By Erin Hannon
On September 19, Mark Twain visited Roanoke College. Steve Franco, a professional Mark Twain impersonator, came to the college and gave a two-hour performance in RC’s Olin Hall. Franco took the stage dressed in Mark Twain’s trademark white suit and untidy hair.
Most people know Mark Twain through his classic novels, Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn; however, last Saturday night Franco truly showed the audience a new side of Mr. Twain. The performance itself included an interesting combination of history, literature, and comedy. “Twain” spoke on a vast array of subjects ranging from using the telephone to the Sandwich Islands, each with their own amusing spin and witty one-liner. The audience was able to learn interesting stories about what Twain did when he was not writing and some of his prior jobs as a newspaper reporter and an insurance agent. He spent the night sharing some of Twain’s well-known quotes as well as some lesser known anecdotes that helped to present Twain in a different, more amusing light than the dry, classical author we usually imagine. Towards the end of his performance, “Twain” finished with a dramatic reading of his own novel Huckleberry Finn, which was truly a unique experience for all those involved.
Yet, the performance was not all jokes and laughter. Franco was also sure to share with the audience a few words of wisdom in the form of some of Twain’s more famous sayings such as, “Never allow one’s education to interfere with one’s learning”.
The overall routine was both amusing and insightful. The audience learned more about the person behind the famous books, while being constantly entertained with clever jokes and funny stories.
Franco is a Roanoke College alumnus having graduated in 1989. Since his years at RC, Franco has worked as a teacher, director, and playwright. Although he has written several plays, Franco is best-known for his original play, In-laws, Outlaws, & Other People That Should Be Shot, a comedy about two criminals who interrupt an average family’s Christmas Dinner. Franco has been nominated for several awards, including: the Golden Apple Teaching Award, Roanoke County School’s Outstanding High School Educator, and the AKA Unsung Hero Award, which he won in 2011 and 2013 respectively.