17-year-old picked to create new Tom Sawyer
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A new stage adaptation of "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" has been commissioned from an up-and-coming playwright not much older than Sawyer was in the landmark book.
The Mark Twain House & Museum in Hartford, Connecticut has picked 17-year-old Noah Altshuler to go back to the famous novel and build a play from it this summer after visiting key Twain locations like Hannibal, Missouri and Elmira, New York.
"It's an effort, above all, to bring the quintessential American boy to a new generation. His importance is greater than it's ever been," said Altshuler. "I've found Twain to be so relatable and so important in my life that it's a shame to think that others don't have that same relationship merely because of a lack of access or interest."
Altshuler, who was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts and admits to being a president James Garfield junkie, has already had his play "Making the Move" featured at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and licensed by more than 50 schools across the country. He hopes to return to the festival this year with a sequel.
Altshuler's play will be adapted primarily from "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," but it will also include elements drawn from "Tom Sawyer Abroad" and "Tom Sawyer, Detective." The playwright, named a playwright-in-residence, will have access to Twain's archives.
The tale of Sawyer in which he whitewashes a fence, escapes to an island and tries to live without adults, witnesses a murder, searches for treasure and gets lost in caves has been made into films, TV movies, a ballet and stage musicals.
Altshuler said he would try to steer clear of other interpretations so he could create a direct and personal relationship with the original text. He said he hopes to capture the energy and excitement of someone living the life of Tom Sawyer.
"What I want to bring out and preserve and bring to a new generation is the triumphs and disappointments and the emotions and realities on a deeper level. I want to make those pieces modern and relevant," Altshuler said. "I want to take the deep truths and separate them from the surface facts and create a piece that speaks not to the world of Twain but to the heart of Twain."
Twain was born Samuel Clemens in Florida, Missouri in 1835. His family moved to Hannibal, where he grew up. The Mississippi River town and its characters inspired many of his greatest works, including "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer," ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "Life on the Mississippi."
Critical thinking challenge: Mark Twain's house is in Hartford, Connecticut. Noah Altshuler is from Massachsetts. So what inspired Twain to put Tom Sawyer on the Mississippi River, far from New England?