"Why, looky here. There was a free nigger there from Ohio… most as white as a white man. He had the whitest shirt on you ever see...”
Setting: high school in small-town Illinois.
Arun Patel and Greg Atkins are best friends at Bluefish High School, a commonplace small-town high school in a commonplace town in Illinois. They are eighteen, in the senior year.
Arun and Greg dream of becoming famous, world-renowned actors. Arun, however, has the talent. Greg does not. Both hope to go to NYC after graduation, and attend Juilliard. The school’s final theatrical show is announced their senior year: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer.
The two chums cannot wait to audition, and know they are made for these roles. The far-more talented Arun, however, believes he is right not for Tom but of the main character, Huckleberry. After the auditions, held by the school’s frumpy middle-aged drama teacher, Mr. Wills, they are told that they will likely get parts, and would find out the results a week later. Although Mr. Wills does not specify what the parts will be, his demeanor (winks, smiles etc) suggest that they have won the lead roles.
Arun’s parents, like most parents of Indian descent, want Arun to give up his foolish dreams of being an actor, and do something ‘important’ like becoming a surgeon, engineer, or IT man.
Come Monday, Mr. Wills calls them into his classroom to personally tell them which roles they won. With delight, he tells Greg that he will playing Tom Sawyer! Arun is delighted, knowing that he has won the lead role! Observing Arun’s grinning face, Mr. Wills reassuringly tells Arun that he has an even more special part.
Last scene: The play’s opening night performance. Greg is giving, as expected, a bad performance as Tom Sawyer. Arun, onstage, is on a makeshift raft.
But he is not playing Huckleberry; a nameless young blond White boy is playing the lead role.
Arun, instead, is playing Jim. The Runaway Slave.
Ashok Rajamani is a writer and artist living in NYC. He is a self-acknowledged Hindu hick, having grown up in a town near a cornfield in Illinois, before fleeing to The Big Apple at the age of 17, where he’s lived ever since. He had brain surgery due to a surprise hemorrhage (at his brother's wedding) in 2000, but his carved skull doesn’t make him any less sexy. For more info: www.ashokrajamani.com.
In Posse: Potentially, might be . . .