Meet Hawaii, as told by Twain

December 10, 2010, 6:22 PM HST · Updated December 10, 6:31 PM
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by Maesyn

Many a writer has tried to capture the heart of Hawaii, but none has succeeded with such grace as Mark Twain.

This Sunday night, December 12th, at 5:00 pm, witness as the prose of Mark Twain comes alive through the lips of Emmy Award-winning actor, Hal Holbrook, in his one man show, “Mark Twain Tonight!” at the Castle Theatre at the MACC.

Holbrook began channeling the spirit of Mark Twain fifty six years ago, and manages to create a different spontaneous performance every night.

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Born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, the wise and witty writer was a friend and confidante to many wealthy and influential people in 19th century America, including Nicola Tesla and several presidents of the United States.

Known as the founder of American Literature, Clemens was wildly popular in his day, writing travelogues, novels, articles, and letters, all published under his pen name, Mark Twain. He was known for his satirism, turning social commentary into entertainment through his character–driven parodies of social norms.

Hawaii proved a rich stomping ground for these keen powers of observation and reflection when Twain visited in 1866 for his travelogue series titled “Mark Twain in Hawaii: Roughing It in the Sandwich Islands.”

“The native language is soft and liquid and flexible and in every way efficient and satisfactory–till you get mad; then there you are; there isn’t anything in it to swear with,” he wrote.

During his Hawaiian escapades, Twain spent several weeks on Maui and climbed the Haleakala Crater. He loved the atmosphere of Hawaii and all that it invoked.

“For me its balmy airs are always blowing, its summer seas flashing in the sun; the pulsing of its surf is in my ear; I can see its garlanded crags, its leaping cascades, its plumy palms drowsing by the shore, its remote summits floating like islands above the cloud-rack.”

Between 1860-70, Twain spoke out strongly in favor of American interests in the Hawaiian Islands. Soon, however, he reversed his stance and became vice-president of the American Anti-Imperialist League.

In his travelogues about Hawaii, Mark Twain documented an island nation beset by warring imperialists: France, Britain and the United States. The traditional ways of the native Hawaiian people, as well as their population, were in catastrophic decline. Kamehameha V, ruled the Hawaiians, the last of his kind.

About the sad state of missionaries corrupting the native culture, he wrote, “Nearby is an interesting ruin–the meager remains of an ancient temple–a place where human sacrifices were offered up in those old bygone days…long, long before the missionaries braved a thousand privations to come and make [the natives] permanently miserable by telling them how beautiful and how blissful a place heaven is, and how nearly impossible it is to get there;”

“They showed him what rapture it is to work all day long for fifty cents to buy food for next day with, as compared with fishing for a pastime and lolling in the shade through eternal summer, and eating of the bounty that nobody labored to provide but Nature. How sad it is to think of the multitudes who have gone to their gaves in this beautiful island and never knew there was a hell.”

This is a sentiment shared by many native Hawaiians who are trying to revitalize their culture in a modern world.

Some things, however, never change.

Twain hiked through Hawaii’s beauteous jungle. He surfed naked on a wooden surfboard. He rode horseback across the plains.

To hear such stories recounted in Twain’s own eloquent words, join Hal Holbrook for an evening of entertainment featuring the maestro’s own stories, jokes and tidbits of wisdom.

The show supports the Rotary Club of Maui. Tickets are $30, $45, $60 & $150 VIP (which includes pre-show dinner/post-show meet the artist (plus applicable fees)). You can purchase them at the MACC box office, or at www.mauiarts.org

*if you have suggestions of entertainment events that you would like to see covered by Mauinow.com, please write to [email protected]

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