Leah Luker and Frank Thompson in BCT's tour

THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER remains the most popular and most widely-produced of all the adaptations I've written for the stage. The challenge I was given by Theatre UAB was to adapt the whole novel so that it could be performed in under an hour (!) with all the roles being played by five actors (!) ... without, of course, straying too far from Mark Twain's brilliant novel.

The result speaks for itself, and has been doing so in productions large and small all over this part of the country. Some theatre companies have found that the play works better without the doubling -- that is, with one actor for each role. And there's no question the crowd scenes work better that way! But for the frugal-minded theatre or small-and-nimble touring company, the five-actor approach definitely works -- provided the cast is willing to do some cross-dressing. (The girl who plays Becky Thatcher, in particular, must be adept at playing several different men as well!) I've seen this play work with an all-white cast, an all-black cast, and a "color-blind" cast. However you cast it, folks enjoy Mark Twain's characters and situations, and getting the plot of the novel compressed into an hour is kinda fun too.

Tim Craig as Bill and Emilie Soffe as Johnny in the Theatre UAB premiere of "The Ransom of Red Chief"

Does your company of performers include an energetic young lady of slight build? You know, the kind who's always getting cast as little boys? Then this is the play for you -- it retells the world-famous O.Henry short story about the kidnappers who quickly come to regret making off with this particular whelp. The play is written for five actors, one of whom must play a man and a woman, and another of whom must play a young boy and a very old man.

For the first time in any of my adaptations, I didn't have the problem of condensing a long story into a short performance. Instead, I had to expand and (I hope) enrich the adaptation to create a full hour of entertainment. My goal was to bring O. Henry's characters and situations to life and place them in the framework of some additional characters who carry out some of the "offstage action" described in the original story. Apparently the script succeeds, because the premiere tour -- mounted by Theatre UAB, as usual -- was an enormous hit! I feel sure it would be just as big a hit with your audiences as well.

Dustin Canez and Alec James in THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS

Robin Reed and Luke Harlan in THE THOUSAND AND ONE NIGHTS

A lot of us "theatre people" committed ourselves to our career goals when we were children -- usually as the result of some play we saw that blew our tiny little minds. For me it was an Arabian Nights play presented by the always-excellent Birmingham Children's Theatre way, way back in ... well, never mind how far back ... the point is, I not only decided I wanted to grow up to work in the live theatre, I specifically wanted to grow up to do a show based on the ancient tales collected in the "Tales of Shahrazad," better known as "The Thousand and One Nights."

There are so many "Arabian Nights" scripts out there you might wonder why on Earth anyone would want to write another one. But most "children's versions" focus on the same few stories (Aladdin, Sinbad, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) and there are literally hundreds more that rarely get their turn onstage! So I wanted to skip the stories that are already overdone and explore some of the others...

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