Wouldn’t it have been easier for Book-It Repertory to dodge conflict by adapting Mark Twain’s playful, 1876 “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” rather than the author’s 1885 perennially controversial follow-up, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”?
Perhaps. But Book-It wouldn’t be doing its Seattle community the same level of service as it is by encouraging an honest dialogue about Huck. Twain’s masterpiece about an escaped slave and a white boy traveling along the Mississippi River in search of freedom has been newly adapted for the theater by writer Judd Parkin and is directed by Book-It co-founder Jane Jones.
The title of Book-It’s production is “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn: UNCENSORED.” Yes, that final word does shout, lest anyone think this show is going to present a sanitized version of Twain’s novel, which has riled some Americans since its publication.
In modern times, objections to “Huckleberry Finn,” one of the most banned books in America, have focused on Twain’s capturing of the vile language of white characters in the story’s slaveholding Southern setting.
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“UNCENSORED” means just that: racist language will be heard from the characters you’d expect to use it.
While intent on protecting the integrity of Twain’s tale, which presents Jim as fully human and reflects Huck’s rising awareness that he and his companion are equals, Book-It also chose to be proactive in talking about it.
A multiracial group of advisers helped determine how to invite discussion through several events called “Twain Talks.” Humanities Washington is funding opportunities for the public to meet three Twain scholars, including David Bradley, associate professor at the University of Oregon.
“What we’re trying to do, in all humility, is start a conversation about a novel we feel strongly about,” says Patricia Britton, marketing and communications director for Book-It. “We want Twain’s voice heard. People want to do their best toward this novel in their approach to it and talking about it.”
In previews on Friday, opens Saturday and runs through May 12 at Center House Theatre, Seattle Center (206-216-0833 or
Post-show talk with cast members: April 21 and 28.
CD Forum Pre-funk and Afterglow: Preshow viewing of the short film “A True Story,” based on Mark Twain’s short story, featuring Book-It cast member Gin Hammond and Treavor Boykin, and post show, a conversation led by Central District Forum Director Sharon Williams with cast members Wednesday, theater lobby. Afterglow also on May 5.
Supper with Scholars: Discussion with Twain scholars David Bradley, University of Oregon; Dr. Jocelyn Chadwick of Harvard University; and Shelley Fisher Fishkin, Stanford University. 5 p.m. April 27, theater lobby. Box supper $15 or bring your own. RSVP at 206-216-0833.
On the Human Race: Discussion centering around Mark Twain’s novel featuring Bradley, Chadwick, Fishkin, “My Jim” author Nancy Rawles and UW professor Quintard Taylor. Moderated by CD Forum’s Sharon Williams. 2 p.m. April 28, Northwest African American Museum, Seattle; $6.
Tom Keogh: firstname.lastname@example.org