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Mark Twain to entertain at Newborn Schoolhouse

Atlanta-based actor Van Brown as Mark Twain.

Atlanta-based actor Van Brown as Mark Twain.

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Special Photo: Actor Van Brown will portray Mark Twain in a Saturday performance at Newborn Schoolhouse. Brown has been a fan of Twain's since he was just a boy. "'Tom Sawyer' knocked me out of bed reading it at night...I was absolutely overwhelmed. I found an author dead 38 years before I was born that I could identify with," he said.

NEWBORN -- Mark Twain once wrote:"Fame is a vapor; popularity an accident; the only earthly certainty is oblivion."

Astute as Twain was on most subjects,it seems he underestimated his own influence. His words have yet to vanish into oblivion, a century after his death.

This Saturday, those words will be brought to life by Atlanta-based actor Van Brown, who will portray Twain in a performance at the Old Newborn Schoolhouse. Part of the town's homecoming celebration, the show will take place at 1:30 p.m. and will benefit ongoing renovations of the historic building.

Alumni of the Newborn Schoolhouse typically gather during homecoming to share stories of days gone by, but as they age the stories become fewer, said Linda Williams Woodworth, a volunteer with Newborn Area Heritage Trust, the group that runs the facility.

"My dad went to that school. One of the attractions is the older folks sitting around and swapping stories about the old days. That's really fun. But now they're sort of declining, so we thought what if we got a storyteller to come and tell stories instead?" she said.

Woodworth was familiar with Brown and his Twain impersonation and he was happy to oblige when she asked him to perform.

"I started working on a tribute to Twain in 1975, when I was a grad student at the University of Georgia, majoring in theater," Brown said. "I was, of course, told that hundreds of people have done Mark Twain and I should pick a less crowded road to travel. But I stuck to my guns and I've continued it with some success over the years."

Brown's performance focuses mostly on speeches, essays and short stories by Twain as opposed to excerpts from his novels.

Brown said the show is not an imitation of actor Hal Holbrook's famed portrayal of Twain.

"It's predominately humor with some bite to some of it. I tend to avoid a lot of politically controversial issues that are not important to me," he said.

Once asked to take Twain's commentary and apply it to some controversial issues of today, Brown refused.

"Mark Twain is dead and can't defend himself. If I start putting words in his mouth, where is the integrity in that?"

Above all, Brown said he hopes people will laugh and be entertained, and perhaps find a few concepts still relevant in today's society.

"If I can leave a group of people knowing they've laughed and smiled and enjoyed themselves and a handful have walked away with a few things to think about, I haven't had a bad day," he said.

Tickets are $12 for adults and $6 for students and can be purchased at the door or in advance by calling 404-353-0177 or visiting www.newbornschoolhouse.org.

The schoolhouse is located at 4326 Ga. Highway 142, one block southeast of the caution light in Newborn.