Actors rehearse Chambers Stevens' Twain and Shaw Do Lunch
Actors rehearse Chambers Stevens' Twain and Shaw Do Lunch

Two Profound Egos Meet in New Theatre's Twain and Shaw Do Lunch at the Roxy Performing Arts Center

Chambers Stevens just sounds like a guy who'd write a play about Mark Twain and George Bernard Shaw sitting down to lunch. In fact, it sounds like a guy who might have attended such a lunch. Truth is, the playwright of the show making its world premier December 2 at the New Theatre was born Steven Chambers, but flipped his name when the Screen Actors Guild told him they already had a guy by his birth name.

New Theatre literature director Steven Chambers (no relation), meanwhile, says he was looking for plays on the theme of family and relationships when Twain and Shaw came across his desk.

"This one had a really interesting take on the family that was George Bernard Shaw and [his wife] Charlotte Payne-Townshend Shaw. All these people are very eccentric. It's kind of fascinating," he said, admitting that the name of the playwright's being a mirror-image of his own piqued his interest as well.

He said he enjoyed the historical, yet highly entertaining aspects of the play.

"The playwright took some liberties. It's not completely accurate, but it's not supposed to be. But I would say 90% of what's written in the play is factual," he said.

The real meeting between these authors took place after Twain got off a boat bound for England, where he would be awarded an honorary degree from Oxford. En route he met a fellow named Archibald Henderson, a mathematician, literary critic, biographer, and eventually a U.S. congressman, who insisted that he meet Shaw, the subject of Henderson's biography.

Shaw, then on the verge of becoming the greatest playwright since Shakespeare, invited the aging Twain to his home for lunch. Though the two had much in common, the brilliant, witty, vain, and politically polarized writers at times needed Shaw's wife to ensure they didn't destroy each other.

"It's a nice piece about two people that are iconic that people think they know a lot about, but there are a lot of things that happened with them that people may not know," said Chambers. "And it's a world premier... and so Miamians have a chance to see it before it goes on to Chicago, New York, and other big cities around the country. It's a period play with the feel of a drawing room comedy. You learn things about the characters that you had no idea about. Plus, it's a timely piece, seeing as Mark Twain's autobiography just came out."

Playwright Chambers Stevens will fly in from California to attend the first three nights of the play, bringing with him his four-year-old son, Twain (yes, really!). There will be a talk-back with both Chambers Stevens and Steven Chambers after the Sunday matinee performance at 1 p.m.

The play runs Dec. 2-18 at the New Theatre's new temporary space, The Roxy Performing Arts Center. Performances are at 8 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, and 1 p.m. Sunday. Tickets cost $15-$40. Go to the New Theatre's website or call 305-443-5909.

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