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Mark Twain ‘roughs it’ at Piper’s Opera House

Teri Vance
tvance@nevadaappeal.com

Of all of Mark Twain’s books, McAvoy Layne says, “Roughing It” is the best.

“It’s the best of Twain’s humor,” Layne said. “It just has that wonderful Western humor that still holds up today.”

And he should know. Layne has been performing as the literary icon for 24 years – a number he can easily call into memory because it was during one of his first shows at Piper’s Opera House that his son was born. Layne showed up to the hospital in full costume.

He will share his love for the book during two performances at Piper’s Opera House in Virginia City.

The first, on Dec. 17., will start with the boyhood of Samuel Clemens to his arrival in Virginia City.

Part two on Jan. 14 will begin in Virginia City and follow Twain’s travels to Lake Tahoe, San Francisco and farther West.

“It’s very light-hearted, humorous and fast-paced,” Layne said.

He won’t have to worry about learning his lines for the performance, he said, as he has the entire book memorized.

In the summer of 1988, he did two “Roughing It” shows a day, six days a week for four months at Piper’s. That amounted to about 200 performances.

But he does not tire of the gig that takes him all over the West and several performances a year at local schools.

“Once you get to know Mark Twain, he becomes your constant companion,” he said. “His humor helps you get through airports. It takes the humdrum out of everyday life.”

He said adults who first saw him perform when they were in elementary school now approach him, and he’s started podcasts called Spirit of Twain, where he interprets current events through Mark Twain’s eyes.

Despite his immersion into Twain’s life, he said he avoids confusion with his own.

“I don’ think I have a problem with that … but my wife tells me I do.”

If you go

WHAT: An Evening with Mark Twain

WHEN: 7 p.m., doors open at 6:30, Dec. 17 and Jan. 14

WHERE: Piper’s Opera House, 12 N. B. St., Virginia City

COST: $15 each show

For more information, call Toni Givant at (775) 847-0433 or go to 4pipershouse@gmail.com.

To listen to Spirit of Twain, podcasts of Mark Twain’s interpretation of current events, go to spiritoftwain.org.