Huck Finn stories make third KC Fringe Festival appearance


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By Bob Evans

Leave it to Philip Kinen to dust off the Mark Twain character of Huck Finn and add new adventures to his life as an adult in a fitting piece for the 2017 Kansas City Fringe Festival.

The episode at the Just Off Broadway Theatre finds Huck (now known as Finn) struggling to find his place as an older man. The first installment was Huck Finn meets Peter Pan. Last year, an elderly Finn met his unknown, adult son. This installment beings Finn a new companion, an Indian, in keeping with the ending lines of the famous Twain book, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, where Huck says he may go West into Indian Territory.

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Finn’s childhood innocence, long forgotten, lies deep inside him, but his quest for adventure never diminished. Finn receives a visit from a Lakota Indian, Iktomi who tells him of the Indian notion of a Winding Wind. Together, they set off to find and catch the Winding Wind.

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The two character Fringe selection features Phil Kinen as Huck Finn and, back for his third appearance in a Huck Finn story, Jake Leet. This installment finds Leet as the Indian companion, Iktomi.

The legend proclaims that the Winding Wind creates a circular pattern and possesses the ability to turn back time. In this case the Wind’s magical powers attempt to resurrect Huck’s eternally youthful spirit and preserve his adventurous nature.

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Expect charm, humor, and adult language in Kinen’s piece which all fit with the character development of the adult Huck Finn. Audiences will laugh, sigh, and giggle at some of the antics of this piece.

“Phil Kinen’s Huckleberry Finn and the Quest for the Winding Wind, the fourth installment in his series epilogizing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, has been quite an enthralling and thought-provoking process to be a part,” Jake Leet said. “Being privileged to have already participated in his first two plays at the Fringe Festival, I have developed a unique frame of reference upon which to build my observations of the three so far as a whole.

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“The most intriguing aspect to this process was and will be working with Phil Kinen on stage for the first time as an actor. His energy and overall enthusiasm will serve only to thrill and delight audiences. What an honor it will be to finally stand next to him as companions on the stage!

“The show will take its audiences for a light hearted and incredibly humor and venture far out into the New Mexican desert for an extravagant quest alluding to a Don Quixote style character dynamic. The show stands on its own so don’t worry too much if you have yet to see the first two. Regardless if you’ve been here with us from the beginning or only now just joining us, you are in for a treat!”

And from playwright/actor Phil Kinen:

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HUCK FINN & THE QUEST FOR THE WINDING WIND is the fourth installment of a six-play cycle on the life of Huckleberry Finn.  Two years ago, the 2015 Fringe hit, NEVER EVER AFTER was the first play that started Huckleberry on his grown-up adventures by spending the last summer of his youth on Neverland with Peter Pan.

In researching Peter Pan, I came across Carl Jung’s psychological concept of the Puer AeternusPuer Aeternus is Latin for ‘Eternal Youth’ and it applies to those men who have physically aged but still retain the emotional characteristics of an adolescent.  The aspects of the Puer Aeternus certainly fits the iconic “boy who never grew up”, Peter Pan; but, even more so, fits the life of Huckleberry Finn.

The Puer Aeternus’ father has always been absent from their lives.  They are attractive, charming and tend to have many brief relationships.  They are constantly on the move, wanting to be where the action is, and can never stand still.  Always in pursuit of the ultimate ecstasy, they will seek thrills or highs through speed, heights or flight.  Many Puer Aeternus attempt to find that rush through drinking, gambling, or drugs and develop addictive behaviors.

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While developing a 13-year old Huck character for the stage, I recognized these qualities in Huck and speculated as to what would he be like when he “grew up”?  Where would he be?  What would he do?   So, based on the various adventures of Twain’s 13-year old character, a very bad biography on Samuel Clemens, and the aspects of the Puer Aeternus, I constructed the life of Huckleberry Finn.  I then broke it down into six plays focusing on Huck at different ages and combined them into the six-play cycle called HUCK ETERNAL.

The first play, NEVER EVER AFTER, is Huck at 13 with Peter Pan.  The second finds Huck at the age of 28 and having to deal with his own shadow.  The third was presented at last year’s Fringe Festival entitled BEEN FINN and found Huck at 52 meeting his 20-year old bastard son, Benjamin Franklin Rushforth for the first time.  BEEN FIIN not only captured the mid-life crisis of the Puer Aeternus and reflected the ideas of the sins of the father are the sins of the son.  Benjamin Franklin Rushforth, by his own nature, carries out many of the Puer Aeternus traits exhibited in his own father. The fifth one finds Huck at 72 reflecting on the gifts and curses of the Puer Aeternus with his old pal Tom Sawyer.  The sixth, entitled HUCK AT LAST, finds Huck at 75 on his final night on this planet.

The story reflected in this fourth play was always part of the timeline but up until last year, it was only referred to in the fifth play.  It was during the run of BEEN FINN last year, that I realized this story need to be dramatized rather than referred to and thus THE WINDING WIND was born and created over the year.  The first, third, fourth, and sixth plays are completed.  The fifth is in the rough draft stage while the second is still being developed.  It is my hope to have the entire cycle completed within a year’s time.   None of this would be possible without the encouragement and support of the KC Fringe Festival, the Just Off Broadway artistic staff, my friends and colleagues involved with the past productions; and, especially, Jake Leet.  – Phil Kinen


Tags: KC Fringe Festival, “Huck Finn and the Quest for the Winding Wind”, Phil Kinen’s Big Show, Just Off Broadway Theater, Kansas City Fringe Festival, Kansas City Performing Arts, Kansas City Arts & Entertainment, Kansas City Theater


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