Posting Date: April 27, 2011
KSU receives NEA grant for production of "Splittin' the Raft"
Project will foster community engagement
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Associate Professor Harrison Long with the cast of
Photo by Tracie Hinnant
KENNESAW, Ga.—The National Endowment for the Arts recently awarded the Kennesaw State University Department of Theatre, Performance Studies & Dance with the Arts Education in American Communities grant in support of the upcoming production of the play "Splittin’ the Raft." This new theatre production fulfills KSU President Daniel S. Papp's call for "The Engaged University."
After a six-night run in the Black Box Theater at KSU, Sept. 20-25, the production will travel to be performed at various community arts organizations and schools, including The Cultural Arts Council of Douglasville in Douglas County, The Arts Association in Newton County, The Earl Smith Strand Theatre in Marietta and various high schools in North Georgia.
"This project is exemplary in its community engagement," says John Gentile, chair of the department. "It brings a canonical work of American literature and a thoughtful consideration of contemporary social issues involving diversity to today's students in the greater Atlanta community."
Written by Scott Kaiser, "Splittin’ the Raft" is a dramatic adaptation of the Mark Twain classic "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" as seen through the eyes of the great orator and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The play, featuring African-American spirituals and songs by Stephen Foster, will be directed by Associate Professor Harrison Long. “I’m very excited," Long explains. "We have an amazing cast which reflects the range and diversity of our talented student body. It’s amazing to see the quality of our students and how they have grown in recent years.” Rehearsals, which will feature five to seven performers playing a total of more than 30 characters, will begin in July.
To prepare students and audience members for the play, a web site will be created with an electronic curriculum guide, historical information, biographies, photographs and journal entries documenting the rehearsal process. Audience members and workshop participants will be encouraged to post comments before and after each performance. In addition, the performers and the director will conduct a 20-minute discussion following each performance.
Long served as primary writer of the grant with assistance from Associate Professor Dean Adams. Long says that the pre- and post-production activities are important because they will help the audience grasp the theme behind the production, particularly in light of the recent controversy surrounding the use of derogatory language in the novel. "It’s important that the students understand the social, historical and literary contexts of this material. Both Twain's text and Kaiser's adaptation foreground the social injustice of 19th-century America. We don't want to hide from the atrocities of the past or pretend they didn't happen. Instead, we intend to examine these events critically and, in the process, learn something valuable about the current age."
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Kennesaw State University is the third-largest university in Georgia, offering more than 70 graduate and undergraduate degrees, including new doctorates in education, business and nursing. A member of the 35-unit University System of Georgia, Kennesaw State is a comprehensive, residential institution with a growing student population of more than 22,500 from 142 countries.
The KSU College of the Arts is one of only four Georgia institutions to have achieved full national accreditation for all of its arts departments.