Page 1




Syracuse Stage General Operating Support In the Spotlight ($50,000 and above) Syracuse University Impresario Circle ($25,000 - 50,000) New York State Council on the Arts The Richard Mather Fund The Post-Standard Shubert Foundation Time Warner Cable Major Underwriters ($15,000 - $19,999) Onondaga County Residence Inn by Marriott

Student Matinee Program Stage Sponsor ($5,000 - $7,499) The Grapes of Wrath Student Matinees Central New York Community Foundation Niagara Mohawk, a National Grid Company Stage Manager ($1,000 - $2,499) Big River and The Grapes of Wrath Student Matinees Target Season Student Matinee performances Bruegger’s Bagel Bakeries

2004 Children’s Tour The Great Peanut Butter Radio Hour Stage Partner ($2,500 - $4,999) Lockheed Martin Employees Federated Fund Stage Manager ($1,000 - $2,499) Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, Central New York Region Business Spotlight ($500 - $999) Carrier Corporation Robert D. Willis, DDS, PC, Children’s Dentistry

2004 JPMorgan Chase Young Playwrights Festival Stage Leader ($10,000 - $14,999) JPMorgan Chase Foundation Business Patron ($100 - $299) Clippinger Law Offices, Smyrna Dirk Sonneborn

Actors in the Classroom 2005 Stage Partner ($2,500 - $4,999) Time Warner Cable

2004 Nottingham Lunchtime Lecture Series Stage Partner ($2,500 - $4,999) The Nottingham Retirement Community

Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide

Theatre and Education


Theatre etiquette and frequently asked questions


Who’s who on the river


Meet Mark Twain


Meet composer Roger Miller


Life on the Mississippi


A short history of slavery during the time of Big River




Language in Big River


Setting the scene in Big River


The history behind the dance in Big River


Setting the scene for Big River


In the classroom

Table of Contents


Syracuse Stage 3

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or Syracuse Stage.org/education.html

Theatre and Education "Theatre brings life to life." — Zelda Fichandler

world. Then artists come along and discover it the same way all over again."

Syracuse Stage

— Eudora Welty

When the first cave dweller got up to tell a story, theater began. Almost every culture has some sort of live performance tradition to tell stories. Television and film may have diminished the desire for access to theater, but they have not diminished the importance. Live theater gives each audience member an opportunity to connect with the performers in a way he or she never could with Tom Cruise or Lindsay Lohan. The emotions can be more intense because the events are happening right in front of the audience. Ultimately, there is a fundamental difference in the psychological responses aroused by electronic media and theatre because the former presents pictures of events whereas the latter performs the actual events in what amounts to the same space as that occupied by the audience. This difference results in one unique characteristic of theatre: its ability to offer intense sensory experience through the simultaneous presence of live actors and audience. "The sole substitute for an experience which we have not ourselves lived through is art and literature." — Aleksandr I. Solzhenitsyn Pedagogically, theatre can be used in a variety of ways. In many respects the teacher in the classroom is much like the actor onstage - with an audience (hopefully attentive), a script (lesson plan), props and set (classroom setting and teaching tools). The environment of the teaching experience can change day to day, and can be impacted by weather, mood, outside events - in other words, each day is a unique, active, sensory occurrence, just like a play. From this perspective all of what can be taught can be taught theatrically, whether it is having young children creating a pretend bank to learn about money, to older students acting out a scene from a play. Theatre provides an opportunity to teach, and any play provides an opportunity to teach more.

Bringing your students to productions at Syracuse Stage, and utilizing this study guide in teaching about the plays, fulfills elements of the New York State core requirements. We know that as educators you are the more qualified to determine how our plays and study guides blend with your lesson plans and teaching requirements. We hope that you find lots of possibilities to cover a variety of disciplines. As you bring your students to the shows, you might want them to examine not merely the thematic elements of the written word, but also how production elements explore these themes. Everything you see on this stage has been created specifically for this production - there are no standard sets for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, no codified method for presenting Big River, no rules for costuming Grapes of Wrath. How, for example, will we represent the mighty Mississippi in Big River? How will the costumes differentiate between characters? Our designers meet with our directors months before rehearsals start, and shows are built to their specifications, which are in line with their vision of the work. In our detailed study guides for our school shows, we will try to give you some previews of this process, but you might want to explore discussing all of the design elements with your students as a way of opening the door to the production they will be seeing. You probably know all of the elements that make up a show, but to recap: Sets Props Choreography

Costumes Sound Music

Lights Painting Casting

And of course, the one thing that is vitally necessary for any piece to be theatre: AN AUDIENCE Without this last, most important element, the theatre ceases to be. Welcome to Syracuse Stage's Educational Outreach Programs.

"Children, like animals, use all their senses to discover the

Syracuse Stage 2004-05 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or SyracuseStage.org/education.html


Questions and Answers and theatre etiquette as well...

When should we arrive? We recommend you arrive at the theatre at least 30 minutes prior to the performance. Student matinees begin promptly at 10:30 am - we do not hold the curtain. Latecomers will be seated at the discretion of the Management. Where do we get off the bus? Busses not staying should load and unload on East Genesee Street. Bus parking is available along East Genesee Street at the bagged meters. Parking at bagged meters is for busses only cars will be ticketed. Please do not park in the Centro Bus Stop. You may exit the bus, but have your group stay together in the lobby. Where do we sit? Will we have tickets? There are no tickets - ushers will direct you to the seats. Students will be asked to fill in the rows and not move around once seated. We request that teachers and chaperones distribute themselves throughout the students and not sit together. Remember, we have to seat 500 people as quickly as possible, so your help in seating is greatly appreciated. What can be brought into the auditorium? We do not allow backpacks, cameras, walkmans, recording devices, food or chewing gum. We do not have storage facilities for these items so it is best if these are left at school or on the bus. May we take pictures? Taking photographs or recording the performance is illegal, disruptive to other audience members and dangerous to the actors. All cam-

Is there someplace we can snack or eat? When possible, soda and snacks will be available for sale during intermission, at a cost of $1.00 (exact change appreciated.) Food is not allowed in the auditorium. Where are the restrooms? There are restrooms in the main lobby. We ask that students use the facilities before the show and during intermission only and not during the show.

What is the audience’s role? A performance needs an audience. It is as much a part of the theater event as our actors, our designers, our technician and crew. Each playwright asks you to come into the world he or she has created — but this world is different than television or movies. The actors need your responses — your laughter, your applause but, as you can imagine, such things as conversations, cell phones, beepers and other distractions will disrupt the world that is being created. If any student becomes disruptive to the point of interference with the performers or other audience members, a chaperon will be asked to remove that student. If you play your part well, the actors can play their parts well and you both will enjoy the show!

Syracuse Stage 5

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html

Syracuse Stage


eachers: please speak with your students about the role of the audience in watching a live performance. Following are answers to some commonly asked questions that you might want to share with your students, and some helpful suggestions to make the day more enjoyable.

eras and recording devices are prohibited and will be confiscated.

James A. Clark

Robert Moss

Producing Director Artistic Director



Big River The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn BOOK BY

William Hauptman


Mark Twain


Roger Miller




Anthony Salatino

Robert Moss

Dianne Adams McDowell


A. Nelson Ruger



Troy Hourie

Elizabeth Hope Clancy and Jessica Ford



Jonathan Herter

Stuart Plymesser


Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


On the Big River Who’s Who in Huck Finn’s adventures

Jim is the other lead character. He’s a runaway slave. Before Huck leaves his home, the audience meets his Pap, the dreary bible-thumping Miss Watson and Widow Douglas. The audience also meets Huck’s friends, Tom Sawyer and other village boys. Along the river, Huck and Jim encounter two con artists, the Duke and the King. Huck also finds a moment of romance with Mary Jane Wilkes and her all-too trusting family. The actors will double and triple cast to bring more than 35 characters to life.

Plot Summary Mark Twain’s characters come to life in this story that captures the rhythms, sounds and spirit of life in the 1840s on the big river. Huck runs aways from his drunken father, Widow Douglas and Miss Watson, and escapes down the Mississippi River on a raft. There he meets up with Jim, a runaway slave. Propelled by the songs of country music legend Roger Miller, Jim and Huck negotiate the river’s many perils — thieves, romance and other challenges.

Did you know? Actor John Goodman (Roseanne, Monsters Inc. and Oh Brother Where Art Thou) got his first big break in acting playing Pap in the Broadway premier of Big River. He can be heard on the original cast recording in his solo, ”Government.” After appearing in Big River, Goodman went on to small parts in movies before getting his big break with Roseanne four years later.

Syracuse Stage 7

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html



uckleberry Finn remains true to the character from Mark Twain’s stories. He’s smart, a little rebellious and full of spunk.

On the Mississippi

S yMark r a c u s STwain tage Meet

Mark Twain


merican writer, journalist, humorist, who won a worldwide audience for his stories of youthful adventures of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn. Sensitive to the sound of language, Twain introduced colloquial speech into American fiction. In Green Hills of Africa, Ernest Hemingway wrote: "All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn..." Clemens was born in Florida, Missouri, of a Virginian family. He was brought up in Hannibal, Missouri. After his father's death in 1847, Twain was apprenticed to a printer and wrote for his brother's newspaper. Twain worked later as a licensed Mississippi riverboat pilot (1857-61), adopting his name from the call ('Mark twain!' meaning by the mark of two fathoms — a water measurement) used when sounding river shallows. The Civil War put an end to the steamboat traffic and Clemens moved to Virginia City, where he edited Territorial Enterprise for two years. On February 3, 1863, 'Mark Twain' was born when he signed a humorous travel account with that pseudonym. In 1864 Twain left for California, and worked in San Francisco as a reporter. He visited Hawaii as a correspondent for The Sacramento Union, publishing letters on his trip and giving lectures. He set out on a world tour, travelling in France and Italy. His experiences were recorded in 1869 in The Innocents Abroad, which

gained him wide popularity, and poked fun at both American and European prejudices and manners. This success as a writer gave Twain enough financial security to marry Olivia Langdon in 1870. Between 1876 and 1884 he published several masterpieces, Tom Sawyer (1881), which the author originally intended for adults, and The Prince and the Pauper (1881), in which Edward VI of England and a little pauper change places. From the very beginning of his journalistic career, Twain made fun of the novel and its traditions. He believed that he lacked the analytical sensibility necessary to the novelist's art, although he enjoyed magnificent popularity as a novelist. He frequently returned to travel writing - many of his finest novels were thinly veiled travelogues. Huckleberry Finn (1884) was first considered adult fiction. It painted a picture of Mississippi frontier life and was intended as a sequel to Tom Sawyer. One of Twain's major achievements is the way he narrates Huckleberry Finn, following the twists and turns of ordinary speech, his native Missouri dialect. In the 1890s Twain lost most of his earnings in financial speculations and in the downturn of his own publishing firm. To recover from the bankruptcy, he started a world lecture tour, during which one of his daughters died. Twain toured New Zealand, Australia, India, and South Africa, and returned to the U.S. The death of his wife and his second daughter darkened the author's later years, which is seen in his writings and his posthumously published autobiography (1924). Twain died on April 21, 1910. www.mtwain.com/

Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


Enough to fill a Library The works of Mark Twain Fiction

Non-Fiction A Tramp Abroad Christian Science Innocents Abroad Is Shakespeare Dead? Life On The Mississippi Roughing It

Short Story/Essay At The Appetite-Cure Extracts From Adam's Diary A Helpless Situation The Californian's Tale A Telephonic Conversation

A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes. —

Mark Twain

Big River Awards on Broadway Tony Awards Best Musical Best Book of a Musical Best Original Score Best Featured Actor in a Musical — Ron Richardson [winner] Best Scenic Design Best Costume Design Best Lighting Design Best Direction of a Musical 1985 Theatre World Award Cast: Patti Cohenour [winner]

Syracuse Stage 9

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html

Meet Mark Twain

A Connecticut Yankee In King Arthur's Court A Double Barreled Detective Story A Horse's Tale Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn Adventures Of Tom Sawyer Extract from Captain Stormfield's Visit to Heaven The Gilded Age The Mysterious Stranger The Prince and the Pauper The Tragedy of Pudd'nhead Wilson Those Extraordinary Twins Tom Sawyer Abroad Tom Sawyer, Detective

Roger Miller SctupasogSsetearg e M e e tStyhreaScycuroasm

A country legend


ne of the most multifaceted talents country music has ever known, Roger Dean Miller left a musical legacy of astonishing depth and range. He became a struggling honky-tonk singer and songwriter and first hit Nashville in 1957. There he blossomed into a country-pop superstar in the 1960s with self-penned crossover hits like “Dang Me” and “King of the Road.” In 1965–66 he won eleven Grammy awards. Two decades later, he received a 1985 Tony award for his score for Big River. In between triumphs, Miller kept friends and fans in constant stitches as his extemporaneous wit proved almost as famous as his music. Born in Fort Worth, Texas, January 2, 1936, Miller was sent to live with an uncle in Erick, Oklahoma (“population 1500, and that includes rakes and tractors,” he liked to joke), when he was three years old. He grew up in Erick, working the family farm and dreaming of a different life. As a teenager enamored of Bob Wills and Hank Williams, Miller would drift from town to town in Texas and Oklahoma, trying to land nightclub work as a country singer. Drafted during the Korean War, he was sent to Fort McPherson in Atlanta, where he played fiddle in a Special Services outfit called the Circle A Wranglers. After his discharge, Miller headed to Nashville. While working as a bellhop, he wormed his way into the local music community. He was first hired to play fiddle in Minnie Pearl’s road band, then, in about the spring of 1957, he struck up a friendship with George Jones. Jones introduced him to Pappy Daily and Don Pierce of Starday Records. Miller’s first single, “My Pillow” was released on Starday in the fall of 1957. In the meantime, Jones and Miller had co-written some songs, including “Tall, Tall Trees,” which Jones released in 1957 to little response, but which Alan Jackson would take to No. 1 nearly forty years later. In 1958, Miller was hired to front Ray Price’s Cherokee Cowboys. Miller suggested Price cover “Invitation to the Blues,” a Miller song that took off under Rex Allen’s version. Released as the B-side of Price’s 1958 smash “City Lights,” “Invitation to the Blues” rose to No. 3 on the charts, giving Miller his first major success in the business.

Signed to Tree Publishing as a staff writer in 1958, Miller began to see his tunes recorded by such stars as Ernest Tubb, Jim Reeves, and Faron Young. (He also served for a time as Young’s drummer.) Though he had continued to record for Starday and then Decca, he had no success as an artist until he signed with RCA in 1960. His first RCA single, “You Don’t Want My Love,” Photo courtesy the Country Music Hall of Fame became his first Top Forty hit. It was followed a year later by his first Top Ten, “When Two Worlds Collide,” which he had written with his friend Bill Anderson. Miller’s RCA career never quite panned out, though, and by 1963 he was ready to quit Nashville to pursue an acting career in Los Angeles. He had made guest appearances on The Jimmy Dean Show and the Tonight Show, and his humor had been well received. Late that year, when his RCA contract ran out, he was picked up by Smash Records. The subsequent recordings made Roger Miller a star. Out of those off-the-cuff 1964 sessions came “Dang Me.” A #1 smash on the country charts, “Dang Me” was also a Top Ten pop hit, as were four more of the Smash singles. The most famous was “King of the Road,” a million-seller. With his exceptional wordplay and jazzlike delivery, he was able to compete with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones and continued to record into the 1970s. In 1974, he provided soundtrack music for the Walt Disney movie Robin Hood. Big River was, in Miller’s own eyes, the crowning achievement of his career. Rejuvenated by its success, he maintained an active career through the remainder of the decade. He died of cancer on October 25, 1992. Three years later he was inducted posthumously into the Country Music Hall of Fame. www.countrymusichalloffame.com/inductees/roger_millerl

Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


Life on the Mississippi The 1840s

This development had perfect timing because the 1840s, due to the potato famine in Ireland and political unrest in many parts of Europe, was also a time of great immigration. Land ownership was the theme of the 1840s. The U.S. dreamed of expansion and the first covered wagons crossed the Oregon Trail through the Rockies as the concept of Manifest Destiny took root in the American conscious. To the north of where Huck and Tom live, the United States quarreled with Canada over land. To the South, the area of Texas remained a constant political — and sometimes military — struggle. Texas remained an area of struggle because of the question of slavery. The United States was hesitant to annex it as a state, because the addition of another state could tip the balance of non-slave states and slave states. Texas became a state in 1845. The division was of such concern to Southern states that in 1841, South Carolina passed a law prohibiting black cotton workers and white cotton workers from looking out the same window. The debate over slavery carried into the 1848 election, which focused on the split between the North and the South. Zachary Taylor, a military hero, won the election. http://www.nv.cc.va.us/home/nvsageh/Hist121/Part4/1840s.html

Did you know? Horseracing was the most popular spectator sport.

By executive order, Martin Van Buren established the ten-hour workday in 1840, for federal employees engaged on public works. In 1842 the ten-hour workday was adopted by several states at the urging of newly formed trade unions and workers parties. A new literary genre (detective and mystery stories) was created in 1841 when Edgar Allan Poe introduced The Murders in the Rue Morgue. Cheap publishing because of low postal rates for newspapers and improvements in printing, allowed newspapers to print novels in newspaper format, forcing publishers to produce cheap paperbacks. Emma Dorothy Eliza Nevitte (E.D.E.N.) Southworth, who wrote 60 novels and many short stories, published The Wife's Victory and the sequel The Married Shrew in The National Era. Her stories, based on true events, dealt with the role of women in society. Poets, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (Ballads and Other Poems, Evangeline), flourished. The issues in education at this time did not differ much from the issues of today. Bilingual education for the children of German immigrants was mandated by the city of Cincinnati, Ohio after the recently arrived German population demanded it. kclibrary.nhmccd.edu/19thcentury1840.htm

Noteable inventions of the 1840s: 1840: Ship w/subwater machinery: John Ericsson 1840: artificial fertilizer: Justus von Liebig 1842: Anaesthesia: Crawford Long 1843: Typewriter: Charles Thurber 1844: Telegraph: Samuel Morse 1845: Portland cement: William Aspdin 1845: Double tube tire: Robert Thomson 1846: The ice cream freezer

Syracuse Stage 11

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


Under his administration the government championed land development, distributing profits from land sales, raising tariffs for road, canal and other infrastructure improvements and allowed squatters to buy public land.

During the 1840s panorama-type painting became popular. Rolled canvas would be unfolded as the story was told. John Banvard's Mississippi River series was 3 miles long and depicted 1200 miles of scenery.

Setting the Scene


ohn Tyler made history by becoming the first vice president to succeed to the office of president on the death of his predecessor in 1841. The precdent Tyler set — moving into the office and assuming the title and role of President — carried through until the 1960s.

The term millionaire was popularized in the newspapers.

S e t tSi nygr atchues SStcaegnee

Mississippi River


he word, Mississippi probably comes from a combination of Chippewa words (mici and zibi) meaning "great river" or "great water." It was first written as "Michi Sepe" by Lieutenant Henri de Tonti traveling with the explorer La Salle. The Mississippi and its tributaries drain almost all the plains between the Appalachian Mountains and the Rocky Mountains. Its drainage basin is the third largest in the world, exceeded in size only by the watersheds of the Amazon and Congo Rivers. The drainage basin covers 1,247,300 square miles (3,230,490 square kilometers) in 31 states and two Canadian provinces. This area encompasses the nation's most productive agricultural and industrial regions. The Mississippi is the nation's chief navigable water route. Barges and towboats on the Mississippi River system carry sixty percent of the agricultural goods, industrial products, and raw materials transported on inland waterways. The Mississippi River and its valley also support many kinds of animals and plants including freshwater fishes, birds, deer, raccoons, otters, mink, and a variety of forest trees. But pollution from agriculture and industry seriously threaten the life of the Mississippi. With its source Lake Itasca at 1475 feet above sea level in Itasca State Park in northern Minnesota, the river falls to 725 feet just below Saint Anthony Falls in Minneapolis. The Mississippi is joined by the Illinois River and the Missouri River at Saint Louis, and by the Ohio at Cairo, Illinois. It runs through, or borders, ten states in the United States — Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana — before emptying into the Gulf of Mexico about 100 miles (160 km) downstream from New Orleans. A raindrop falling in Lake Itasca would arrive at the Gulf of Mexico in about 90 days. The river is divided into the upper Mississippi, from its source south to the Ohio River, and the lower Mississippi, from the Ohio to its mouth near New Orleans. The upper Mississippi is further divided into three sections: the headwaters, from the source to Saint

Anthony Falls; a series of man-made lakes between Minneapolis and St. Louis; and the middle Mississippi, a relatively free-flowing river downstream of the confluence with the Missouri River at St. Louis. A series of 27 locks and dams on the upper Mississippi, most of which were built in the 1930s, is designed primarily to maintain a nine-foot channel for commercial barge traffic. The lakes formed are also used for recreational boating and fishing. The dams make the river deeper and wider but do not stop it. No flood control is intended. During periods of high flow, the gates, some of which are submersible, are completely opened and the dams simply cease to function. Below St. Louis the Mississippi is relatively free-flowing, although it is constrained by numerous levees and directed by numerous wing dams. The mouth of the Mississippi River has shifted repeatedly over time. Since a canal was built in the early nineteenth century, the river has been seeking the Atchafalaya River mouth, some 60 miles (95 km) from New Orleans. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers maintains a massive system of locks to keep the river in its present course. Other changes in the course of the river have occurred because of earthquakes along the New Madrid Fault Zone, which lies near the cities of Memphis and St. Louis. Three earthquakes in 1811 and 1812, estimated at approximately 8 on the Richter Scale, were said to have temporarily reversed the course of the Mississippi. www.nps.gov/miss/features/factoids/

Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


Map of the Mississippi Fun Facts

Setting the Scene

Length of the Mississippi River: 3,705 kilometers (2,302 miles) Area of Basin: 3.2 million square kilometers (1.2 million square miles). 41% of the conterminous United States 1/8 of North America Population along the Mississippi Corridor: 12 million people live in the 125 counties and parishes that border the Mississippi River. Amount of water discharged to the Gulf: 612,000 cubic feet per second Provides habitat for: 241 fish species 37 mussel species 45 amphibians 50 mammals 40% of the nation's migratory birds



www.epa.gov/msbasin /index.htm#facts

C = Cairo G = Goshen N = Natchez O = New Orleans

N O http://www.enchantedlearning.com/usa/statesbw/mrstates/ms.shtml

Syracuse Stage 13

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html

Slavery in Focus A short history of slavery in the 19th century


S e t t iSnygr atchues SStcaegnee

o understand Big River, students must also know the history of slavery in the United States. So much of the musical’s dramatic action comes from Jim’s journey to freedom. Slavery has played a central role in the history of the United States. It existed in all the English mainland colonies and came to dominate productive relations from Maryland southwards. Most of the Founding Fathers were large-scale slaveholders, as were eight of the first 12 presidents of the United States. Debate over slavery increasingly dominated American politics, leading eventually to the nation's only civil war, which in turn finally brought slavery to an end. After emancipation, overcoming slavery's legacy remained a crucial issue in American history, from Reconstruction following the Civil War to the Civil Rights Movement a century later. Slavery came to the United States through Dutch traders. As the economy improved for Europeans, there were not enough people of European descent to work to build the U.S. economy. To meet the need for workers, landowners turned to African slaves. The transatlantic slave trade produced one of the largest forced migrations in history. From the early 16th century to the mid-19th century, between 10 and 11 million slaves performed numerous tasks, from clearing the forest to serving as guides, trappers, craftsmen, nurses, and house servants, but they were most essential as agricultural laborers and most numerous where landowners sought to grow staple crops for market. The most important of these crops consisted of tobacco in the upper South (Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina) and rice in the lower South (South Carolina and Georgia). By the mid-18th century American slavery had acquired a number of distinctive features. Well over 90 percent of American slaves lived in the South. Southern slaveholders took an active role in managing their human property. They controlled every aspect of their slaves’ lives, often providing poor shelter and food, leaving

many children malnourished. The slave owners considered their property to be a lesser type of human and many broke up families as they sold children or fathers to other plantations. As the idea of American democracy grew and the right to vote grew among the white population, more and more people questioned slavery. States in the north began to outlaw slavery. Two significant measures dating from 1787 included the Northwest Ordinance, which barred slavery from the Northwest Territory (which included much of what is now the upper Midwest), and a compromise reached at the Constitutional Convention that would allow Congress to outlaw the importation of slaves in 1808. The division of the country was mostly complete by the 1830s but each time a state joined the union, the debate rose again. Fueled by a surging world demand for cotton, the South and new Southwestern states remained devout in their reliance on slavery. Yet the number of whites who owned slaves declined from 35 percent to 26 percent between 1830 and 1869. There were a few slave uprisings but they were quickly defeated. About 1,000 slaves per year managed to escape to the North during the late antebellum period (most from the upper South). During the 1840s and 1850s Southern spokesmen increasingly based their case for slavery on social arguments that contrasted the harmonious, orderly, religious, and conservative society that supposedly existed in the South with the tumultuous, heretical, and mercenary ways of a North torn apart by radical reform, individualism, class conflict, and—worst of all—abolitionism. Insisting that Southern slaves were treated far better than Northern wage laborers, proslavery ideologues developed a biting critique of free-labor capitalism ("wage-slavery") as cruel, exploitative, and selfish, and pointed to the degraded condition of supposedly free British paupers and Irish peasants. — Nichole Gantshar based on an essay by Peter Kolchin www.africana.com/archive/articles/tt_269.asp

Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


Glossary lect shellfish. (Act I) Wit’s end: A popular phrase used to describe the state of a problem. It was so bad it had driven you to “wit’s end,” the end of your intelligence.

River Rhetoric Bank: The land along the river’s edge Basin: The entire tract of country drained by a river and its tributaries. Bayous: Any of various usually marshy or sluggish bodies of water. Bluffs: A high steep bank or cliff Breakwater: An offshore structure (as a wall) protecting a harbor or beach from the force of waves Channel: The deeper part of a river, harbor. Dam: A barrier preventing the flow of water or of loose solid materials. Erosion: An area where the soil has been washed away by rain or flood. Headwaters: The source of a stream. Levee: An embankment for preventing flooding, a river landing place. Lock: An enclosure (as in a canal) with gates at each end used in raising or lowering boats as they pass from level to level. Lore: The space between the eye and bill in a bird or the corresponding region in a reptile or fish. Meander: A turn or winding of a stream. Meltwater: Water derived from the melting of ice and snow. Oxbow: A bend in a river resembling an oxbow (the curved collar that goes around cattle.) Reservoir: An artificial lake where water is collected. Rip-rap: A foundation or sustaining wall of stones thrown together without order on an embankment slope to prevent erosion. Sediments: Material deposited by water, wind, or glaciers. Silt: A deposit of sediment in a river. Slough: A place of deep mud or mire. Spit: A small point of land, especially of sand or gravel running into a body of water. Watershed: A region or area bounded peripherally by a divide and draining to a specific body of water. Most definitions from Merriam-Webster Online, www.m-w.com

Syracuse Stage 15

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html

Tackling the text

Abolitionist: Someone who was opposed to slavery. (Act I) Barlow-Knife: This pocket knife was manufactured in Sheffield, England, specifically for export to the States from the late eighteenth century to the early twentieth century and is known as a "Barlow" after one of the earliest and most famous makers. (Act I) Borneo: An island near Malaysia. (Act II) Cussing: Swearing (Act I) Delirium tremens: When someone is going through withdrawal from alcohol, they can hallucinate and shake uncontrollably, also called tremors. Huck is mispronouncing the word tremors. (Act I) D’bloon: A Spanish gold coin (Act I) Fetched: Retrieved, picked up (Act I) Flatheads: An insult meaning someone of inferior intelligence. (Act II) Greenhorns: An insult directed toward newcomers. It is derived from a young animal whose horns have just begun to grow. (Act II) Humbug: Something designed to deceive and mislead, a willfully false, deceptive, or insincere person. (Act II) Jakes: Police (Act I) Lean-to: shed (Act I) Menagerie: Group of animals (Act I) Notion: mental image or idea (Act I) Phrenology: A practice thought to be a “science” in the 19th-century. Invented by the theories of Austrian physician Franz Joseph Gall (1758-1828) that since the skull grew around the brain, you could tell a human’s personality and intellegence by the bumps and shapes of the skull. A phrenologist would read someone’s skull. (Act II) Rakafratchits: Rascal, slang (Act I) Seegar: cigar (Act I) Shinnied: slid (Act I) Simpleton: Someone lacking in intelligence. (Act II) Tar and feather: This act of public humiliation (which did involve hot tar and poultry feathers) dates back to the time of King Richard I of England. The point was to run someone out of town and mark them so anyone who met them would know their sentence. (Act II) Thicket: Overgrown area full of shrubs and weeds. (Act I) Towpath: A path along a canal, originally used by animals towing boats. (Act I) Trotline: A baited line left in the water, used to col-

Political Language

Syracu s S ttext age Tackling the

Artistic choices in Big River Mark Twain wrote The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in 1885 and set the story some 40 to 45 years prior. The heinous practice of slavery was part of America at that time as was an egregious degree of racial prejudice. The word most often associated with the legacy of slavery and accompanying racism is the highly controversial word "nigger." Twain used the word in his book to accurately reflect the time, place, and people about which he was writing. When the book was adapted for the stage and turned into a musical in the 1980s, the creators and producers chose to remain faithful to Twain's work and used the word in the play's dialogue. When Big River was selected to be our holiday, family presentation this season, Artistic Director Robert Moss elected to change the word to "slave" because of the number of small children and families expected to attend. The use of Twain's original language, however truthful to the time, requires a degree of discussion and context not entirely provided by the production alone. As Syracuse Stage's production of Big River is intended primarily as a family entertainment, Mr. Moss feels the audience will be better served by using less potentially offensive and incendiary language. What do you and your students think? Some have argued that the word "nigger" is offensive no matter the context, even if the writer is African American, as for example playwright August Wilson. For that same reason, some have urged that Huckleberry Finn be banned from schools and libraries. What do you and your students think?

Here’s what two professors at Ferris State University have written about the use of the word. The original essay is seven pages long. Here is an edited version: The etymology of nigger is often traced to the Latin niger, meaning black. The Latin niger became the noun negro (black person) in English, and simply the color black in Spanish and Portuguese. In early modern French niger became negre and, later, negress (black woman) was clearly a part of lexical history. ... It is likely that nigger is a phonetic spelling of the white Southern mispronunciation of Negro. Whatever its origins, by the early 1800s it was firmly established as a denigrative epithet. Almost two centuries later, it remains a chief symbol of white racism. Social scientists refer to words like nigger, kike, spic, and wetback as ethnophaulisms. Such terms are the language of prejudice — verbal pictures of negative stereotypes. Howard J. Ehrlich, a social scientist, argued that ethnophaulisms are of three types: disparaging nickname; explicit group devaluations ("Jew him down," or "niggering the land"); and irrelevant ethnic names used as a mild disparagement ("Irish confetti" for bricks

thrown in a fight). All racial and ethnic groups have been victimized by racial slurs; however, no American group has suffered as many racial epithets as have blacks: coon, tom, savage, picanniny, mammy, buck, sambo, jigaboo, and buckwheat are typical. Many of these slurs became fully developed pseudo-scientific, literary, cinematic, and everyday caricatures of African Americans. These caricatures, whether spoken, written, or reproduced in material objects, reflect the extent, the vast network, of anti-black prejudice. The word nigger carries with it much of the hatred and repulsion directed toward Africans and African Americans. Historically, nigger defined, limited, and mocked African Americans. It was a term of exclusion, a verbal justification for discrimination. ... No other American ethnophaulism carried so much purposeful venom. Americans created a racial hierarchy with whites at the top and blacks at the bottom. ... Every major societal institution offered legitimacy to the racial hierarchy. Ministers preached that God had condemned blacks to continued

Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


Language continued be servants. ... The entertainment media, from vaudeville to television, portrayed blacks as docile servants, happy-go-lucky idiots, and dangerous thugs. The criminal justice system sanctioned a double standard of justice, including its tacit approval of mob violence against blacks.

The racial hierarchy, which began during slavery and extended into the Jim Crow period, has been severely eroded by a civil rights movement, landmark Supreme Court decisions, a black empowerment movement, comprehensive civil rights legislation, and a general embracing of democratic principles by many American citizens. Yet, the word nigger has not died. The relationship between the word nigger and anti-black prejudice is symbiotic: that is, they are interrelated and interconected, yet, ironically, not automatically interdepedent. In other words, a racist society created nigger and continues to feed and sustain it; however, the word no longer needs racism, at least brutal and obvious forms, to exist. Nigger now has a life of its own. One of the most interesting and perplexing phenomena in American speech is the use of nigger by African Americans. ... The usage, as a term of endearment, is especially problematic. "Zup Niggah," has become an almost universal greeting among young urban blacks. When pressed, blacks who use nigger or its variants claim: it has to be understood contextually; continual use of the word by blacks will make it less offensive; it is not really the same word because whites are saying nigger (and niggers) but blacks are saying niggah (and niggaz); and, it is just a word and blacks should not be prisoners of the past. These arguments are not convincing. Brother (Brotha) and Sister (Sistha or Sista) are terms of endearment. Finally, if continued use of the word lessened its sting then nigger would by now have no sting. Blacks have internalized the negative images

After a period of relative dormancy, the word nigger has been reborn in popular culture. It is hard-edged, streetwise, and it has crossed over into movies such as Pulp Fiction (1994) and Jackie Brown (1997), where it became a symbol of "street authenticity" and hipness. Denzel Washington's character in Training Day (2001) uses nigger frequently and harshly. ... Poetry by African Americans is also instructive, as one finds nigger used in black poetry over and over again. Major and minor poets alike have used it, often with startling results: Imamu Amiri Baraka, one of the most gifted of our contemporary poets, uses nigger in one of his angriest poems, "I Don't Love You." The shocking reality is that many of these uses can be heard in contemporary American society. Herein lies part of the problem: the word nigger persists because it is used over and over again, even by the people it defames. Devorah Major, a poet and novelist, said, "It's hard for me to say what someone can or can't say, because I work with language all the time, and I don't want to be limited." Opal Palmer Adisa, a poet and professor, claims that the use of nigger or nigga is "the same as young people's obsession with cursing. A lot of their use of such language is an internalization of negativity about themselves." — Dr. David Pilgrim, Professor of Sociology, and Dr. Phillip Middleton, Professor of Languages and Literature, Ferris State University.

Syracuse Stage 17

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html

Tackling the Text

... In 1939, Agatha Christie, the popular fiction writer, published a novel called Ten Little Niggers. Later editions sometimes changed the name to Ten Little Indians, or And Then There Were None, but as late as 1978, copies of the book with the original title were being produce. ...

that white society cultivated and propagated about black skin and black people. This is reflected in periods of self- and same-race loathing. The use of the word nigger by blacks reflects this loathing, even when the user is unaware of the psychological forces at play. Nigger is the ultimate expression of white racism and white superiority, irrespective of the way it is pronounced. It is a linguistic corruption, a corruption of civility. Nigger is the most infamous word in American culture. Some words carry more weight than others. At the risk of hyperbole, is genocide just another word? Pedophilia? Obviously, no: neither is nigger.

Creating Huck’s World B e h iSnydr at chue s SS tcaegnee s

Scene design in Big River


irector Bob Moss and scene designer Troy Hourie turned to artist George Caleb Bingham when they talked about their ideas of bringing Mark Twain’s ideas to the stage. They liked how Bingham captured life in the 1840s along the Mississippi. Bingham, who lived 1811-1879, was born in Virginia and moved to Franklin, Missouri, in 1819. He often retreated to a bluff near his family’s farm where he studied life on the Missouri Courtesy Troy Hourie River. At 16, he was apprenticed to a cabinetmaker which led to A model of the set for Big River his becoming a sign painter. By the time he was 22, Bingham was traveling the river, painting portraits in a vigorously drawn and linear style, with strong color applied in large areas, a manner that he probably acquired from the ancestral portraits he had seen in settlers' homes. His art was appreciated locally, but Bingham realized that he must move from Missouri in order to become a better artist. He studied at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and moved to Washington in 1840, to paint portraits. He returned to Missouri for the 1844 presidential election. The artist then began the series of genre pictures of river life that led to his being regarded as the historian of Jacksonian democracy. His river painting focused on the world of men. The men are never at work, but dance, make music, play cards, fish, or hold conversations. They relax against generalized river backgrounds that recede mistily and glow smokily in the distance. His paintings present a composition based on the pyramid, its base being the lower horizontal. His foreground figures stand Bingham’s 1847 painting Flat Boatsman Playing quite free and are sharply delineated. He laid out his composi- Cards. tions carefully, and drew his figures from life, realistically and often humorously, using friends for models and changing faces to suit his needs. In crowded political canvases, his figures are grouped in horizontal planes in alternating bands of light and shade. His finest work, done between 1845 and 1855 when he painted the people and country he loved best, is fresh and vigorous, truthful and enthusiastic.

Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


Dance in Big River


horeographer Anthony Salatino based his creations for Big River on folk dance, clogging and the choreography of Alvin Ailey. Here’s information on some of the dance that inspired him.

Clogging has its roots in folk dance, including Scottish step dancing, from a number of the countries around the British Isles. The style became popular in the 19th century amid English mill workers. They tapped out elaborate rhythms on floors and cobblestone streets with their wooden-soled shoes. As the dance moved into America, it took on other influences from the Mexican Norteno, Eastern European polka and the African-American buck dance. Each style varies the posture, downbeat stamp and flip of the weight-bearing foot. Clogging helped give birth to tap dancing.

Syracuse Stage 19

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html

Behind the Scenes

Born in Rogers, Texas, on January 5, 1931, Alvin Ailey was introduced to dance by performances of the Katherine Dunham Dance Company and the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo. He began his training with Lester Horton and when the great modern dance Alvin Ailey choreographer died, Ailey, at 23, became the artistic director of Horton’s company. He was not a success and went on to dance in New York City, on Broadway and in television. Ailey said his “blood memories” of Texas with its tradition of blues, spirituals and gospel helped him create his early work. A great example of these influences can be seen in one of his best known works, Revelations. Early in his life when the civil rights movement began to escalate, Ailey found himself in a position to express its drama in theater and choreography. Paul Kolnick, photographer Dance critic Jennifer Members of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater in Revelations Dunning wrote dance was for Ailey "a way to communicate with whoever turned up to see his work, whether he was speaking about the power of the blues in black lives, the beauty of those lives, or, indirectly, about how it might feel to be an ugly duckling.” He created 79 ballets throughout his lifetime and in 1972 formed his own company, which bears his name. In 1988, Ailey was named a Kennedy Center honoree for his life’s work. Though he died in 1989, the Alvin Ailey company continues to this day. Alvin Ailey II, its junior company, has performed in Cazenovia.

Royal Nonesuch The Duke’s nonsense

e I n t hS ey rcalcausssSr toaogm

The Duke’s version of Hamlet’s soliliquy comes straight from Mark Twain and can be found in Chapter 21 of the book. It is a hodgepodge of various Shakespeare lines, a poem by Robert Browning, bits of Virgil’s Aeneid and Twain’s humor. It starts off from Hamlet: To be, or not to be and then breaks away from Shakespeare for a merry jaunt through any line of classic poetry or prose the Duke can remember. He knew much of his audience was uneducated and wouldn’t know the difference. An activity for honors English students would be to identify as many sources as possible for the various lines. They can do so in your school library, or on the Internet through: www.languid.org/cgi-bin/shakespeare williams.az.us/writers/library/shakespeare/concordance.html Hamlet 3.1.64-98 To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep; No more; and by a sleep to say we end The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep; To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub; For in that sleep of death what dreams may come When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause: there's the respect That makes calamity of so long life; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely, The pangs of despised love, the law's delay, The insolence of office and the spurns That patient merit of the unworthy takes, When he himself might his quietus make With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear, To grunt and sweat under a weary life, But that the dread of something after death, The undiscover'd country from whose bourn No traveller returns, puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to others that we know not of? Thus conscience does make cowards of us all; And thus the native hue of resolution Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought, And enterprises of great pitch and moment With this regard their currents turn awry, And lose the name of action. — Soft you now! The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons Be all my sins remember'd.

shakespeare.about.com/library/bl100a.htm www.bartleby.com/70/

Duke’s speech, Act II To be, or not to be: that is the bare bodkin That makes clamity of so long life; For who would fardels bear, till Birnam Wood do come to Dunsinane But that the fear of something after death Murders the innocent sleep. And makes us rather sling the arrows of outrageous fortune Than fly to others that we know not of. There’s the respect must give us pause: Wake Duncan with thy knocking! I would thou couldst; For who would bear the whips and scorns of time, And the quietus which his pangs might take, In the dead waste and middle of the night, when churchyards Yawn in the customary suits of solemn black, But that the undiscovered country from whose bourne no traveler returns, Breathes forth contagion on the world, And like the poor cat in the adage, Is sicklied o’er with care, Tis a consummation devoutly to be wished. But soft you, the fair Ophelia, nymph Ope not thy ponderous and marble jaws, But get thee to a nunnery — go!

Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


Questions for Discussion How does Big River reflect some of the political themes of the 1840s? What does the musical show you about how people were valued? Were all white men treated the same? What was the role of women in this society? What could anyone do to change their situation? Why is the Mississippi river so important to people? What did it provide? How did it influence people’s lives?

In the classroom

Why do you think Mark Twain set his story in Missouri? How would it be different if it had taken place in Central New York along the Erie Canal? How is your life different from Huck and Tom’s? Some people feel that race relations in America today are still influenced by the legacy of slavery. What is that legacy? How does it relate to Big River? In small groups, collect newspaper and magazine articles, music lyrics, poems, excerpts from books, artwork that expresses how America is still affected by slavery today. Do a short oral or multimedia presentation on your findings. Gerry Brenner, in his essay “More Than a Reader's Response: A Letter to 'De Ole True Huck'” (in A Case Study in Critical Controversy: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, edited by Gerald Graff and James Phelan, Boston: Bedford Books, 1995) pretends Jim has read Huck Finn and written a response in which he sets the record straight. Pretend you are Jim and write your reaction to Big River. How do the songs help move the action along? How would Big River be different if there were no songs? Would it change your reaction to the characters? Why do you think the characters of Huck, Tom and Jim have remained popular for so many years? Do you think people will still read this book 100 years from now? What are some key geographical features in the Mississippi region of the United States, specifically in Missouri? You may discover physical (mountains, land forms, flora, fauna, etc...) and cultural (cities, human-made structures, tourist attractions, specific cultures, etc...) geographical information. What aspects of life on the Mississippi did Mark Twain depict in his writings? How has the Mississippi River been utilized in the past, and how is it utilized in the present? Why was Mark Twain's life when he lived along the Mississippi so significant to his writings? How has the setting been important in other novels by Mark Twain? What might Mark Twain's life have been like while being raised in Hannibal, Missouri, along the Mississippi River? http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/teachers/huck/section6.html http://tamiscal.marin.k12.ca.us/staff/Risa/twain.html

Syracuse Stage 21

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html

More resources SyracusStage In the classroom

Web sites http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/cultureshock/teachers/huck/ etext.lib.virginia.edu/twain/huckfinn.html http://www.sdcoe.k12.ca.us/score/huckcen/huckcentg.html (California study guide on censorship) www.online-literature.com/twain/life_mississippi/ www.mtwain.com/ www.marktwainmuseum.org/ lemur.cit.cornell.edu/~jules/Mark_Twain.html www.elmira.edu/academics/ar_marktwain.shtml school.discovery.com/schooladventures/slavery/world.html www.africana.com/archive/articles/tt_269.asp www.mith2.umd.edu/mcpshistory/berlin_bibliography.html http://etext.lib.virginia.edu/railton/index2.html

Resources on the river www.42explore2.com/missriv.htm www.time.com/time/reports/mississippi/opener.html en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mississippi_River alabamamaps.ua.edu/historicalmaps/MississippiRiver/ www.lessonplanspage.com/Geography3.htm (activities for grades 2-4) www.lexington1.net/lv/oges/hp.nsf/Files/clrutter/$FILE/Mississippi+River.html

Here are some Web sites to show your students more of the work of George Caleb Bingham: www.artunframed.com/bingham.htm www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/WWbirdking.htm www.oldprintshop.com www.mystudios.com/bios/George_Caleb_Bingham.html

Articles and Books Gay, Robert M., “The Two Mark Twains,’’ in the Atlantic Monthly, Vol. 166, December 1940, pp. 724-26. Kaplan, Justin, Mr. Clemens and Mark Twain: A Biography, Simon & Schuster, 1983, pp. 233-34, 272, 292, 378. Long, E. Hudson, Mark Twain Handbook, Hendricks House, 1957, p. 23. Neider, Charles, "Introduction," in The Autobiography of Mark Twain.

Syracuse Stage Big River Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html


More activities Web Quest for high schools www.frionaisd.com/webquests/renner176.htm

Ideas for constructed response/document based question activities To help your students prepare for state testing, you can use Big River or George Caleb Bingham’s paintings as a basis for constructed response question or document based question assignments. Below are a few suggestions, or starting points, for you to create your own assignments. What can your students tell about life in the 1840s from a painting by George Caleb Bingham? What can your students tell about life in the 1840s from watching/reading Big River or Huck Finn? What can your students tell about education and literacy in the 1840s from the Duke’s “Hamlet” speech? What can yout students learn about life on the Mississippi and its role in commerce from Big River? After you see Big River, what did the costumes tell your students about the men and women’s different roles in 1940s society?

Photo courtesy of Elmira College

Mark Twain’s summer house in Elmira.

Syracuse Stage 23

2004-2005 Study Guide education office: 443-1150 or syracusestage.org/education.html

In the classroom

Your task is to explore different controversial elements in the novel. You will divide into different groups: one group will explore the contemporary criticisms of Huck Finn; another group will explore modern criticisms of the novel; a third group will examine racism both from a historical perspective and a modern perspective; the fourth group will examine stereotypes; and the last group will analyze the novel as satire. After you have completed your tasks, you will create one of the products listed in the next section.

Profile for Syracuse Stage

Big River-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  

Big River-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Big River-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn  

Big River-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded

Recommendations could not be loaded