When we stepped into the theater that evening, we stepped into an adventure with Huckleberry Finn and his companion Jim. A runaway slave, Jim wants to go north to freedom, and Huck wants to get away from his drunken, violent father. So they set off together on a raft on the Mississippi River.
In Big River, the musical based on Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Huck and Jim’s long journey is fraught with danger, cruelty, and con artists, with generous amounts of songs and humor along the way.
One of the many things I love about theater is the way a story can pull you in. In Big River, my heart went out to Jim; I worried about young Huck; I wanted to kick the con artists King and Duke off the raft myself. And Tom Sawyer? Don’t get me started.
A good show can make you laugh one minute and make you think the next. In those moments when a character says something profound, the words seem to sit suspended in the air for a second before sinking into your mind and maybe your heart, too.
If you’re like me, when that happens, you give a little gasp or a nod that says, Yes, it’s true. Or yes, I understand. Or yes, I feel that way too!
My favorite line from Big River comes when Jim is telling Huck’s fortune. Huck asks him what he sees ahead, and Jim, looking out over the water, says, “Considerable trouble, considerable joy.”
Ah. There's so much beauty and wisdom in those words. Don’t they sum up life itself?
I thought of the trouble in our lives before my husband and I met and the joy we’d shared since. I thought about the times of trouble and joy that surely awaited us, too, those times that make life both hard and precious. It made me grateful that God is with us in all of it.
Through the years, I’ve left the theater inspired, thoughtful, sad, angry at injustice, exhilarated. And sometimes even changed, which might be theater’s highest goal of all.
Have you experienced beauty at the theater? If so, let me know in the comments or on social media.