Is He Dead? is a play by Mark Twain. It was first published in print in 2003, after Mark Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin read the manuscript in the archives of the Mark Twain Papers at the University of California at Berkeley. The play was long known to scholars but never attracted much attention until Fishkin arranged to have it published in book form. She later played a primary role in getting the play produced on Broadway. Is He Dead? is now published and licensed for theatrical use byPlayscripts, Inc.

Written in 1898 in Vienna, the play focuses on a fictional version of the great French painter Jean-Francois Millet as an impoverished artist in BarbizonFrance who, with the help of his colleagues, stages his death in order to increase the value of his paintings, and afterwards dresses as a woman to keep his secret safe. Combining elements of burlesquefarce, and social satire, the comedy relies on such devices as cross-dressing, mistaken identities, and romantic deceptions to tell its story, which raises questions about fame, greed, and the value of art.

Cast
  • Norbert Leo Butz as Jean-Francois Millet/Widow Daisy Tillou
  • Byron Jennings as Bastien Andre, art dealer and moneylender
  • Jennifer Gambatese as Marie Leroux, Millet's girlfriend
  • John McMartin as Papa Louis Leroux, Marie's father
  • Bridget Regan as Cecile Leroux, Marie's sister
  • Tom Alan Robbins as Hans von Bismarck ("Dutchy"), Millet's friend
  • Jeremy Bobb as Phelim O'Shaughnessy, Millet's friend
  • Michael McGrath as Agamemnon Buckner ("Chicago"), Millet's friend
  • Marylouise Burke as Madame Caron, Millet's landlady
  • Patricia Conolly as Madame Bathilde, Millet's landlady
  • David Pittu in several small comic roles

 

World Premiere

Adapted by David Ives, a former Guggenheim Foundation Fellow in playwriting, and directed by Michael Blakemore, Is He Dead? had its world premiere at the Lyceum TheatreMartin Pakledinaz designed costumes. The Broadway production began previews on November 8 and was set to open on November 29, 2007, but due to the 2007 Broadway stagehand strike, it was postponed to December 9, 2007.

It received favorable reviews in the New York Times and Variety, but closed on March 9, 2008, after 105 performances.