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A "Twain nut'
One-man show comes to Red Clay Theatre

DULUTH - Kurt Sutton of Buford first saw actor Hal Holbrook perform his one-man show as Mark Twain at the Fox Theatre 20 years ago. A self-described "Twain nut," Sutton will bring his own one-man show depicting one of America's most famous authors to the Red Clay Theatre and Arts Center for three shows Sept. 19, 20 and 21.

"The show covers all the things he (Twain) did," Sutton said. "And I'm playing Mark Twain the character as Samuel Clemens would have played him today."

What Sutton means by that is that Mark Twain was Samuel Clemens' pen name - what he wrote by in authoring the classics "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" among others. Sutton said there are things Clemens never would have done as Twain, like play an instrument on stage, something Sutton incorporates into his shows with either a banjo, harmonica or guitar and the audience singing along, which is encouraged Sutton said.

"Mark Twain is a character, not a person," he said. "He was the first rock star America had."

Sutton said the rock star status achieved by Twain for being the prolific writer he was led Clemens to tour the world over as Twain when doing so was a major undertaking.

"People are generally surprised at all the things he's done and don't realize how varied a person he was," Sutton said. "He was a renaissance man when those were dying out."

Besides being a very famous writer, philosopher and witty satirist, Clemens as Twain was also a scientist, a gold miner, a reporter, a traveler and a riverboat captain. Sutton said being a riverboat captain in Twain's time - the late 19th and early 20th centuries - was the equivalent to being a modern day astronaut.

"If he could do it, he tried it," Sutton said.

Sutton's own love for Twain began when he was a history major at the University of Georgia. A former teacher and football coach, Sutton said he's been performing as Twain for five years now and averages between 100 and 150 shows a year at theatres nationwide. Always the teacher, he'll also be performing for some Gwinnett County public school children the Monday following his weekend stint at the Red Clay Theatre. Sutton said there is also one thing about him that isn't part of the character Mark Twain.

"That's my real hair," he said.

"An Evening with Mark Twain" will be performed Sept. 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. with a matinee Sept. 21 at 2 p.m. Tickets are $15 and $12 for students. For information, call the Red Clay Theatre and Arts Center at 770-622-1777 or visit the Web site at www.redclaytheatrearts.com.