Interview with Director John Fagan about “Is He Dead?” by Neil Shurley

An Interview with Director John Fagan about “Is He Dead?”

by Neil Shurley for the Faust-Boyer Group of Raymond James Newsletter

Thanks to the Faust-Boyer Group of Raymond James for Sponsoring “Is He Dead?”!


Is He Dead?

That’s the question posed by the Mark Twain comedy that opens next month at Centre Stage.

The show is a classic farce depicting a French painter who fakes his own death in an effort to increase the value of his paintings. He then disguises himself as his own twin sister.

“It’s a very, very funny farce,” says the play’s director, John Fagan. ” It’s about Jean Francois Millet, who was a real painter and they refer to his real paintings in the show. His most famous painting is probably The Gleaners. You’ll recognize it from your art history classes.”

Mark Twain wrote the play in 1898 but it was not published until 2003. ” The original script was five acts long with thousands of characters,” says Fagan. “And even for when he first wrote it, it was an unwieldy play. Honestly, I don’t know that it ever received any stagings.”

Award-winning playwright David Ives adapted the play in 2007, when it made its Broadway debut. ” David Ives is a genius writer,” says Fagan. “He usually works in short form – his one acts are brilliant – and he has really edited this down into a very, very, very funny farce.”

Fagan also praises the play’s structure. “David Ives is very good at finding the intricacies of words, of how words sound and how people react in unique and crazy ways. It’s a really cool script.”

As with any good farce, expect plenty of physical comedy to go along with the verbal banter. “It’s all of that craziness,” confirms Fagan. “And what’s fun about it is the way the play is structured –  a bunch of the characters have to play other characters. Or go into disguise. So there are several levels of disguise going on, which makes it very fun to play with. In some cases you can never be sure who knows what and what they’re up against.”

Cross-dressing, mistaken identity, romantic deceptions – all the elements of a classic farce are there.

“Just the fact that we’ve got Dave LaPage running around in a giant dress from the 1840’s with the hoops and everything – there are plenty of opportunities for craziness.”

“Is He Dead?” by Mark Twain, adapted by David Ives, is on stage Sept 8-24. But tickets by clicking the tab at the top of the page!