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Mark Twain is coming to East Central University on Nov. 10 [THURSDAY], along with the curator of his museum in Hannibal, Mo., and retired ECU dean Dr. Alvin Turner, the author of a new book of poetry about a famous historical event in Ada.

In addition, Native American cultural events, demonstrations and performances are planned earlier that week for Nov. 7-9 [MONDAY THROUGH WEDNESDAY].

All the history-related events are free and open to the public.

Dave Ehlert, a well-known impressionist who has performed as Mark Twain in Branson, Mo., since 2004, will bring history and literature to life with his portrayal of the famous author from noon to 1 p.m. in the Ataloa Theatre in the Hallie Brown Ford Fine Arts Center.

 Ehlert actually will be the keynote presenter at ECU’s 16th annual Oklahoma Literary Arts Festival for high school students and teachers, but his free show will be open to the public.

The festival’s theme seeks to keep Mark Twain alive and well in public schools and public discourse. 

To help accomplish that, Henry Sweets, curator of the Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum in Hannibal, Mo., will discuss historical perspectives of Twain’s influence on American culture from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. in the atrium of ECU’s Linscheid Library. That morning he will present a workshop for teachers on how to incorporate Mark Twain into 21st century interdisciplinary classrooms.    

Sweets is sending several items from the museum to ECU that can be seen in the display cases in the Bill Cole University Center Nov. 3-10 [THURSDAY-THURSDAY]. The exhibit will include a sculpture of Twain, a letter to his daughter, a “Memory Builder” game he patented but was too difficult to ever become popular, a scrapbook he also patented that made him a lot of money, photographs and prints of Norman Rockwell paintings that illustrated a special 1936 edition of “Tom Sawyer.”

Turner, who retired as ECU’s dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences in 2006, will be in the atrium of ECU’s Linscheid Library from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m. for a poetry reading and book signing sponsored by the Linscheid Library Academic Friends.

His new book, “Hanging Men,” includes 41 poems about the 1909 vigilante hangings in Ada of four men who were supposed to stand trial for the murder of a local businessman. Turner also includes an afterward that tells about the culture and consequences of the lynchings and two more recent murder trials in Ada that received national attention.

Turner will receive the Oklahoma Humanities Award from the Oklahoma Humanities Council next March for his dedication to the humanities through his teaching, writing, and participation in public humanities programming.

ECU’s Native American programs are sponsoring such cultural events as music, dancers, drummers, food sampling and demonstrations of beadwork and other crafts between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Wednesday in the University Center as part of Native American Heritage Month. A stickball game is planned and a teepee will be set up on the lawn between Danley Hall and Horace Mann, weather permitting.

Nearly 200 area high school students will attend the Oklahoma Literary Arts Festival which is hosted by ECU’s Department of English and Languages and the Center for Continuing Education and Community Services as part of the Scissortail Arts Series. English faculty members and guest artists conduct workshops before the Mark Twain general session at noon.

Elhert  was “drafted” into the role of Mark Twain in 2004 when the scheduled performer was unable to appear in Branson. He had one week to gather all the background he could find on the author. Since then he has become absorbed in everything Mark Twain and has taken him on the road to theatres and libraries in 30 states.

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