Based on Twain’s book and set in Missouri in the mid-1800s, “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is the tale of young Tom Sawyer and his neverending antics—whether it’s taunting Aunt Polly, tricking his friends into whitewashing a fence or narrowly escaping the clutches of a murderous villain. Along with his best friend, Huckleberry Finn, and his love interest, Becky Thatcher, Tom Sawyer gets up to all kinds of mischief, sure to delight audiences of all ages.
Director Sandy Silver embraced the ambitious task of recreating this masterpiece with child actors and actresses. Silver hails from New York City, where she began her theatre career and eventually earned a spot as a lifetime member of The Actors Studio.
“Sandy Silver has been in theatre, as both an actor and then a director, for over 70 years. She has taught, directed and performed all over the world,” said Bree Beal, Executive Director at BEAT. “Sandy has a passion for working with young actors,” said Beal, adding that Silver has experience directing and teaching at Young Actors Theater Company at 2nd Street Theater and Young Actors Conservatory at Innovation Theater Works.
“[Sandy] respects and believes in young people and has a gift for helping them realize all they are capable of,” said Beal.
“With Sandy directing, she’s sure to bring out the absolute best in each of these young actors,” said Daniel Knopp, an 18-year-old actor and co-stage manager at BEAT. “I couldn’t imagine a better director, crew, or cast to bring this show to life.”
“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer,” published in 1876, was not an immediate success, but gathered a following with time. Although on the surface, the book details the pranks and adventures of a teenage boy named Tom Sawyer and his friends, upon taking a closer look, the tale explores personal growth, empathy and concern for others: important themes in today’s society.
“Sandy brought the play to us,” said Beal. “It is a story she loves and believes in. She will ask the actors to think for themselves and to prepare their characters at a level they may not yet have tried,” said Beal.
“Tom Sawyer” is unlike other productions at BEAT because it’s geared towards older youth performers, specifically ages 11 and up. Silver specifically chose the adult script of the play as opposed to the children’s script to give the actors a more intensive experience.
“The actors have all done theatre before and are ready to move beyond theatre basics to some more in-depth training,” said Beal. Some actors are even breaking past simple acting roles and learning backstage work as well.
In Knopp’s last production with BEAT, he worked strictly as an actor. “Tom Sawyer” presented the opportunity for him to work alongside Silver as a co-stage manager, as well as perform the role of Mark Twain in the show.
“Having these two positions is a bit of a challenge,” said Knopp. “But Sandy has been very helpful through this new learning curve. She understands the stresses as both an actor and a crew member that I might be experiencing.”
The production runs October 5-7 at The Old Stone Performing Arts Center, first built in 1912 as a Presbyterian Church. It was the first church in Bend made out of stone and includes Gothic and Tudor style details. In 2006, the church became an event venue and eventually transformed into a performing arts center. The historic nature of the venue adds greatly to the feel of the production. The Old Stone is committed to “hosting and producing events that enrich the cultural vitality of the community by serving its artistic and educational needs,” according to their website.
Not only will this production offer a new portrayal of this classic tale, but it will fuel discussion and require the cast and audience alike to look for a deeper meaning. According to Beal, “[Silver] says she directs by asking questions—the actors will be challenged to dig deep within themselves to find the answers.”