Shelley Fisher Fishkin: Mark Twain scholar at Stanford University, found a forgotten play by the author and saw it produced on Broadway

Historians in the News

In 2002, Shelley Fisher Fishkin, a Mark Twain scholar at Stanford University, discovered a forgotten play written by Twain in 1898 that had never been performed. Fishkin published Is He Dead? in 2003 and produced the play, which opened on Broadway last month at the Lyceum Theatre. Directed by Michael Blakemore and adapted by David Ives, the production has earned positive reviews, including one from The Village Voice's Michael Feingold, who praised its "good humor, good energy, and a sweet underpinning of rue."

"Mark Twain has lived in our house a long time. His books are a huge presence. My husband joked that he's the third person in our marriage. There are always dimensions of Twain that turn up in unexpected places. There was this drawer of playwrights at the Bancroft Library at the University of California at Berkeley. I had not expected to find anything rewarding to read when I started reading, let alone something worth publishing. It wasn't until I got to the penultimate manuscript that I could see there were memorable characters, hilarious scenes. I could see it working on stage in my mind's eye. I asked literally everyone I knew: Do you know anything about getting a play produced? It made sense to try to share with other people some of the fun Twain had writing it and I had reading it."

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