Hartford, CT – “All modern American literature comes from one book by Mark Twain called Huckleberry Finn,” wrote Ernest Hemingway.
Indeed, the gripping tale of an abused white Missouri boy fleeing “sivilization” with an escaped adult slave is one of the great shared tales of our culture. Along with the adventure tale of subterfuge, chase, stunning Mississippi river scenes and absurdist humor comes bitter social commentary.
Just as Samuel L. Clemens could remember the viciously cruel days of slavery from his youth, he could see racial prejudice and injustice in his own time, skewer it, and help us see it in our own.
The Mark Twain House & Museum is marking the 125th anniversary of the U.S. publication of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, along with Black History Month, on Thursday, February 18, at 7:30 p.m. with a double-barrelled event. It features one of America’s premier black string bands, The Ebony Hillbillies, and the local theater troupe HartBeat Ensemble. The event takes place in the Museum Center, 351 Farmington Ave., Hartford.
The event is one in the museum’s continuing series of Mark Twain 2010 Centennial Celebration events. The Hartford Financial Group, Inc., is the Mark Twain House & Museum’s Centennial Sponsor.
The New York-based Ebony Hillbillies play in places as diverse as Carnegie Hall and Grand Central Station, and represent an old tradition in African American music. The four members of the band play fiddle, banjo, dulcimer, guitar and washboard in high-paced performances ranging from the Twain-era “Oh, Susanna,” through the old-time country favorite “Bonaparte’s Retreat” and a spiritual Twain loved, “Joshua Fit the Battle of Jericho,” in a high-powered, old-time country mode.
“These songs are part of America,” says band leader Henrique Prince.
The group’s lively music will be interspersed with passages from Huckleberry Finn performed by HartBeat Ensemble, whose acerbic works of social commentary have a Twainian tang to them. The performance will be directed by Heidi Carlson and feature an introduction by Hartford actor Lester McBride as Twain’s butler, George Griffin.
HartBeat, which uses the medium of drama to help break down barriers of race, class and gender, was last seen at The Mark Twain House & Museum in its popular performance of Ebeneeza. Its Mainstage performances, open-air performances in city parks and programs in schools have won critical acclaim.
Tickets are $32 ($27 for members) and can be purchased by calling 860-280-3130.
The Mark Twain House & Museum has restored the author’s Hartford, Connecticut, home, where the author and his family lived from 1874 to 1891. Twain wrote his most important works during the years he lived there, including Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. In addition to providing tours of Twain’s restored home, a National Historic Landmark, the institution offers activities and educational programs that illuminate Twain’s literary legacy and provide information about his life and times. The house and museum at 351 Farmington Ave. are open Monday through Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m., and Sunday, noon-5:30 p.m. For more information, call 860-247-0998 or visit www.MarkTwainHouse.org. Programs of The Mark Twain House & Museum are made possible in part by support from the Connecticut Commission on Culture & Tourism and the Greater Hartford Arts Council.