Skip to comments.Racial Switch Halts 'Huck Finn' Production
Posted on 05/22/2005 9:04:39 AM PDT by FreeManWhoCan
GLENELG, Md. - A black Huck Finn and a white Jim might be OK for a high school production of Mark Twain's classic tale but those performances had to be edited out of a C-Span talent show after the copyright holder objected to the cross-casting. ADVERTISEMENT
Jay Frisby, a black student who played Huck, and Nick Lehan, a white student who played Jim, taped their performance of the song "Muddy Water" for "Close Up," a weekly show that highlights high school excellence.
When the program aired Friday, the two Glenelg Country School seniors were introduced, but viewers were told that "Close Up" could not show their performance because of "copyright restrictions."
Lehan and Frisby had played the roles of Jim and Huck in the school's production of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" without complaint. But when the show's executive producer asked for the right to air the students' performance, permission was denied.
Bert Fink, a spokesman for R&H Theatricals the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization, which holds the license to the play said his organization is not against cross-casting in general.
"But when you're dealing with a theatrical work and race or ethnicity is a key factor, many authors or playwrights feel strongly that ethnicity has to be reflected in the actors who portray the characters," he said.
"In the books, Jim is a runaway slave. He is clearly in the novel an African-American man. And Huck is a free white man that is central to the story. To ignore that component or to comment on it by switching is not faithful to the story."
Frisby's father, Washington attorney Russell Frisby, said he was appalled by the decision.
"The only rationale for it is that someone in New York believes Huck Finn can't be played by an African-American. I thought we were past the days of 'whites only' clauses," the elder Frisby said.
< What's not to agree with? Jumping on someone and calling them names for innocently mentioning the name of a character in a Twain work seems like a great idea.
I honestly didn't even think twice about it until Mike freaked out. Who knew that the name of a character in a book that most of us (I would assume) read when we were children would be so offensive to mention in a thread revolving around the casting of said character? >
I didn't mean every opinion you had. You take issue your post being pulled. Ask Jim Robinson. BTW, the stormfronters are forever trying to infiltrate FR and have said so plainly more than once, getting to use the n-word in discussions where they might not be so readily detected. Personally, I don't care as nothing suprises me on FR anymore but there are rules on this site.
These days it's life of the author plus 70 years, or 100 years depending upon whether or not the work was created by individuals or a corporation "for hire". Got to keep "Steamboat Willie" under copyright forever.
All of Twain's works are public domain now. Most of Mark Twain's works are available for free through Project Gutenberg. I would imagine the copyright issues at question have to do with the play itself, which, if it was written after 1925 or so, would still be under copyright, not the book that it is based upon.
< pudding head >
And we have a winner. Thank you.
So I'm part of the neo-Nazi Twain plot now for mentioning the character's name? Christ, people...
Thanks fer the info.
Where does one go to find out if a specific writing is in public domain?
Right. Indeed the "N" word appears on just about every page of the entire novel, which I only got around tor eading about a year ago and I'm 62. It's quite an eye-opener on racial attitudes in the pre-Civil War South and sometihng everybody should read, if only to see how far we've come since then.
There are also some really great character consrasts between Huck, who's essentially a very practical blue collar hick, and his buddy, Tom Sawyer, who has a lot more book larnin, but no where as near as much practical knowledge as Huck. Sufffice it to saw, without revealing too much of the funniest part of the novel, that applying Tom's larnin manages just about to get Huck, Tom, and Jim killed.
You cannot change the characters in a play based on skin color and ethnicity and expect it to make any sense. Twain's story is extremely specific to black slave and white boy who befriends black slave (or other way around). I agree that it is absurd to portray it oppositely.
An aside: this is a much smaller issue, but PC was even alive 35+ years ago when I was a kid in the last 60's. We had a production of Cinderella and straws were drawn for parts. A huge ugly girl got the part of Cinderella and I, very petite and pretty, got the role of the prince. I think even my mother complained about it. The girl was about a foot taller than I was and I had long hair and she had short hair. It would have been logical to simply switch roles, but NO! So I had to show up with my hair in a bun and pretend to be this prince to his gargantuan of an ugly ducking girl....
It'll cost you, you cheapskate.
< That's the impression I'm getting, but I'm still frankly amazed. It's just the character's name. No animus is expressed through it; it's just the character's name. >
But that's just it...we ALL know the character's name. It didn't need repeating. It isn't new to anyone.
Animus is implied anytime that word is used by whites for ANY reason. We should all be used to that now. I hate it as much as the next guy, but it's a fact.
Thank you. I guess he needs to put that extra word in there for us to figure out who he is talking about. Not that we needed the help or anything :)
I am sorry. I do say the other word every now and again, but no where near what I used too....I guess I replaced one with the other...
< So I'm part of the neo-Nazi Twain plot now for mentioning the character's name? Christ, people... >
Ok. I give up. Having been outed as a member of the Stormfront Twain Trolling Brigade, I'll go back under my bridge and read my books now. Sorry.
What happened to common sense?
No need to apologize. I understand how things can get heated up here at the great FR.....helps energize the old brain!
BTW, I am READY for football to begin!
About 70 years. The problem here is that the R&H play based on the novel is a "derivative work" that inovlved a lot of original creative work by the R&H playwrights. Actually, that's the only part that's currently subject to the R&H copyright. However, it's impossible to put on the play without using the copyrighted parts, because they're woven into it just llike fat marblling a roast is woven into the roast. Thus, although the original work is in the public domain and anybody can write and produce a play bassed on it, that same anybody can't legally produce the R&H paly without the R&H permission.
I didn't say that! LOL I never said YOU were in SF. I'm just stating why the moderators may have pulled your post so not to attract trolls. It HAS happened before. Don't take it so personally.
< An aside: this is a much smaller issue, but PC was even alive 35+ years ago when I was a kid in the last 60's. We had a production of Cinderella and straws were drawn for parts. A huge ugly girl got the part of Cinderella and I, very petite and pretty, got the role of the prince. I think even my mother complained about it. The girl was about a foot taller than I was and I had long hair and she had short hair. It would have been logical to simply switch roles, but NO! So I had to show up with my hair in a bun and pretend to be this prince to his gargantuan of an ugly ducking girl....
May I say this for all of us ugly young girls in life...hurrah...we won one.
I'm sorry, that was just so tempting.
Are you kidding me?
That was MORE offensive than the other bomb you dropped at the beginning of this thread.....
Tom Saywer is the archetype for the unseen manager, an artist in the field of sociology in the workforce; a delegating fool.
:) me too
it looks as if the Buckeyes will be making some noise this year :)
Maybe you are taking this too personally. Interesting discussion though
The play could become a real farce if all the black actors played whites in whiteface and the whites played balcks in balckface. I just can't quite figure out what kind of a message that would send.
what part about using the Lord's name in vain DON'T you understand?
It's possible. I'm honestly just agog, though.
I think its a great idea. Adds some interest to an otherwise stale story
The Closeup Foundation is for high school students. I was once in a high school play in which a black student portrayed an Irishman in rural Ireland. He was excellent. The copyright holder (of this derivative play) should lighten up.
One of the greatest, funniest, most poignant stories in American Literature and you think it's stale?
I read it to my son and one thing I noticed about Twain's writing made me feel that this is not a perfect literary work. There were places in the story that are less well crafted, where he seems to be just filling up space with irrelevant material. It is as if he rushed though these parts just to fill some sort of daily quota of words and never came back to polish them.
< See how easy it is to offend? >
I normally would not have pointed it out. I would have just gone on my merry way, however it's perfect example of how "words mean something" just as we are discussing.
LOL!!! nice turn around of the phrase there....
< No, I really didn't know I couldn't say it. >
No, you can say it and did. You're just having trouble accepting the baggage that comes with using it.
< You didn't answer my question. What deity would you prefer I call on in times of frustration if not Jesus Christ? >
"Calling on" and "cursing" are two different things. Note the "in vain" part.
In this case, a delegating fool who knows not what he's delegating about. Everybody who's on this thread who hasn't read the novel (no insults to those who have) and who's passionately arguing about the "N" word, is really going to be scratching his/her head about what we're discussing. I finally got around to reading the novel because I'd seen one or two movies based on it, had heard all the bitter discussion about it, and just wanted to know what it really was all about.
Again, not one person here has called you a racist. You are the one who keeps mentioning that.
Seriously, guys, I give up on this one. That is all.
Anybody who thinks Twain was making a bleeding heart plea for the improvement in the status of the Negro is misleading himself; Twain was a colloquialist, a narrator of soft-tales from light-hearted and dark, worried places, a student of the strained soul.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.