Twains first major work was a travel book, The Innocents Abroad, or the New Pilgrims’ Progress, published in 1869.  In it, he writes: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts."

We celebrate three great journeys he took during his lifetime, each of which led to a significant travel book full of humor , wisdom and lyrical description. It is our major exhibition for 2015, and invite the public to a reception to welcome it.

The exhibition will include such extraordinary items as Ottoman Turkish garb purchased on the first of these journeys, jewelry and other exotic items purchased on the second, and a rare jade Maori pendant purchased on the third -- along with books, manuscripts and revealing letters. Visitors will enter setpiece scenes from the books that will put them in the traveling spirit -- and provide a spot for a selfie.

This exhibit is sponsored by:

The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Company

United Technologies Corporation

Department of Economic and Community Development

Greater Hartford Arts Council

For more information, please click here.

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