Mark Dawidziak and his wife, actress Sara Showman, founded the Largely Literary Theater Company in 2002:
Largely Literary Theater Company
Dedicated to promoting literacy and literature, the touring company has staged his three-person version of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and several plays based on sketches by Mark Twain, including The Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated (for five actors), Twain By Three (for three actors) and Twain By Two (performed as a one-act and two-act show by Dawidziak and Showman). He also performs one-man shows as Twain and Dickens. He has been playing Twain on stage for more than 35 years.
To coincide with the publication of Mark Twain’s Guide to Diet, Exercise, Beauty, Fashion, Investment, Romance, Health and Happiness, Dawidziak and Showman have put together a one-act play drawn from material in the book.
Dawidziak and Showman met when both were cast in a Tennessee production of Neil Simon’s The Good Doctor (he played the Anton Chekhov role, later appearing with her as the H.L. Mencken character in Inherit the Wind). As a performer, he has been a member of two comedy teams (using the stage name Mark Daniels). In 1993, he reunited with one of his former partners to win the routine contest at the first-ever Abbott & Costello Convention.
October is a busy month for the Largely Literary Theater Company, which offers such eerie seasonal shows as The Tell-Tale Play (stories and poems by Edgar Allan Poe), Ghosts by the Tale, Shades of Blue and Gray: Ghosts of the Civil War, Dawidziak’s The Vampire Talk and Showman’s The Devil You Say! (stories about deals with the Devil).
Dawidziak played Dashiell Hammett in the troupe’s The Mystery of Dashiell Hammett, a play he wrote for the National Endowment’s Big Read program. Showman has developed several storytelling programs for pre-school and elementary school students, including Animal Tales, The Poetry Show, Earth Stories, All Kinds of Dreams, Mythology: Heroes, Beasts & Gods, Mother Goose and Stories With Mrs. Santa Claus.
Over the past twenty years, they have toured all over Ohio and performed in several states, including Michigan, Virginia, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, New Jersey and New York. They have participated in three National Endowment For The Arts Big Reads and twice in the annual celebration of all things Twilight Zone in Binghamton, New York. They have also performed at the Center For Mark Twain Studies in Elmira, New York, the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, the James Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio, and the historic Barter Theatre in Virginia.
Among the current plays, talks and storytelling programs offered by the Largely Literary Theater Company are:
FALL AND HALLOWEEN (and all-year-round, for that matter):
The Tell-Tale Play — our long-running collection of poems and stories by Edgar Allan Poe. Sara Showman and Mark Dawidziak perform such stories as “The Cask of Amontillado” and “The Masque of the Red Death,” as well as several poems, including “The Raven,” “Annabel Lee” “The Bells” and “Alone.”
Ghosts of the Civil War: Shades of Blue and Gray — A one-hour and 20-minute presentation by Sara Showman (from the South) and Mark Dawidziak (from the North), including ghost stories from South Carolina, Virginia, Tennessee and Ohio (with a special section about Abraham Lincoln). Literary selections include pieces by Walt Whitman, Ohio native Ambrose Bierce and Emily Dickinson.
Monsters Are Universal: Silver Screams in Hollywood’s Golden Age — Largely Literary Theater Company co-founders Sara Showman and Mark Dawidziak use lighthearted sketches, props and costume pieces to explore Hollywood’s Golden Age of horror, with a special emphasis on the Universal films starring Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff, as well as the genre’s literary origins, from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Robert Louis Stevenson’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, from H. G. Wells’ The Invisible Man to Gaston Leroux’s The Phantom of the Opera. Join us for a monstrous good time that shows how famous film fiends became beloved characters. The presentation will be followed by a Q&A session. There also is the option of a book signing featuring many of Dawidziak’s horror-centric titles, including The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Dracula and his novel with supernatural sleuth Carl Kolchak, Grave Secrets.
Everything I Need to Know I Learned in The Twilight Zone — This two-person show by Sara Showman is based on the book by Mark Dawidziak (published by Thomas Dunne Books, with a foreword by Anne Serling). The book features 50 life lessons drawn from classic Twilight Zone episodes.
Things That Go Bump in the Night — A spooky celebration in story and song by storyteller Sara Showman. A young man meets a stranger at the crossroads — will a deal be made? Then, an ornery old cuss won’t stay buried — much to his widow’s dismay! Learn the story behind the haunting song “Scarborough Faire.” And three old witches get their “comeuppance” one dark Halloween night when their selfish ways overcome their good sense and they get more than they bargained for.
Moralists in Disguise — A talk exploring the many fascinating personal and professional parallels between Mark Twain and Rod Serling.
The Vampire Talk — A one-hour program about Count Dracula, the current vampire boom and the enduring appeal of the undead. Mark Dawidziak is the author of such vampire-centric books as The Night Stalker Companion and The Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Dracula. He also teaches the Vampires on Film and Television course at Kent State University. Presentation includes items from author’s personal collection (items from the crypt).
Stephen King and The Shawshank Redemption — “The Shawshank Redemption Revealed,” author and Largely Literary co-founder Mark Dawidziak presents a program based on his 2019 book “The Shawshank Redemption Revealed,” which was published on the 25th anniversary of director Frank Darabont’s film adaptation of Stephen King’s novella. Filmed in Ohio and starring Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman, “The Shawshank Redemption” has risen in popularity since its release in 1994, reaching No. 1 on IMDB’s list of most-loved movies. Dawidziak conducted more than 70 interviews for the book, talking to King, Darabont, Robbins and Freeman, as well as extras, supporting players and behind-the-scenes talent.
A Mystery of Mysteries: The Death and Life of Edgar Allan Poe — A talk based on Dawidziak’s 2023 biography.
CHRISTMAS AND HOLIDAY SEASON:
Christmas With Charles Dickens — a two-person sampling that includes selections from “A Christmas Carol” and other seasonal favorites by Charles Dickens. Largely Literary Theater Company co-founders Sara Showman and Mark Dawidziak draw on the Dickens Christmas stories, his thoughts about the season and some Dickensian Christmas history for this one-act show that reflect the writer’s belief that, “There seems a magic in the very name of Christmas.” (Fee: $250)
The Holly and the Ivy: Why We Do What We Do At Christmas— Part talk, part performance, this hour presentation by Sara Showman explores the holiday’s history, folk stories and the stories behind our Christmas traditions. Why do we bring greenery into our homes? Why do we exchange presents? How did Santa Claus get started? What is the story of the poinsettia? And what do animals have to do with Christmas? These stories and more, plus favorite Christmas songs. (Fee: $200)
PIRATES, MARK TWAIN and OTHER OFFERINGS
Under the Skull and Crossbones: A Pirate’s Life for Me — a lighthearted voyage through the history of piracy, blending history, humor and song. This two-person show also looks at such celebrated literary pirates as Captain Hook and Long John Silver.
Twain By Two — A one-hour and 15-minute collection of Mark Twain material performed by Twain scholar Mark Dawidziak (as Twain) and Sara Showman. Performed on stages in several states, it includes excerpts from “Huckleberry Finn” and “Eve’s Diary.”
A Force of Nature — A two-person show written by Sara Showman to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service. It tells of the meeting between two incredibly forceful and colorful American figures, President Theodore Roosevelt and naturalist John Muir in Yosemite.
Mark Twain — This year marks Mark Dawidziak’s 45th year playing Mark Twain on stage. This one-man show draws on seven hours of material committed to memory. Shows also can be followed by a Q&A with the audience and book signing. Dawidziak’s five Twain-centric books: “Mark Twain in Ohio,” “Mark Twain’s Guide to Diet, Exercise, Beauty, Fashion, Romance, Health and Happiness” and “Mark Twain for Cat Lovers”)
The Princess In the Garden: A Visit With Frances Hodgson Burnett — The author of The Secret Garden, A Little Princess and Little Lord Fauntleroy discusses love, marriage, motherhood, spirituality, writing, being a working woman and, of course, gardens! Come spend some time in the garden with the woman her sons called “Dearest.”
Walt Whitman — Largely Literary Theater Company co-founders, Mark Dawidziak and Sara Showman blend biographical information with renditions of famous works in a presentation designed to mark the 200th birthday of arguably America’s most influential and iconic poet. Embracing both trancendentalism and realism, Whitman’s body of work, controversial when first published, included such well-loved poems as “I Sing the Body Electric,” “Crossing Brooklyn Ferry,” “Song of Myself,” “I Hear America Singing,” “When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom’d” and “O Captain! My Captain!”
As the Body Grows Weaker, The Spirit Grows Stronger: Dame Cicely Saunders and the Hospice Movement — This one-person show emphasizes how hospice care is more about how life is lived than how it ends. Cicely Saunders, British nurse and physician, began the hospice movement in the late 1960s. Learn about the journey Saunders made with a life devoted to caring about the human side of death instead of just the clinical.
STORYTELLING SHOWS FOR ADULTS AND FAMILIES — with storyteller Sara Showman
She Stories — multicultural tales with female heroes. Stories from Africa, China and the British Isles.
Stories for the Ages — Stories about what makes life great, starting with a marriage story from China. We experience parenthood in Britain, work life in the American South, being a grandparent in Russia and, finally, a tale of life’s legacy from Ireland.
Gods, Heroes and Monsters — Mythology from Greece, China and Native American culture.
L-O-V-E — Stories about all kinds of love, plus the story of St. Valentine’s Day and its customs.
Tales from the Emerald Isle — Stories from the “Shanakee” — or “”storyteller.” Ireland has a rich history of leprechauns, banshees and clever girls, and that’s just what you’ll find in this 40-minute show. The 50-minute version includes the story of St. Patrick.
Things That Go Bump in the Night — A spooky celebration in story and song. A young man meets a stranger at the crossroads — will a deal be made? Then, an ornery old cuss won’t stay buried — much to his widow’s dismay! Learn the story behind the haunting song “Scarborough Faire.” And three old witches get their “comeuppance” one dark Halloween night when their selfish ways overcome their good sense and they get more than they bargained for.
The Holly and the Ivy: Why We Do What We Do at Christmas — The stories behind our Christmas traditions. Why do we bring greenery into our homes? Why do we exchange presents? How did Santa Claus get started? What is the story of the poinsettia? And what do animals have to do with Christmas? These stories and more, plus favorite Christmas songs.
Love Says “Let It Be”: Four American Saints — All saints began as people — and what amazing people they are, with lives of drama, adventure and travel. And then begins their greatest adventure of all — the journey towards following something bigger than themselves. Join Sara Showman as she explores the lives of four American women: Mother Seton, founder of the first Catholic school in America; Sister Marianne, a little working-class German girl who tended to the needs of the lepers on Molokai; Sister Katherine Drexel, who championed education and civil rights for children of color at a time when such action could have meant death; and Kateri Tekakwitha, the only Native American saint, who went against the wishes of her Mohawk family and struggled for the right to follow her own beliefs, long before America was even a country. The stories of these four women are both touching and inspiring.
STORYTELLING SHOWS FOR CHILDREN (with storyteller Sara Showman)
- Mother Goose
- Earth Stories
- Stories and Songs with Mrs. Santa Claus
- Animal Tales
- Animal Tales – Preschool