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Mark Twain Back in Annapolis

He and Tom Sawyer invite you on five weeks of adventures

Charles Kiernan portrays Mark Twain, in a Big Read event sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, ­organized by Chesapeake Children’s ­Museum founder Deborah Wood.

The rumor of Mark Twain’s death has apparently been very greatly exaggerated. For the legendary American storyteller, born as Samuel Clemens in 1835 in Florida, Mo., is paying Annapolis a second visit — 109 years after his first and 106 years after his death on April 21, 1910.
    Maryland First Lady Emma Nicodemus Warfield, though reportedly a shy woman, must have been persuasive to lure the then-septuagenarian, battered by loss, back to the lecture circuit in 1907. How much more persuasive must be Deborah Wood to bring back a 181-year-old.
    For that’s what the founder of the Chesapeake Children’s Museum seems to have done. Twain is the keynote speaker on four days of the five-week-long Big Read, involving Annapolis and Anne Arundel County in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer from April 16 to May 21.
    “It’s easier nowadays,” Wood said. “Google Mark Twain impersonators, and several come up. I talked to six until I got two who would fit our opening and closing dates.”
    Ohioan Steve Hollen opens on April 16 to 18 with events at the Chesapeake Children’s Museum, St. Martin’s in the Field Episcopal School in Severna Park, the Annapolis Bookstore and senior centers and nursing homes.
    Pennsylvanian impersonator Charles Kiernan closes May 20 and 21, visiting with seniors and appearing at St. John’s College and the Maryland State House.
    “As usual, Mr. Twain controls the program,” Wood says, though he has accepted special requests. He reflects on prejudice and humanitarianism in Mark Twain and the Jews (Sun., April 17, 10-11am at Chesapeake Children’s Museum: $5).
    “Twain lays out racism and prejudice like it was in the language of his time,” Wood says. “He grew up in a southern state before emancipation. But as he grew and traveled, he realized the more you get to know people, the more you get to know we’re all the same.”

“Twain lays out racism and prejudice like it was in the language of his time,” says Deborah Wood. “He grew up in a southern state before emancipation. But as he grew and traveled, he realized the more you get to know people, the more you get to know we’re all the same.”

    Discussion of The Skin You Live In involves teachers (Wed., April 20, 6:30-8:30pm) and children (Wed., April 27, 2-3:30pm) at Chesapeake Children’s Museum.
    Wood scored her homerun in persuasiveness with the National Endowment for the Arts, which sponsors The Big Read projects across the nation, choosing 75 each year. It took her four tries to win a grant for Annapolis to host The Big Read for Tom Sawyer.
    “I reread the book and thought about different ways we could present it to different audiences and ages,” says Wood, who has developed a substantial network over three decades of community activism.
    Partnership with libraries is a requirement of the grant, and Anne Arundel County Public Libraries hold several of the dozens of events in this Big Read.
    Wood’s own dedication to early childhood guarantees lots of hand-on programs. “Tom has so much adventure,” she says. “So a couple events are specifically for kids to play outside, as it’s less common for children today to have that free time.”
    For the elderly, there are events to enjoy looking back. For the rest of us, she says, “we all share childhood in common, and it’s a way people can connect.”
    This week, dress up to meet Mr. Twain in a reception at the Annapolitan Bed and Breakfast (Sat., April 16, 7-9pm). Annapolis Opera is renting costumes for this event and a May 21 State House reception (410-267-0087).
    Find new Big Read events each week — from Tall Tales told by young storytellers (April 26), to theater as the King William Players of St. John’s College reenact The Trial of Muff ­Potter (May 10) — in Bay Weekly’s 8 Days a Week and fully detailed at www.theccm.org.