St. Charles Preparatory School students will perform a Mark Twain comedy that recently was presented on Broadway for the first time.

St. Charles Preparatory School students will perform a Mark Twain comedy that recently was presented on Broadway for the first time.

Performances of "Is He Dead?" are scheduled for 8 p.m. Feb. 26-28 and 1 and 3 p.m. March 1 in the St. Charles Campus Theatre. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

The play was written by Mark Twain in 1898 but never performed. It was rediscovered in 2002 by Twain scholar Shelley Fisher Fishkin, an English professor and director of the American Studies Program at Stanford University.

The play, adapted by playwright David Ives, is about a group of starving artists who stage the death of their mentor to increase the value of his work. "Is He Dead?" is set in France in the 1840s and centers on French painter Jean-Francois Millet.

St. Charles drama director Doug Montgomery said contemporary authors aren't writing many plays with large casts and he likes to get as many students involved as possible. "Is He Dead?" has 19 cast members. Montgomery also likes shows with literary merit.

"Plus it is a funny show that no one has ever seen before," he said.

Senior Andrew Zuk plays Agamemnon Buckner or "Chicago." One of his biggest challenges is speaking four different dialects in the play.

He identifies with his character, adding "I make witty remarks and come up with some crazy ideas."

Junior Connor Simpson plays Millet, who is not selling paintings and has borrowed money from a loan shark.

"French dialogue is not fun," he said. "It is one more thing for my rsum."

Simpson and Zuk are best friends, as are Chicago and Millet, Simpson said.

"He is one of my best buds," he said. "This is a great example of farce and over the top comedy."

Zuk said he enjoys seeing his best friend wear a dress and heels.

Montgomery said it was not uncommon to have a case of mistaken identify at the time the play was written. Movies like "Tootsie" use similar humor, he said.

"The British especially enjoy that kind of thing all the time," he said. "It was pretty common in the 1890s, this kind of plot device."

tstubbs@thisweeknews.com