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.

Ethan Feigel and Tobie Windham as Tom and Huck in the first production of this adaptation at [url=www.uab.edu/cas/theatre]UAB[/url], directed by Dennis McLernon

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
How big you reckon this island is, anyways?

TOM SAWYER
Wull, we poled our raft around it all morning, Huck -- never got back to where we started. So I reckon it’s big enough we could live here forever and never get found.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Never get found! What would them other boys say if they could see us?

TOM SAWYER
Say? Well, they'd just die to be here. You don't have to get up mornings, and you don't have to go to school, and wash, and all that blame foolishness.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
I'm suited. We got clean water to drink and fish out there just a-waiting to get caught. It’s just the life for me.

TOM SAWYER
I reckon we’ll want to make up some kinda hut in case it rains.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Shucks, I slept out in the rain more times’n I’ve slept dry. It don’t hurt one bit.

TOM SAWYER
Mebbe so, but I --

A sonorous thud interrupts, a faraway rumble not unlike thunder.

TOM SAWYER touring the Southeast courtesy of [url=www.bct123.org]Birmingham Children's Theatre[/url]

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
It’s like thunder! But 'tain't thunder, becuz thunder --

TOM SAWYER
Let’s get down to the water’s edge, see what we can make out.

They approach the repeating sound but its source remains invisible.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Beats me, Tom. It’s almost like a big gun a-shooting.

TOM SAWYER
Like a skyrocket, Huck, or a cannon firing a ball.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
That’s it, Tom -- it’s cannon. I know it now you say it. That’s a steamboat a-shooting her cannons. They done that last summer, when Bill Turner got drownded. Fella told me they shoot a cannonball over the water, and that makes the body come floating up to the top.

TOM SAWYER
Then that’s what it is. They’re trying to get up the corpse of somebody what’s drownded.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
By jings, I wish I was over there right now. See it come up.

TOM SAWYER
Me too.

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
I'd give heaps to know who it was that drownded.

TOM SAWYER
Don’t you see it, Huck? It's us! It’s you and me!

HUCKLEBERRY FINN
Course! Folks back there, they noticed we was gone and figured -- why, somebody musta seen us headin’ down to the water and when we didn’t come back --

TOM SAWYER
They figured we both musta drownded. So folks are crying and carrying on, and saying all manner of sweet things about us...

This terrific trailer was made by Merelee Robinson at Birmingham Children's Theatre for the show's second regional tour. This time the show was directed by the brilliant Leah Luker -- who had played Becky (et al) in BCT's previous tour! Be sure to watch this at FULL-SCREEN for maximum effect.

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