Gary Robertson bears a striking resemblance to the 19th century American writer and humorist

Retired Richmond newspaper reporter Gary Robertson bears a striking resemblance to 19th century American writer and humorist Mark Twain, so it’s only natural that he found a fun hobby performing as the character over the last decade – mostly for retirement communities. Robertson will perform for Rappahannock Westminster Canterbury (RWC) residents qt 3 p.m. July 5 in the RWC Auditorium. Sign-up is required, but his talk is free and open to the community.

Mark Twain was once described as the “Lincoln of our literature.” He had little formal schooling. Life was his classroom, and he made the most of it. He was a printer, a newspaper reporter, a miner, a novelist and, foremost in his mind, a steamboat pilot.

And he was full of good advice. For example, he once said:

“Few things are harder to put up with than the annoyance of a good example.”

At his zenith, Mark Twain was the best-known American in the world.

Gary RobertsonRobertson said he has always enjoyed Twain’s widely shared quotations.

“Many years after his death (1910), his quotes and much of his writing still has relevance,” Robertson said. My favorite is, ‘Give every day the chance to be the most beautiful day of your life.’ ”

Robertson says, “I am not a Mark Twain scholar, but I’ve read his most popular books, along with many of his essays, short stories and newspaper accounts.”

Twain was a prolific writer until his death – some would say even after his death.

“He insisted that his last book, his two-volume autobiography, would not be published until 100 years after his death,” Robertson said. “The content is fiery in parts and reveals another side to Twain, but you will have to read it for yourself.”

Robertson has performed in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Louisiana, including substituting for another Mark Twain impersonator on a luxury riverboat. Cumulatively, those were his largest audiences.

“My favorite story about Mark Twain is that when he was 59 years old (then known as Samuel Clemens), he was broke. Several of his millionaire friends offered to pay off his debts from bad investments, but he insisted on doing that himself. He went on a multi-year speaking tour of the British Empire beginning in 1895, and then wrote a travelogue about it, ‘Following the Equator.’ He paid off his debts with income from the book and the speaking tour, and won wide praise for his efforts, becoming more popular in the U.S. and abroad.”

At Robertson’s RWC performance, residents and guests can expect to see his version of Mark Twain, drawn from his various writings and speeches.

Community members can call Tammy Jo at 804-438-4350 to sign up and attend the performance.

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