Modern Day Warrior Tom Sawyer

By on 28 July, 2016 in Fun, Sarah Thornton with 0 Comments

The Playhouse Troupe and a Summer of Adventures

For the past few months, the Cloverdale Playhouse has been abuzz with the energy of our Playhouse Troupe as they rehearse for our upcoming production of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, adapted for the stage by Laura Eason from Mark Twain’s famous novel. The talented cast of young actors, led by their director Jason Morgan, has put heart and soul into sharing the exciting story of young boys and their summer of adventure, and it is sure to delight children and parents of all ages. TomSawyerimage

I was lucky enough to sit down with the cast to talk to them about their experiences working on the play. Some of the young actors are returning to the Playhouse stage after performing in past productions like James and the Giant Peach or Androcles and the Lion, but several of this year’s cast members are making their Playhouse stage debut.

The stories of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn are well known, and many of the kids have read the books before, either for school or just for fun. A few of them used the books as research for their roles. Matthew Klinger, a Playhouse Troupe veteran and a student at the Alabama School of Fine Arts, said, “When you tackle an iconic character like Huckleberry Finn, you have to know who that is. So, I read both of the books … so that I could get a better idea of what [the character] is like and his background. You have to know what their upbringing is to know how they would react.” Isaac Garrison, who plays Tom Sawyer and attends Booker T. Washington Magnet High School, said, “I’ve never read the book, but this show definitely makes me want to read it!”

Many of the kids credit their parents with encouraging them to be involved in the Playhouse, whether signing them up for classes or camps, or urging them to audition for Tom Sawyer. Michael Mims, who plays the story’s villain, Injun Joe, said, “My dad told me I’ve got to decide what to do with my life, and I said ‘I want to be an actor.’  So a few months ago he told me there was ‘this thing called Cloverdale, and they’re doing a show, would you want to do that?’ So I came and auditioned, and I got the part.”

Noah Henninger, the cast’s youngest member at age eight (“almost nine”), said his mom saw it online and asked if he wanted to go audition. This will be Noah’s first show, and when asked how he felt being the youngest, he said, “It’s really special. You’d think that you’d have younger people than you, but then you’re like, ‘Wow, I’m the youngest age! Now I can try interacting with people without yelling at them to get their attention.’ I feel like everyone is looking out for me.” The cast all agreed.

The camaraderie among the group was wonderful to witness.  Miles Hinton, another Playhouse regular, said his favorite part of being in the play was “being able to have a relationship with everybody, and talk and hang out.” Isaac agreed, “[My favorite part is] being able to interact with the people that I’m working with. What I hate the most is going home and having to rehearse my lines by myself.” Piper Doyle, who attended the Playhouse school last term, said, “I like the fact that I can be open to everyone and be myself, because I just love theater, and there’s not really another place for me to do that.” Jaya Armstrong agreed, “You can be yourself, you don’t have to pretend to be anybody.”

Landon Perdue wasn’t sure he was going to like being in the play at first. “I thought it was going to be really repetitive and boring, but it’s really fun. I’ve liked it a lot more than I thought I would … and all the days that we’ve practiced, I would have probably just been sitting at home being bored.” Matthew Klinger observed, “At the Cloverdale Playhouse, this is treated more like we are a show in their season… We actually have tech rehearsals and full cue-to-cues. Jason is really nice to us, especially not talking down to us, more talking to us like we’re equals. It’s just a really professional and safe environment … and we can feel like professional actors.” The whole cast agreed, praising their director. “Jason is awesome!” “Jason is the best!”

While they all agreed that there were challenges they weren’t expecting, such as having to learn all of their lines and the stress of tech week that all actors know so well, there are many moments in the show that they were very excited to share with their audiences. It was wonderful to hear them all admiring each other’s work in the show and musing about their favorite scenes together. They all agreed that they hoped the audience would enjoy all of the comedy in the play, particularly some of the moments between Tom and his young love-interest Becky Thatcher. The cast laughed together about the scene where Tom is talking to Becky and Huck feels left out, or where Becky puts Tom in his place, and Valorie Roberts, who plays Becky, joked, “I like that part!”

However, the biggest thing that the cast hopes audiences take away from the show is the reminder about being young. David Jordan, who narrates the story as a young Mark Twain, said, “I think it is ultimately a return to a simpler time, not only in the historical sense, but also to just being a child … where there’s buried treasure around every corner, and there’s this sense of adventure that you get that a lot of people don’t have anymore.” Matthew agreed that what makes the story important is “the sheer bliss that it is to be a child. The more you look back at it, everything is magical… But when you’re on the back half of it, there’s less magic in the world.  There is something to be said for everyone believing in magic, and it’s really like a happier place in the world.” Isaac added, “A lot of parents out there are really hard on their kids, and what they need to remember is that they were kids too. They made those same mistakes… They need to back off a bit and not be so hard on them, you know? Realize that you were where he is or she is today.”

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer runs July 29-31. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 for children. Purchase tickets online at or call the Box Office at 334-262-1530.

Sarah Walker Thornton is the Artistic Director of the Cloverdale Playhouse, who walks like a New Yorker and waves like an Alabama girl. She is a product of a Montgomery arts education, with several years of life in NYC thrown in for extra flavor.

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