Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Wedding Expo at the Twain House

One of the loveliest perks of being a popular and beautiful historic site is the adoration of the public. For years, we've had our guests and local residents beg to hold small weddings here. However, our staff was too small and the schedule too inflexible to take on any weddings. 

But hark-- that day is over! We are now taking requests for weddings at The Mark Twain House. To kick off this new era of romance, we're partnering with estOccasions to bring a full-scale bridal event to the museum center. They'll be bringing in vendors of all kinds-- florists, caterers, photographers, the whole shebang. If you get your ticket online, it's free, otherwise it's a $5 donation at the door (which goes straight to the Twain House, so it works out great either way). 

Come by and see if you love the Twain House enough to marry it. Whoops, we mean marry at it. Freudian slip there. We love you, Sam Clemens!

-- The Mark Twain House & Museum

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The LA Comedy Shorts Film Fest

Did you know that two of the staff members of the Mark Twain House & Museum are firmly ensconced in the comedy world?

Jacques Lamarre, the Director of Communication and Special Projects, is not only a playwright, but co-writes sketches, plays, and movies with the hilarious Varla Jean Merman. Here's a sample of one of his co-creations.

Not only that, but Communications Associate Julia Pistell is a founding member of Sea Tea Improv, a professional theatrical company that focuses mainly on improv comedy. With other members of Sea Tea, Julia was featured in a Funny or Die video (written by Sea Tea Improv member Kate Sidley).

You'll have a chance to see more from Jacques, Julia, and many others this upcoming weekend. From Friday, February 24th through Sunday, February 26th,The Connecticut Film Festival presents three days of short, funny films, workshops, and parties.

When the festival was looking for a place to screen the best comic short films, the home of America's favorite humorist seemed like an ideal choice!

Join us Feb 24 through 26 for the funniest, naughtiest and downright crazy short comedies.
Tickets for this East Coast Encore of the LA Comedy Shorts Film Festival, supported in part by FunnyOrDie.com, are on sale now.

Purchase an all-access festival pass, day passes or individual screenings or workshops. Rub elbows at our industry mixer or be there when we honor Mike Reiss, the Peabody and Emmy Award-winning writer for The Simpsons. Friday night will also feature local filmmakers, including Hartford's newest sketch-writing team, Asylum Attic. They've cooked up a new movie: come by on Friday at 8:30 to see what they've come up with. Here's one of their oldies:

Visit ctfilmfest.com for the complete schedule, tickets and info. See you this weekend!

-- The Mark Twain House & Museum

Monday, February 13, 2012

Memoir Time!

So, you want to be a writer. In fact, you're "supposed" to be writing right now, but you're trolling the internet for your favorite literary sites (physical and virtual). Let us help you get back on the writing wagon by reminding you that the registration deadline for our memoir class with Lary Bloom and Suzanne Levine is coming up.

Call Steve Courtney's desk at (860) 247-0998 extension 243. He'll tell you all about the eight-week course, which runs on Wednesdays, March 7-April 25, 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. The class is held in the Mark Twain Museum Center, 351 Farmington Avenue, Hartford. One session will be held in Mark Twain's library in the historic house. (Feel the literary vibrations!)

Watching Lary Bloom and Suzanne Levine teach their extraordinary joint class in memoir writing is a study in complementary creativity -- each teacher's style is so different, yet each builds on the other's work with grace and precision.

First there's Bloom -- eloquent, reminiscent, funny, surprising, with a real skill at drawing out the stories that the members of the class have often kept within themselves. Then there's Levine, who will gently rein in her co-teacher and partner with a quiet reminder that puts the class back on track. She, it's clear, revels in his ebullience; he revels in her skill at keeping to the rails.

And both teachers apply themselves with diligence and generosity to the work of their students, whether novices or Connecticut Book Award winners. Participants make real progress. "My first drafts usually seemed to please people, so I didn't need to go any further," said one student after taking the class. "Now I have your voices in my head and they won't go away."

Bloom and Levine will offer their famed eight-week Class in Memoir once again this spring at The Mark Twain House & Museum, the third time around for this much-waited-for event.

In 2010 the memoir class started the museum toward the fulfillment of its long-held goal of being a center for writing. This effort -- Writing at the Mark Twain House -- has blossomed since, with classes in fiction and non-fiction, individual talks and workshops by a range of writers, and a Writers' Weekend planned for April 20-21 this year.

A Class in Memoir offers writing instruction and workshops at the home of one of the American masters of the craft. The class will include intensive, hands-on work on the craft, with the goal of producing a short work by the end of the session to be published on the Writing at the Mark Twain House Blog. It will explore such aspects of the memoir craft as scene-setting, dialogue, character development and narrative.

It's a particularly appropriate genre for the home of Mark Twain, whose Autobiography, released recently after a century under wraps, became a surprise bestseller.

Will we see you there?

-- The Mark Twain House & Museum

Friday, February 3, 2012

New Season, New Table Setting, New Exhibit

Our intrepid curator, Patti Phillipon, has changed the setting in the dining room table. We change the table settings often to reflect the season, or some historical element that we would like to highlight on our tours. This change is no exception. We thought you, dear readers, might like some inside knowledge on how and why we curate certain aspects of the house. Ready to put your history-caps on? (Then take them off-- you're going into a party with ladies, for heaven's sakes.)

The dining-room, where the party took place
The new table setup is based on a letter written by Margaret (Daisy) Warner to her father, dated Hartford, March 20th, 1887.

 “Susy Clemens was fifteen years old yesterday [March 19, 1887] and she had a lovely party.  The two Twichell girls, Mary and Hattie Foote, Cousin Lilly, Ward Foote, Hattie Whitmore, and Fannie Freese, and Lucy Drake, and I were all there to supper.  Mrs. Clemens had her beautiful big, round dinner table, and at each place was a lovely bunch of beautiful roses.  Three or four at each place, and we all put them on.  And also, at each place was a lovely little glass dish of candy, tied around with pretty ribbons and a little Japanese card with our names on it, on the top of the dish.  In the middle of the table, was a kind of pyramid of nasturtiums and then there were other vases, of roses.  And those tall silver candles were on the table, too and the whole thing was so lovely… We then had soup, then turkey, and with it some little potato-cakes and jelly – Then salad, and then straw-berries and ice cream, and cakes (lady-fingers etc.) and then the big birthday-cake was brought on, with fifteen lighted candles.  It was very pretty.  Of course we had some of it; and then we had fruit and candy.  After supper we danced and had charades.  Mr. Clemens read some “Uncle Remus” to us and Mama and Frank, and Aunt Lottie, came in after supper.  And altogether we had a DELIGHTFUL time."

The table is set for eight guests a la Russe.  This means that there would be no food on the table when the dinner guests arrived.  Food would be served either from the sideboard or brought out from the kitchen, and be presented to the diners.  In our setup, the turkey stands on a side table waiting to be carved and served.  The “little Japanese cards” on the table have the names of 8 of the children who attended the party – Susy, Daisy, Susan Twichell, Julia Twichell, Mary, Hattie, and Ward Foote, and Fannie Freese. We don't have quite enough room to fit all eleven mentioned place settings in-- if we did, there'd be no room for tours to go through. So if you're coming through this season you can simply imagine yourself as guest number nine. Don't touch the collection objects, though!

The dinner plates are Wedgwood bone china, dated approximately 1895.  The glasses are Bohemian cut crystal with etched poppy designs on the body, foot and rim.  They were purchased in Europe – not by the Clemens family -- during the 1880s or 1890s.  We are showing the water glasses on the table. 

The majority of the silverware is the Gorham “Rosette” pattern introduced circa 1867 and sold by Tiffany & Company.  They are engraved “Olivia L. Langdon” on the handles.  The knives, which are of a different pattern, have mother-of-pearl handles.   According to one source, “…knives were not always considered part of a flatware service before the 1890s…Knives, with mother-of-pearl, silver, ivory, or plastic handles, were often sold separately, although they could be obtained with a set.”  

A large cake for the dessert course is shown on the sideboard, which would have been typical for the time Cake and sweets were popular and often served at children’s birthday parties, as shown in both Daisy Warner’s letter and the attached photo of a Victorian children’s party.  Other parts of the dessert (strawberries and candy) are in the Butler’s Pantry waiting to be brought out.

In the library, on the small table to the left of the fireplace, is a copy of Uncle Remus.  Sam read excerpts from this book to the children following the dinner party. The reason we're putting up this table setting, and its accompanying details, a couple of months early is that we're talking about Uncle Remus in our upcoming exhibit, A Sound Heart and a Deformed Conscience

On the center table of the main room are all sorts of tools used to bake Susy’s birthday cake (mixing bowls, wooden spoons, eggs, egg whisk, and more).  On the small table under the windows is a basket of nasturtiums and roses that are also seen on the table.  There is an additional corsage of roses being put together.  On the stove, potatoes are boiling in a pot for the potato cakes. In the Scullery, there is a colander with lettuce and tomatoes draining to be used for the salad course. In the Butler’s Pantry, George is plating strawberries and candy for the dessert course.  The dessert plates are also waiting to be brought out.  They are polychromed, painted porcelain. 

As you can see, when we work on the interior details of the house, we try to make sure we do a complete job. This one little letter from a girl named Daisy allows us to accurately fill in details of nearly every room on the first floor of the house, and informs our exhibition programming. We're happy to share all of these historical tidbits with you today-- all because one little girl took the time to hand-write a letter to her dad.

-- Patti Phillipon, Chief Curator, and Julia Pistell, Communications Associate