Val Kilmer in Citizen Twain, Feb. 7 at The Ryman



Val Kilmer as Mark Twain
  • Val Kilmer as Mark Twain
It was just a couple months ago that Hal Holbrook's Mark Twain Tonight! played the Schermerhorn, and already the ghost of Samuel Clemens is returning to town, this time channeled by Val Kilmer.

Kilmer assumes the persona of the beloved humorist in Citizen Twain, which comes to the Ryman Feb. 7. Tickets go on sale this Friday at 10 a.m.

Check out Stephen Trageser's story on Holbrook's performance at the Schermerhorn, which includes some commentary on Kilmer's Twain piece, here. And check out a Twain-worthy remark about the whole affair from the Scene's D. Patrick Rodgers here.

We can only imagine what would happen if Holbrook and Kilmer took the stage at once. If ever the Twains shall meet. Bada bing!

Of course, Kilmer is no stranger to Nashville. A couple of years ago, he came to town to star in Harmony Korine's "Lotus Community Workshop," a 26-minute film that was part of an omnibus from the folks at Vice, The Fourth Dimension. (Directors Alexey Fedorchenko and Jan Kwiecinski also contributed shorts.)

Check out "Lotus Community Workshop" after the jump. Kilmer turns in a pretty hysterical performance. Definitely worth watching. The full Citizen Twain press release follows.


DATE: FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 7, 2014 8:00 P.M.

ON SALE: FRIDAY, November 29, 2013 10:00 A.M.

TICKETS: $152* / $77 / $67 / $57 plus applicable service charges and are available via, Ticketmaster outlets, the Ryman box office,, or by calling 800-745-3000. (*includes meet and greet.)

In Citizen Twain, Val Kilmer presents the legend as we’ve never encountered him, with all his glorious contradictions intact, all his strengths and weaknesses in play. Poised on the shadowy border of life and death and in a realm outside of time, Twain is part stand-up comic and part philosopher, an immortal intelligence in a mortal body, both wildly hilarious and deeply somber. With eternity on his mind and whiskey and cigar smoke on his breath, Twain threatens to upstage God himself as he ponders existence’s great issues, from man’s capacity for cruelty to the idiocy of politicians. Twain’s reach as a thinker and conversationalist is shown to be virtually boundless in Kilmer’s play, ranging from matters of science and technology to questions of morality and myth, and proving Twain correct in his assertion that he was not “an American” at all— he was “the American.” Period.

The words of the play are mostly Twain’s, incisive, elegant, and memorable, but the performance is vintage Kilmer, uncompromising, risky, and intense, a voyage to the center of the soul. He delves beneath the surface of Twain’s persona in ways that less daring performers would shy away from. Kilmer’s Twain is so human that it’s painful, a creature of vanity, regret, and longing whose outer swagger masks a troubled conscience and whose still-unmatched celebrity disguises a wounded, stricken spirit. Among those Twain hurt with his scathing, bitter wit was the 19th-Century religious author, Mary Baker Eddy, whom he attempts to make peace with, acknowledging Eddy as an equal in the grand pageant of our national history. “Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.” Will Eddy forgive him? Can Twain forgive himself?

Citizen Twain is a three-dimensional spectacle, alive with laughter, music, and reflection. It takes us into a mind as vast and vivid as any our culture has ever produced. The result is a dream-like river of words and images that Twain and Kilmer join forces to help us navigate, carrying us far from home and back again and crossing the boundaries dividing past and present. As Kilmer’s play unforgettably reminds us, Mark Twain was a citizen not just of America, but of the universe. He lives on in our heads. He never left the stage.

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