Huck Finn debuts new faces in summer show

A second-time actor from the Stage Company says the pressure to play the prestigious role of Tom Sawyer makes him sweat.

“It’s nerve racking, especially since I’m not very good at memorizing lines, every single day I’m back stage reading my lines over and over and over again,” said Kenny Birchler, an actor in the play, “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.”

The Stage Company is an organization formed in 1982 that creates plays to preform in the Carbondale area. It typically puts on two-to-three performances a year and runs on an audition basis where anybody from the community can try out for a part.

Cathy Field, director of the presentation, started with the Stage Company in 1992 and said this is the third Mark Twain piece she will direct. While she stays true to the original version of the play, she said she can also promise fresh faces on stage that haven’t taken on lead roles before.

“Mostly the older folks in the cast I’ve worked with before, the young ones are new to me. I haven’t worked with Josh (Huck Finn) or Kenny (Tom Sawyer),” Field said.

Joshua McLernon, left, and Jane Klucker-Boyle perform during a dress rehearsal for the stage production, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” Monday at the Varsity Theater. The production, put on by the Stage Company in Carbondale, opens Thursday at 7 p.m. at the Varsity Theater.
Chris Zoeller | Daily Egyptian

Joshua McLernon, the actor who plays Huck Finn, said he’s only been in one play before and that was, “Inherit the Wind”, where he had a total of eight lines.

McLernon said while he is nervous to take such a big step forward, he’s had a great time on set with the cast and he’s happy to surround himself with such talented actors and actresses everyday.

“I’m kind of jumping in feet first, attached to a cannonball,” McLernon said.

He said he does have faith in the rest of the cast though, because they do such a good job of telling him how well  he acts despite his personal doubts.

Birchler said his situation is similar to McLernon in that his previous acting experience is slim.

He said the whole experience has been incredible but the thought of being on stage in front of so many people in a leading role is something he’ll adjust to.

Not all performers are newcomers though.

Katie Field, who plays Sophia Grangerford and another female role, said she has grown up in the theater with her mother Cathy and has extensive experience in both acting and set design.

Katie Field received a bachelor’s degree in philosophy and will attend SIU in the fall to pursue a master’s degree in theater design.

She said she thinks she has worked on more than 10 productions with her mother, and Huck Finn should be a great experience because of how much both enjoy the works of Mark Twain.

“Huck Finn is a pretty classic story and it’s part of American literary history with Mark Twain obviously,” Field said.

She said the play is also a great comedy for the family.

“It’s funny, it’s so funny,”  “Sometimes I’ll be sitting back stage trying not to laugh because everything’s just so snarky. Our characters humor is very snarky and I find that very charming,” Field said.

Cathy Field said the play’s music in the play was provided by Lew Hendrix, a former SIU sociology professor and lead banjo player in the group BanJovi.

Cathy said Hendrix studies traditional music and recorded for the play in the Varsity Center. The music was specially chosen for the time period in which, “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” was set in to add to the atmosphere of the play.

At the Sunday matinee, an interpreter will assist the deaf community with sign language.

The show begins 7p.m. Thursday through Saturday, July 12-14, and 2 p.m. Saturday through Sunday for matinee hours, July 14-15 at the Varsity Center for the Arts. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for students.

Tickets can be bought at stagecompany.org or by calling the Varsity Box Office.

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About Austin Flynn

Austin Flynn can be reached at aflynn@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext.252.

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