MacAvoy Layne as Mark Twain aboard the M.S. Dixie in Lake Tahoe. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Countless authors have set their books in Lake Tahoe or written about this mountain locale. One of the most famous is Mark Twain.

Considering he died in 1910, I clearly never met him. But I feel like I have.

This is thanks to MacAvoy Layne. For 35 years Layne has been the embodiment of this iconic literary figure.

He’s finally retiring. On Sept. 30 he will give his last performance at Pipers’ Opera House in Virginia City, Nev., the same location he first performed as Mark Twain. He has a few other gigs before then.

Layne has put on more than 4,000 performances. I’ve never seen him break character. He speaks as though he is really is Twain and that it certainly isn’t 2023.

The stories he tells are fun, entertaining, honest, witty and that of a humorist.

On his website, Layne describes his job like this: “It’s like being a Monday through Friday preacher, whose sermon, though not reverently pious, is fervently American.”

It’s not just Tahoe and regional audiences Layne has entertained. He played the ghost of Samuel Clemens in the Biography Channel’s episode of Mark Twain and in the Discovery Channel’s documentary Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

While it’s been a while since I’ve seen him perform, he left a lasting impression on me.

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