TOM SAWYER

Maci Joiner, right, and Christopher Slaughter take a break before rehearsal begins for “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”. It opens Friday, Jan. 31 at the Rose Theater. Maci portrays Aunt Polly, and Christopher is Huckleberry Finn. (Photo/Dennis Smith)

It may surprise some of our readers that there are young people in Monroe County who have logged enough time on stage at The Rose or in one of the elementary, middle or high school venues that they qualify as professionals—not that they have been paid—but because they have amassed the experience that sets them apart as very good actors.

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” opens Jan. 31 at The Rose Theater and features two of our young pros in leading roles. Maci Joiner and Christopher Slaughter are two of the ‘young pros’ who at an early age made a huge down payment in developing their understanding of being on stage, developing their acting skills and now can translate their experience into entertaining an audience in a professional manner.

Maci Joiner has been in eight Backlot productions. Her first was ‘tooting’ some notes on a saxophone in Gypsy. Her most recent role was the outstanding portrayal of Ms. Remsen in “Anne of Green Gables.” Maci is Aunt Polly in Tom Sawyer. She likens her role to the town listener, the sweet older person who is understanding of everyone and tries her best to help each troubled soul make things right in their life or moment of stress. She has her hands full in being kind and supportive to Huckleberry Finn, the new best friend of her nephew Tom Sawyer. Maci, a junior at Mary Persons, does a masterful job of portraying a person 30-plus years her elder.

When asked what she planned to do next, she responded, “After I graduate from MPHS and Middle Georgia State as a Dual Enrolled student, I plan to pursue advanced degrees in language so that I can serve our country as a military translator.” There was no need to ask Maci why that specific choice since in observing her over the past six or seven years of her theatrical career it is obvious that she is all about helping others and being the best that she can be both on stage and in her community. A real professional. A genuine asset to our community.

Now comes Huckleberry Finn or as he is known by his offstage name…Christopher Slaughter. An acting career that spans almost half his life started with a role in “The King and I” and progressed through seven more years and nine more roles until now he is Tom Sawyer’s best, although of questionable character, friend. Asked whether Huck Finn is a bad person or not? “Huck just needs love. He is often misunderstood because he needs attention. Fact is, he needs people to love him,” responded Christopher.

Christopher admits that playing Kirk in “Back to the 80’s” was his favorite role because he could improvise and change his lines which created lots of fun and challenges for his fellow actors. 

“Hey, it went with the role. I was just exercising my right as the guy running in the second spot on the ticket so I could give advice to my guy--Corey.” (A reference to Kirk Keaton being the VP candidate as his best friend Corey Palmer ran for Student Body President.)   

So, Christopher, is there any chance that you might pursue theater as a career? “You are on target. I love my musical drama classes at MPHS. I am just a sophomore and have two years to learn more about voice and acting techniques, but I love it. I am convinced that my thing in life is to be either on stage or in some part of the entertainment, theater industry,” exclaimed Christopher.

Dialing back from the enthusiasm of both young actors, there was just one question remaining.  Tell me about “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer?” Simultaneously the response: “Go see it. You will love it.”

“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is an adaptation by Wilbur Braun of the Mark Twain book of the same name. Tom Sawyer is presented by Backlot’s Own Original Youth Actors or BOOYA. Tom Sawyer opens Jan. 31 and continues through Feb. 9.

Tickets to all Backlot Players productions are available through “Tickets to the City” or visit www.thebacklotplayers.org for a link.  Show times are 7:30 p.m. for Friday and Saturday performances and 2:30 p.m. for Sunday matinees.

Dennis Smith writes “Monroe Entertains You,” highlighting the entertainment fare offered in Monroe County and the people who make it possible. Smith wants Forsyth to realize and support the riches it has in the cultural arts.