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A hidden gem comes to life

Albert Lea students gear up to present a Mark Twain comedy

By Evelyn Seffinga

Albert Lea High School students will perform a comedy written by Mark Twain this weekend.

Performances of “Is He Dead?” will begin at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday in the high school auditorium.

The comedy portrays mid-19th century French artist Jean-Francois Millet, played by Kyle Nelson. Millet is convinced the only way to save his family from certain financial hardship is to somehow sell his own art — posthumously. Millet and his apprentices plot to make the money by disguising as his own widowed sister to sell the art. He attempts to use his scheme to become rich and marry the girl of his dreams.

The students have been preparing for the production for about six weeks.

Heather Wirkus, left, rehearses with Kyle Nelson for her role in the Mark Twain comedy. – Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

“It is about an artist that is so far in debt that he can’t make any money to survive anymore and basically fakes his own death in order to sell his art — after finding out that art is much more valuable after the artist is dead,” director Andrew Anderson said. “And all that he goes through to get the money, to save his girlfriend and pay off the villain, it is insanity.”

This will be the first play for Anderson, who is a language arts teacher at the high school, to direct.

The comedy was written by Twain and adapted by playwright David Ives.

One of the reasons Anderson picked the play is because it was just recently discovered. A University of Pennsylvania student found the work buried in a library in 2003.

“It’s incredible that such a brilliant farce written by an American literary legend could’ve stayed hidden for so long, but our enormous thanks goes to David Ives for finding and adapting this incredibly wacky and side-splitting play. You’ll never see characters go so hilariously far out of their comfort zone for love or money,” he said.

Kyle Nelson and Ethan Eriksmoen rehearse for the Mark Twain comedy “Is He Dead?” The play can be seen at 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday at Albert Lea High School. –
Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

Anderson added the play is a laugh a minute.

“Everybody right now, I think, needs a laugh and that’s why I chose this production to do,” he said.

The show runs 2 hours and 15 minutes.

Tickets, please

What: “Is He Dead?”

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday     

Where: Albert Lea High School auditorium

Cost: $5 for students and seniors, $7 for adults; tickets are for sale 45 minutes before each show

Kyle Nelson plays the role of mid-19th century French artist Jean-Francois Millet, who is convinced the only way to save his family from certain financial hardship is to somehow sell his own art — posthumously. –
Colleen Harrison/Albert Lea Tribune

‘Is He Dead?’ cast list

Millet/Widow: Kyle Nelson

Chicago: Jorge Brinda

Dutchy: Sydne Reichel

O’Shaughnessy: Logan Peterson

Marie: Justine Nelson

Cecile: Heather Wirkus

Papa Leroux: Ethan Eriksmoen

Andre: Noah Iverson

Madame Bathilde: Rhiannon Farr

Madame Caron: Carine Rofshus

Thorpe: Brayden Boettcher

Reporter: Natalie Weiland

Charlie: Alec Wendelboe

King: Odelia Jensen

About Evelyn Seffinga

Evelyn Seffinga covers education and arts and culture for the Albert Lea Tribune.

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