By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
The young actors of Amarillo Little Theatre Academy are exploring harsh truths and enduring friendship in its staging of an American classic.
Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" will be staged at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the ALT Mainstage, 2019 Civic Circle. Tickets are $12 for ages 12 and older and $10 for ages 11 and younger.
"I love the history, but we're really exploring what that was like, the hatred and how hurtful it was, or is, I guess," said Tevae Shoels, an 18-year-old Tascosa High School senior who stars as the escaped slave Jim.
In the drama, based on Twain's 1885 novel, rambunctious Huck Finn (Bradley Hurt) runs away from his abusive home, encountering Jim on the Mississippi River. The two pair up in their mutual quest for freedom, with Huck realizing some bitter reality about the pervasive racism of his surroundings.
It's a teaching moment for the school-age audiences who'll watch performances during the week, said Hurt, a 13-year-old eighth grader at Crockett Middle School.
"I hope (the student audience) will get that back then we were so wrong about slavery," Hurt said. "It's teaching that you don't have to go along with the crowd. ... (Huck) learns more and more ... about Jim and how he should not be treated like this."
Jim is shackled at one point and more often verbally abused — though director Jason Crespin decided to use "colored" instead of Twain's frequent, pointed use of the "n"-word.
"It's really more eye-opening than anything," Shoels said. "It's definitely a new experience for me. ... It can be degrading and hurtful, but it helps give the character purpose.
"When you're told you're worthless, it helps you look at society differently. (Jim's) relationship with Huck is that he's the one person, who happens to be white, that's loving and kind."
Crespin said he hopes the play feels timely.
"With all that's going on in the community, it's a great message that we all need reminded of — that everyone needs a friend, and everyone needs freedom," Crespin said.
"I hope the message of the show, which is beyond race, is that friendship will prevail," he said.