*Article Originally Published in the Washington Post, Feb. 13, 2019
Written by: Jane Horwitz
After one big idea took shape, the path forward became clear for Adventure Theatre’s new hour-long, kid-friendly version of the Tony-winning 1985 Broadway musical, “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.” In the newly titled “Huckleberry Finn’s Big River,” the escaped slave Jim, who shares that raft down the Mississippi with Huck, is a teen, just like Huck.
Even before the Huck-Jim age decision, it had been a given that the show would include none of the offensive racial slurs that appear more than 200 times in Mark Twain’s iconic 1885 novel and, to a far lesser degree, in the Broadway script.
“I wanted people to understand the history of the story, but not be offended by the language in the story,” says Adventure’s artistic director Michael J. Bobbitt. “That seemed to be an easy thing to fix. We are maintaining the history of the piece and the essence of Mark Twain’s novel, but we’re getting rid of anything that is offensive or reinjuring for people.”
Theater artists weren’t the only ones on the journey toward last Friday’s opening. They were in frequent communication with a group of “consensus organizers” — more than 100 African American civil rights and community activists in and around Montgomery County, who offered feedback throughout script development and rehearsals. The show’s director, Michael Baron, concedes that “Big River” is “not a show that African Americans tend to actually see because of the history of ‘Huckleberry Finn’ and how they’re going to be portrayed. We’ve asked the African American community what would bring them into the story more.”
After a rehearsal in Rockville, for example, the cast met with facilitators from the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and got pointers on how to handle post-show questions from kids learning about slavery for the first time, and parents wondering how to discuss it…
Read the full story at WashingtonPost.com Here.