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Is He Dead?

Is He Dead?
[handwritten playscript, with revisions by Mark Twain, 1898]
Is He Dead? [handwritten playscript, with revisions by Mark Twain, 1898]

Clemens's early conviction that he could make a lucrative career as a playwright was confirmed by the substantial success of his stage version of The Gilded Age, which premiered in 1874 and brought in tens of thousands of dollars over the next decade.

Clemens continued to draft scripts throughout his life, but it was not until 2007 that he had another Broadway success—this time with a lively farce that melded cross-dressing with the life of the French artist Jean François Millet.

Clemens wrote the play in Vienna in 1898, but was disappointed in his attempts to get it produced. The hand-copied script, heavily revised by the author, has long been in the Mark Twain Papers collection. Brought out of its pigeonhole by the Mark Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin, the script was published by the University of California Press in 2003, with text established by the Mark Twain Project.

Through Professor Fishkin's efforts, Is He Dead? was brought to the attention of theatrical producers. It enjoyed a successful run at New York's Lyceum Theater during the 2007-2008 season and garnered one Tony award nomination.
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