17-year-old picked to create new Tom Sawyer Noah Altshuler poses in Groton, Mass. Tom Sawyers author, Mark Twain, appears at left (AP Photos / Ellen Harasimowicz)
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. The Twain group wants him to go back to the famous novel and build a play from it this summer. But first, he will visit 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 was born and raised in Cambridge, Massachusetts. He admits to being a president James Garfield junkie. He already has had his play "Making the Move" featured at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It's been 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." Altshuler has been named a playwright-in-residence. He will have access to Twain's archives.

The tale of Sawyer has been made into films, TV movies, a ballet and stage musicals. In the story, 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.

Altshuler said he would try to steer clear of other interpretations. He wants to 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.

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. They include "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?

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