Meet the cast and a special ASL performance of East Lynne’s “Huckleberry Finn”

What’s it like to work in professional theater? How do actors prepare for their roles? Ever wonder how and why a theater company selects its plays? You mean, a world premiere is actually a play that has never, ever been performed anywhere else? How does that happen?

On Thursday, August 28, there will be a special after-show question-and-answer period, immediately following the performance of the award-winning East Lynne Theater Company’s world pemiere production of “Huckleberry Finn.” Adapted by James Rana, it’s based on Mark Twain’s classic tale about Huck and Jim, two runaways on a raft on the Mississippi River in the 1840s.

Taking on the role of Huck is Evan Smilyk who last season played Young Don Diego in James Rana’s world premiere of “Zorro.” He’d acted in ELTC’s Student Summer Workshop productions and in-school residencies since age eight, and recently played Charley Bucket in “Willie Wonka” at Teitelman Middle School.

Jim is portrayed by Leon Morgan. He was in ELTC’s highly acclaimed NJ premiere of “Lost on the Natchez Trace,” and is currently studying improv and sketch writing at the Upright Citizens Brigade in Manhattan.

Those taking on many roles are Beckley Andrews, Samuel Douglas Clark, Marcia Sofley and Thomas Raniszewski.

Beckley and Sam were in ELTC’s “The First Fifty Years” last season. Beckley’s credits include New York City Opera’s “Cendrillon” and Broadway’s “Gypsy” starring Patti LuPone. Sam recently appeared in television’s “Forever.” In his native Australia, he performed in national tours, films, on television, and was in the Queensland premiere of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore.”

Thomas has been performing with ELTC since “Rain” in 2005. He was in “The Twentieth-Century Way” in Philadelphia, and ELTC’s production of “Why Marry?” in Cape May, as well as the staged reading at The Players Club in NYC.

This is Marcia’s first show at ELTC. She performs with Improvisational Repertory Theatre in NYC, with regional theaters, and has toured nationally in shows including “Seussical” and “A Christmas Carol.” On television, she’s been featured in shows on ID, The History Channel and LMN.

Playwright James Rana is also an actor who recently was featured in an episode of “Chicago Fire” and will be in ELTC’s upcoming production of “Strictly Dishonorable” in the fall.

Directing “Huckleberry Finn” is ELTC’s artistic director Gayle Stahlhuth, making this her 16th season of helming the company that is now celebrating its 35th year.

On Friday, August 28, is an American Sign Language Interpretation of “Huckleberry Finn.” Since the early 1990’s, ELTC has offered regularly scheduled ASL performances, as well as ASL performances when requested and ELTC is given appropriate notice. The theatrical ASL interpreters are Kathy Filippo and Gina Lanza, who have performed many times for ELTC. The process involves them seeing the production at least once, plus going over the script several times to figure out who will interpret which roles, and in many cases, come up with signage for unusual names and words.

Performances are at the historic First Presbyterian Church, 500 Hughes St., Cape May, where ELTC is in residence, through September 5, Wednesdays through Saturdays at 8:30pm. Tickets are $30 for general admission, $25 for seniors (62 and over), and $15 for full-time students, those in the military and veterans. Ages 12 and under are free. For information and reservations, call 609-884-5898 or go to