Carmel Community Players perform rare Mark Twain play ‘Is He Dead?’

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Mark Twain’s play took more than a century to come to stage.

“It had been buried in his manuscripts for 100 years, which is really cool,” Mark Tumey said. “A modern-day playwright took the play and condensed it from three acts and 35 people to two acts and 11 people.”

Twain wrote the play, “Is He Dead,” in 1898. Twain scholar Shelly Fisher Fishkel had it published in 2003. David Ives adapted the play for its debut in 2007.

It will make its Indiana premier as a Carmel Community Players production June 8 to 24 at the 150-seat Studio Theater 37 at Ji-Eun Lee Music Academy in Fishers.

Tumey, a Noblesville resident, suggested the play to CCP and was asked by CCP to direct it. It is the first show he has directed for CCP.

Tumey acted in the production in a theater in Gilbert, Ariz., 18 months ago.

“I thought it was such a great show and I wanted to bring it to central Indiana,” he said.

The play focuses on Jean-Francois Millet, a starving artist in Paris.

“The idea is you don’t make any money as an artist until you’re dead, which brings the whole concept of we’ll fake the death, so Millet feigns his death,” Tumey said. “Pictures start to rise in value. His widowed sister comes into the picture to settle his estate — that is Millet, cross-dressed as a sister. Most of the play focuses on Millet as the sister, fighting off two male suitors in the process. At the end, Millet comes back as himself. It’s a slapstick comedy, borderline farce. There is an energetic cast of 11 people, seven male and four females.”

Brownsburg resident Jaime Johnson is performing the role of Millet and his sister.

“The dual roles of artist and widowed sister are quite a bit different,” Johnson said. “The changes in the character depend on who is in the room. If there is someone in on the joke, then it’s one way, regardless of the dress. My pupils are the ones that are in on it. My girlfriend doesn’t know anything.”

Although Johnson has acted for 20 years in central Indiana, this is his first appearance with CCP.

“It’s not often you find something that has been buried for 100 years and you get to put a nice modern spin on it,”  said Johnson, who typically does comedies. “It’s pretty neat, the lineage on it. Who gets to do Twain?”

Larry Adams, a CCP regular who lives in the Brownsburg area, plays Bastien Andre,

“I have one of the most fun parts because the villain is always fun to play,” Adams said. “I get to chew the scenery quite a bit with this. I can’t say it’s the most challenging role I’ve had because it is so much fun to do.”

Morgan Morton, a Broad Ripple resident, portrays Marie in her first CCP appearance.

“I wanted to work for CCP,” Morton said. “I auditioned before and didn’t get it. I wanted a chance to work with this theater company and meet some people. I wanted to do a comedy. I tried out, and here I am.”

Morton was a theater major at Taylor University.

“She’s very delightful,” Morton said of her character. “She is just the right amount of naïve. She’s very spunky and has a lot of drive because of her love for Millet.”

Where: Theater 37 at Ji-Eun Lee Music Academy, 10029 E. 126th St, Fishers.

Tickets: $14 to $16.

Performances: 7:30 p.m. June 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23; 2:30 p.m. June 10, 17, 24.

For more, visit carmelplayers.org.


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