Theatre and Performance Studies

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What happens when one controversial text meets another in performance? How do diverse audiences from rural and metropolitan areas respond to powerful yet provocative material? The Kennesaw State University Department of Theatre&Performance Studies set out to explore just that with its Frederick Douglass/Huck Finn Arts Education Initiative. The project was called Splittin' the Raft, a dramatic adaptation of Mark Twain's Adventures of Huckleberry Finn as interpreted by ex-slave and abolitionist Frederick Douglass. This ambitious production toured seven North Georgia communities, ranging from inner city schools to rural mountain towns. The production employed "epic theatre" strategies to inspire a new understanding of the present time through an examination of the past. "Raft" featured African-American spirituals, songs by Stephen Foster, and original compositions for fiddle and banjo. Audiences included high school students, educators, community leaders and people of all ages. The company led post-show discussions highlighting current social issues and the dramatic techniques used to create social awareness. This article explores our efforts to deliver Twain's controversial text to a modern student audience.

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