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Box office opens for Twain comedy 'Is He Dead?'

QUINCY -- Mark Twain is returning to the Tri-States this May--and he's returning to a chorus of gut-busting laughter. Quincy Community Theatre's Box Office opens April 9 for Twain's new(ish) comedy, "Is He Dead?"

This farce invents an irreverent story about the real-life painter Jean-Francois Millet. Millet can't sell a single painting to save his life. With a little help from friends, Millet fakes his death, returns as his widowed sister and makes his fortune.

"When I first read ‘Is He Dead?,' I was immediately pulled into Twain's story by his use of puns and his satirical look at society and what we today would consider pop culture," said Artistic Director Brandon Thomsen.

"Is He Dead?" was rediscovered in 2003 by scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin who began reading the script while sifting through Twain's papers. With a little help from American playwright David Ives, Twain's work finally saw the bright lights of Broadway in 2007.

"With our area's ties to Twain, it's most fitting that we produce this play," said Thomsen. "I think he would be most amused to see his play performed here. The play feels like it was written today, and it's a testament to Twain that his writing is so effective over one hundred years later. Good comedy can be timeless."

Stepping into the shoes of Millet -- and into the corset of the Widow Tillou -- is Luke Lawson, a new QCT performer. Joining him are Sage Mann as Agamemnon "Chicago" Buckner, Millet's quick-witted American friend; Aaron Joseph Schmitt as Hans "Dutchy" von Bismarck, Millet's down-to-earth German friend; Sidney Shackleton as Phelim O'Shaughnessy, Millet's hot-tempered and mischievous Irish friend; Joe Osier as Papa Leroux, a down-on-his-luck widower; Kelsey Pigg as Marie Leroux, Millet's heartbroken love; Jennifer Shackleton as Cecile Leroux, Chicago's incessantly jealous love; Michael Gash as Bastien Andre, a villainous creditor that attempts to ruin Millet and Leroux; Barbara Fry as Madame Bathilde and Doris Malacarne as Madame Caron, Millet's doting neighbors; JT Dozier as Basil Thorpe, an uppity English art buyer; Randy Wolfmeyer as Claude Riviere, a reporter for "Le Figaro"; and John Steinkamp as Charlie, the Widow Tillou's servingman.

"Is He Dead?" is under the direction of Thomsen with scenic design by Lorne Kelley and costume design by Valerie Hernandez. James Riley serves as the stage manager.

Tickets are $20 and $22, on sale April 9. Performances are May 3 to 6 and 11 to 13. Showtimes will be 7:30 p.m. Thursdays to Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays.

Audiences can get a backstage, behind-the-scenes look at the making of this comedy during a Discovery Night event at 6 p.m. Monday, April 9. The event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is preferred.

For tickets, to volunteer backstage or to serve as an usher, visit or call the QCT Box Office, located in the Oakley-Lindsay Center, at 217-222-3209.

"Is He Dead?" is sponsored by WGEM, The Herald-Whig and Golden Bridges. QCT's 2018 season is sponsored by Gardner Denver. This program is partially supported by a grant from the Illinois Arts Council.