Feb 23, 2010

Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

by Emily DeFosse

“Persons attempting to find a motive in this narrative will be prosecuted. Persons attempting to find a moral in it will be banished. Persons attempting to find a plot in it will be shot.”
Thus warns Mark Twain before the first chapter of his American classic “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

The Theatre Department began its run of “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” based on Twain’s novel, this past weekend in the Lloyd Auditorium.

The play followed the adventures of the audacious Huck Finn, played by sophomore Caleb Hughes and runaway slave, Jim, played by freshman Taamu Wuya.

Along their journey down the Mississippi River the unlikely duo developed a bond of friendship that ultimately challenged Huck’s beliefs and forced him to make choices about right and wrong that conflicted with his society’s mores.

Director Christopher Nelson said the combination of Twain’s story with the music of Roger Miller created a unique musical score that varies from traditional Broadway-style musicals.

“(Twain) actually was an agnostic … He had few good things to say about the Bible … so people should expect when they come that they are going to get the satirical humor of Mark Twain,” Nelson said. “But the interesting thing about it is that (in the) musical, the music was written by Roger Miller who was a country singer who had faith. So it is an interesting composition of Miller (and) Twain.”

Lighting Designer David Diamond explained how the lighting was used to reflect Huck’s character growth throughout the play.

“Huck progresses through the entire story,” Diamond said. “Seeing where he comes from and seeing where he ends up in the end and you will notice throughout the show the progression of (the lights) start in a really dark blue and throughout the show it gets a little bit lighter, representing that he is learning and growing and has become his own man.”

The recent snowstorms made it difficult for the actors to rehearse, but Nelson said they were flexible and rose to the challenge, putting the production together after missing 15-20 hours of rehearsal time.

Just as Twain warns in the beginning of his novel that the book should not be read for the purpose of morals or principle, Nelson believes that it is simply a reflection of life, as all stories are, and hopes audiences are able to see a mirror of themselves.

“There are a lot of human struggles that Huck goes through that I think everyone can relate to,” Nelson said. “But I just want (the audience) to have a good time, enjoy themselves, take it for what it is and not try to read to much into it. Because I think that is Twain’s thing too. It’s satirical.”

“Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” opened Friday night to a sold-out crowd and will continue through Feb. 28. For upcoming show times and ticket information visit the box office in the Performing Arts Hall or call (434) 582-2085.

Contact Emily DeFosse at

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