MOUNT VERNON — Playwright Mike Petee’s second play, “Leave-M Laugh-N” is set to premiere at ThePlace@TheWoodward, 111 S. Main St., Mount Vernon, on April 8-10 and 15-17. Writer of the Dan Emmett play “With Pen in Hand,” Petee focuses attention on another Knox County native, William Wright (pen name Dan De Quille), Mark Twain’s first mentor.
Asked about the play and why he wrote it, Petee said, “I enjoyed the experience of writing and presenting the play about Dan Emmett and wanted to try my hand with additional writing. Knox County has a rich history and people who made history, to one degree or another; that history needs to come alive on stage.”
Dan De Quille was born William Wright in Fredericktown and he went on to be Mark Twain’s first teacher at a newspaper in Nevada when Twain was still known as Samuel Clemens. De Quille also wrote a book that is still in print, called “The Big Bonanza” that’s about the history of the Comstock Lode. And in researching the characters, Petee said he found De Quille’s short stories stand up well even today.
“Several Ohioans mentored Mark Twain, a fact rarely if ever been pointed out or acknowledged, perhaps I’m the first to notice,” said Petee. According to Petee, besides De Quille, there was Artemus Ward of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. He was one of Abraham Lincoln’s favorite writers. He opened the way for humorists to make a living on the lyceum circuit. Finally, another Ohio-based writer and lecturer, Petroleum Vesuvius Nasby interacted with him and each admired the other. Nasby worked and owned newspapers in Bucyrus, Plymouth, and The Toledo Blade.
“Stylistically, ‘Leave-M Laugh-N’ is similar in style to my first play and incorporates many themes and facets from life in 1869,” said Petee. “I show what Lyceum preparation was like, interaction between speakers from the same Lyceum booking agency, both men and women, with comical results. Twain, De Quille, Nasby and Josh Billings (second only to Mark Twain in popularity at that time and the one behind the cliché — I’m just joshing you — he was the original “Josh”) and serious lecturers Anna E. Dickinson and Kate Field interact throughout, showcasing and debating, giving and taking barbs throughout.
“I’ve also written new songs and include several temperance songs from the era. Although I bring temperance into the play, it is to provide a lesson and in no way glorifies alcohol. This play is ‘G’ rated and acceptable for the whole family, young and old, to share and enjoy. Set in Boston in 1869, ‘Leave-M Laugh-N’ interweaves several story lines, and is loaded with fun, puns and plain old entertainment.”
Directed by veteran Mark S. Jordan, many of the same faces from the Dan Emmett play return including Doug Gustafson, Kristi Beatty, Carl Young, Jim Stoner, Amy K. Stoner, Dayne Baughman, Jesse Miller and Heidi VanHoof and are joined by Anna Kim and Ken Barnett (who portrayed Mark Twain at last year’s chautauqua). The band used in Petee’s last play, dubbed Uncle Dan’s Backstage Band, is back with another set of catchy songs.
Tickets will go on sale at the beginning of March. When it is ready, information about the play and sales information will be posted at www.elixirpresents.com or call 740-392-3018.
As far as future plans, Petee commented he has several other Knox County plays in the works including ones about Lizzie Evans (famous actress in the later half of the 1800s), Lansford Hastings (writer of the book the Donner Party used that led to their disaster on the way to California), and even one that tells about a medicine show that passed through the county and surrounding counties that included Buster Keaton, his parents and a man by the name of Harry Houdini.
Published on March 1, 2011