Tale transports actors and audiences back to childhood

Published 7:16 pm Thursday, April 15, 2010

Clever practical jokes or murderous intrigue, some of Mark Twain’s most beloved characters at South City Theatre hope to take audience members on an adventurous journey through Tom Sawyer.

“Twain’s just got such an incredible skill at taking something so simple and giving it so much depth,” said South City co–founder Francie Gardner. “The characters are so true to life.”

Gardner said South City chose to include Tom Sawyer in their line–up to correspond with The Big Read, a statewide library initiative encouraging reading.

“The idea of the entire state studying one book, it really connects everyone. We feel like seeing it live then provides a really neat way to tie all the projects together,” Gardner said.

Directed by George Scott, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer are drawn from Mark Twain’s own experiences. The story has since achieved folk hero status and is one of the most popular stories in American literature.

“You see the interaction of yourself as a young boy, or a young child. You identify it within you own life,” Scott said.

The production grasps Gardner’s heartstrings for two reasons: the story is one of her favorites and both of her boys portray characters in this classic tale.

McNeil Gardner plays Huck Finn and Stuart is Joe Harper. Stuart relished in getting to know the cast and his character.

“Joe Harper is a lot of fun to play because he has so much energy and enthusiasm,” Stuart said. “Yet, he’s really gullible because he gets talked into white–washing the fence.”

Stage manager Libby Medicus said the mixed cast of children and adults brings variety to the performance.

“The entire show together is a really great package of actors playing off one another,” Medicus said. “There are jokes for adults, as well as children, and such adventurous storytelling.”

The story tells the adventures of a young boy and his friends in St. Petersburg, Mo., a village near the Mississippi River. Tom Sawyer and his constant companion Huck Finn lead audiences through a murder mystery, life as a pirate and discovering treasure and true love.

“You don’t see Mark Twain on stage as much anymore so to get to see his stories in action and to see the emotion behind his words is exciting,” Medicus said.

The emotion theater creats for participants and patrons is also powerful, Scott said.

“Even if we’re an audience member, we’re all a part of this family. Theater can bring us together and allow us to experience a positive influence in our lives,” he said. “This production is just one great example of that.”

South City Theatre opens its curtain for Tom Sawyer again April 15. The production’s last performance is April 18 at 2 p.m.

Reservations can be made at Southcitytheatre.com or by calling 621-2128.