Posting Date: September 7, 2011
KSU presents "Splittin' The Raft"
Project encourages community engagement
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The student cast of "Splittin' the Raft." Rob Hadaway (from left), John Stewart, Shannon Sparks and Annie Power.
Photo by Tracie L. Hinnant
KENNESAW, Ga.—The Kennesaw State University Department of Theatre, Performance Studies & Dance will present "Splittin' The Raft" Sept. 20-25 in the Black Box Theater. 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.
In April, the production received the Arts Education in American Communities grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. After the six-night run at KSU, the production will be performed at various community arts organizations and schools. In addition, the performers and the director will conduct a 20-minute discussion following each performance.
"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." The production fulfills KSU President Daniel S. Papp's call for "The Engaged University."
"At it's core, 'Splittin' the Raft' is a coming of age story," explains Harrison Long, KSU associate professor and director of the production. "Despite all the social forces conspiring against him, Huck learns to trust his heart and discover what it means to live with integrity. It's moving as well as fascinating to watch Huck and Jim come together over the course of their journey down the Mississippi."
To prepare students and audience members for the play, a website was 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.
The pre-and post-production activities, Long explains, 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 everyone understand the social, historical and literary contexts of this material," says Long. "Both Twain's text and Kaiser's adaptation foreground the social injustice of 19th century America."
After performing at KSU, the production will be performed at The Cultural Arts Council of Douglasville in Douglas County, The Arts Association in Newton County, The Earl Smith Strand Theatre in Marietta, The Sautee Nacoochee Arts Center in Sautee Nacoochee and various high schools in North Georgia.
"The play is highly entertaining, but it also includes some parts of our history we'd rather forget," explains Long. "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.