Theater Students Share Stage with Tony-Nominated Faculty Member Forrest McClendon in 'Big River'

The 'Huckleberry Finn' adaptation runs for one weekend only Feb. 23-25 at the Arts Bank Theater

Forrest McClendon (left) plays runaway slave Jim, opposite UArts student Adam Hoyak '13 (Musical Theater) as Huck Finn.

January 6, 2011

Students from the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts at the University of the Arts will share the stage with special guest star Forrest McClendon – a 2011 Tony Award nominee and Barrymore Award winner – in a concert performance of "Big River."

This production will be on stage for one weekend only with three performances February 23 - 25 at the University's Arts Bank Theater (601 South Broad Street, Philadelphia).

"Big River" is adapted from Mark Twain's classic novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, with music and lyrics by Roger Williams and book by William Hauptman.

In "Big River," McClendon plays runaway slave Jim, opposite UArts student Adam Hoyak '13 (Musical Theater) as Huck Finn. McClendon has been an adjunct professor in the Brind School for 15 years and has played the role of Jim twice before at Surflight Theatre and Mount Gretna Playhouse. He debuted on Broadway with a 2011 Tony Award-nominated performance as Mr. Tambo in "The Scottsboro Boys" and is currently recreating the role in a Philadelphia Theatre Company production (Jan. 20 – Feb. 19).

"Big River" follows the journey of Twain's unforgettable characters Huck Finn, Tom Sawyer and Jim as they discover friendship and freedom at the mouth of the Ohio River. Set to an award-winning bluegrass and country music score, this concert presentation is a collaborative production featuring the students and faculty of the Ira Brind School of Theater Arts.

"Big River" illustration by Chris Robertson '12 (Illustration) and Michael Pagdon '12 (Illustration).

Also working alongside the students is Adjunct Professor of Musical Theater and UArts alumnus Ben Dibble BFA '00 (Musical Theater) as the Duke. Dibble is a Barrymore Award-winning actor, singer and educator who most recently received critical acclaim as Elyot in "Private Lives" at Lantern Theater Company.

Frank Anzalone, an adjunct assistant professor and Barrymore Award-nominated director whose career has spanned over 100 productions, directs the cast. He also directed McClendon as Jim in the Mount Gretna Playhouse production. Assistant Professor Linda Henderson serves as music director. Her credits include numerous UArts and regional productions and work in theater orchestras at the Academy of Music, Forrest Theatre and Walnut Street Theatre, among others.

Performances of "Big River" run Thursday, Feb. 23 at 8 p.m., Friday, Feb. 24 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, Feb. 25 at 8 p.m. (press opening: Feb. 23, 8 p.m.). Tickets are $10 - $20 and available online at or (215) 717-6450. Seating is general admission and on a first-come, first-served basis.

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