Pine Nuts: Piper’s Opera House

McAvoy Layne
McAvoy Layne

This lucky boy was at Piper’s Opera House last night, lucky to be alive and onstage to present, ‘An Evening with Mark Twain,’ where, as a benefit for the Comstock Foundation, I was able to close a long loop with a flood of memories…

When I was ten years old my father took our family on a tour of Piper’s. I fell into a revery in front of the box to the right side of the stage, and my father had to drag me away from there. Forty years later I would be sitting in that same box, waiting to deliver the commencement speech for Virginia City High. My ten-year-old self knew that box was going to be in my life, and as I glanced over to that same box last night, filled with friends, I had to smile. But wait, there’s more…

In the endless summer of ‘88, I was just getting started presenting enrichment programs in Nevada schools when I got a call from Carol Piper Marshall, great granddaughter of John Piper…

            “McAvoy, I understand you’re presenting Mark Twain in the schools.”

            “Yes, and having a grand time of it, visiting ten schools a week.”

            “How would you like to do two shows a day here at Piper’s Opera House, six days a week for the four months of summer?”

There was silence on my end as I was on the floor. So lucky me, I got to present 200 shows at Piper’s, and to find out from live audiences which passages of Twain’s recite, and which passages should be left as literature. What a lucky break.

Suddenly last night, 34 stirring years later, and 4,000 shows from Hawaii to Russia, I found myself back on that stage at Piper’s, bathing in a shower of pleasant memories.

Kim Harris was in the audience, she of immense talent as an impressionist of whomever she wants to be, and she brought a broad smile to my face when I pictured her on that same stage later this summer presenting, ‘An Evening with, ­­­­­(SURPRISE),’ as a benefit for the Comstock Foundation.

Then the idea occurred to me that perhaps I could complete my loop next summer and present a farewell program on that very stage where it all started. What could be nicer than to end a fulfilling journey right where it began?  I might still decide to welcome folks into my home for ‘An Evening with Mark Twain,’ but my driving and flying days would be over at last.

Yes, I must secure Piper’s for an evening in late September next summer, and share the evening with that ten-year-old boy who was so mesmerized by the box on the right side of that stage, and to the 45-year-old impressionist waiting in the wings back in the summer of ’88, to take that stage and pretend to be the Father of American Literature. I can’t wait for next summer. Now I need to start taking care of myself so I can make it to that auspicious occasion…

Thank you Carol Piper Marshall for the summer of ’88 start, and thank you Steven Saylor for today’s dynamic Comstock Foundation…

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