Crying and Laughing America through the Eyes of Children

Galina Gumovskaya,

MELTA Vice-President



Festival Contest

Crying and Laughing America through the Eyes of Children

Moscow: IGUMO IT

November, 2, 2009 April, 2, 2010

2010 faces important dates related to American culture: the 100-th anniversary of O’ Henrys and Mark Twains death. This same year also marks the 175-th Anniversary of Mark Twain and the 125-th Anniversary of his pinnacle work Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.

In commemoration of the two brilliant American authors Mark Twain and O Henry, Moscow English Language Teachers Association(MELTA), Institute for the Humanities and Informational Technologies (IGUMO IT) and newspaper English of the publishing house The First of September organized a special event dedicated to the lives and works of these outstanding people. The festival has brought together inspired and creative secondary school students as well as university students of English to commemorate, to honour and to remember Mark Twain and O Henry. The Festival was sponsored by the English Language Office and Public Affairs Section of the American Embassy inMoscow.

The mission of the Festival was to promote awareness and appreciation of the life and work of Mark Twain and O Henry and to demonstrate the relevance of their stories and ideas to citizens of the world.

O Henry knew people very well, especially the ordinary people of New York. His stories were very often with a happy unexpected end, which were far from real life, but at the same time he could not shut his eyes to the dark sides of American life. In his stories one can feel satirical criticism of the American way of life. Most of his short stories are full of warm sympathy for ordinary American people.

Mark Twain is best known as a humorist, his wit is the sparkle that enlivens all his works. While Mark Twain uses his unique humor to engage and amuse his audience, his work also contains social criticism that provokes each reader to think deeply about our world. Through his stories and essays, Mark Twain searched for truth and wisdom. He has left behind a legacy that still evokes deep attachments to such characters as Tom Sawyer, Huckleberry Finn, and Jim, while at the same time provokes thoughtful discussion as it challenges his reader to look critically at society.

The project to mark the dates entitled Crying and Laughing America through the Eyes of Children started in November 2009, and was proclaimed to 190 secondary schools of the Moscow Eastern Administrative Area and IGUMO IT. The event gathered over 600 participants: school students from Moscow Eastern Administrative Area; university students from IGUMO IT, Moscow Pedagogical State University, Moscow State Regional Pedagogical University, Moscow State Pedagogical Institute, St. Petersburg Institute for the Humanities; guest theatre teamConstellation from Moscow Pedagogical State University (directed by PhD Professor M. Y. Blokh).

The event combined the following proceedings: Drama Festival of School English Theatres, Research Project Contest, Memory Date Show and Best Question to M. Twain Contest. The festival-contest included several stages and preliminary selections and finished on April, 2, 2010.

The first stage included preliminary ranking of school-teams dramatizations of the literary works (younger school students those of M. Twain; senior school students those of O Henry). On March 4-5, twenty best teams were given a chance to rehearse their shows in IGUMO IT and to get specialist advice by Moscow Armen Dzhigarkhanyan theatre producer Yu. V. Klepikov, theatre producer V.A. Polyakov and IGUMO Theatre Arts Faculty Dean N. K. Telyakevich, Ph D. Four best teams were selected to present their theatrical performances in the venue of IGUMO IT on April 2 at the closing ceremony of the Festival. On March 25-26, school 1475 provided a 500-seater venue for Drama Festival of School English Theatres. The jury of the theatrical contest included specialists of English and theatre arts, representatives of MELTA, the local (EAA) and IGUMO governing bodies and the alumni of USG Elena Markova, Anna Shirokikh, Tatyana Kobzina, Olga Boltneva, Galina Gumovskaya, Alyona Gromushkina. (The criteria for the jury of Drama Festival of School English Theatres are included in Appendix 1 to the report).

The initial program of the Festival Final Event had to be a little bit changed because of a great amount of University students applications for participation in the Research Conference Pillars of American Literature at the Turn of 19-20 Centuries. Instead of working at two Festival areas on April, 1, the organizers decided to hold The Research Conference beforehand, on April, 1. University students prepared talks based on their research devoted to various aspects of literary works by Mark Twain and O Henry. The students of IGUMO IT, Moscow PedagogicalState University and Moscow State Regional Pedagogical University presented the results of their research in English and in Russian. Four best reports were chosen by the jury of Research Project Contest headed by Prof. E. Yakovenko to be presented at the Festival closing ceremony.

The Festival developments acquired additional furnishing when O. Kurenya, Associate Professor of IGUMO IT managed to get in touch with M. Twain and O Henry museums in the US and asked for copies of most interesting materials related to the life and works of the authors. They reproduce historical and cultural atmosphere of America at the turn of 19-20 centuries, most interesting episodes of the life of M. Twain and O Henry and their literary characters. Owing to the kind assistance of Mark Twain Boyhood Home and Museum (Hannibal, MO) and its executive director Dr. Cindy Lovell it was possible to get authentic materials providing the organizers and participants of the Festival with comprehensive information on Mark Twains biography and his funny literary characters.

The final stage took place on April, 2 at IGUMO IT and comprised a complex of events. It started with the foreword of Prof. Galina Gumovskaya, the project author. The opening ceremony began with a word of greeting from the guests of honour who contributed greatly to help the Festival develop. The first words of greeting were spoken by IGUMO IT Rector Prof. Marina Volynkina. On behalf of Public Affairs Section of US Embassy Moscow, Mike Snyder addressed the audience and sent the Festival good wishes. (Consider Festival Final Event Programme at Appendix 3).

Following the Program of the Festival four speakers shared with the participants and guests of the Festival their special academic expertise in the areas of literature, linguistics, and culture studies having subjected to analysis the life and works of Mark Twain and O Henry. The presentation of Maria Kondratyuk (MSRU) was dedicated to one day of Mark Twains life and compiled a description of his routine as well as the writers quotations. The next report was held by Ilya Fedotov (IGUMO IT). The report concerned the cultural and historic background of Mark Twains novel The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. It was devoted to the verbalization of concepts ‘school and church. The third talk was presented by Anastasia Shestakova (IGUMO IT). Her research report indicated the reasons for the nicknames of O Henry. It revealed the history of O Henrys pen-name and considered different approaches to its origins. The last presentation was held by Julia Melnikova (MPSU); it claimed revealing insights into the life of O Henry.

A very attractive concert of Irish original music and song as a gift for the Festival was performed by the students of the IGUMO IT Faculty of Foreign Languages and was greeted as a natural continuation of the closing ceremony. It was prepared under the close supervision of IGUMO IT Associate Professor Ilya Kurenya.

The most attractive item of the finishing stage of the festival appeared to be the theatrical performances of the winners of the Drama Festival of School English Theatres. The top prize was awarded to school 1475; the young winning team brightly revealed their understanding of M. Twains characters. The second prize went to school 1200: they gave an impressive and sparkling musical based on Mark Twains novel TheAdventures of Tom Sawyer. The third prize was shared by schools 1752 and 2036; the young actors displayed their skills and talents while competing with each other for the best fence painting the way Mark Twains funny characters used to do.

But the most memorable event of the Festival was a live personal appearance of celebrated American actor Ken Richters a very special guest who honored the festival with his visit. Ken Richters a character actor as Mark Twain knows a lot about Mark Twain and his literary characters. He performed as Mark Twain hundreds of times in theatre, cinema and musical shows in 50 countries of the world. At the festival Ken Richters re-enacted Mark Twain and told the audience funny stories. The sparkling humor and gentle irony of Mark Twain and Ken Richters could not but cut to the quick both the old and the young.

After the performance, the University and school students had an opportunity to communicate with Ken Richters-Mark Twain. It was an exciting contest for the Best Question to M. Twain. The contestants prepared their witty personal rich in content questions to Mark Twain. Ken Richters showed fine appreciation of the students knowledge of the biography, literary works and characters of Mark Twain and said that Russian children are much smarter than American children of the same age. (A list of the questions is included in Appendix 2 to the report).

The final item of the festival was the award ceremony on which the participants were given certificates and memorable presents. The awards ceremony was conducted by Rector of the Institute for the Humanities and Informational Technologies Prof. Marina Volynkina and the guest of honour Ken Richters.

Appendix 1

Evaluation Criteria for the English Language Theatre Contest

  1. Contents, meaningfulness of the original text modifications, if any (a text authenticity degree, adapted text complexity linguistic simplification or elaboration, if the text makes the delivered information implicit or explicit, if there are any ambiguities and if they are justifiable in the context of the competition)
  2. Language correctness and acceptability (precise use of the language, compliance with the established literary norms (American vs. British, for example vocabulary, sentence structure, word compatibility, enunciation pronunciation and intonation)
  3. Delivery, performance level and showmanship (the speech spontaneity fluency degree, memorization, voice quality diction and articulation, appropriateness of gestures, how the actors show that they understand what their text is about, how the form of delivery and the contents complement one another)
  4. Creativity and originality in
  • the name of the performance creativity and appeal to audience, complementation between the content and the form, pragmatic appropriateness vs. background knowledge
  • the use of posters and other written / drawn materials
  • any other way to show the background knowledge on the text use of archaic forms of words, archaic or typical American spelling and pronunciation, any pieces of decorations or costumes that imply some meaning
  • any other way to show the background knowledge on the text use of archaic forms of words, archaic or typical American spelling and pronunciation, any pieces of decorations or costumes that imply some meaning.

Judging Criteria for the English Language Theatre Contest

Laughing and Crying America through the Eyes of Children

(Worked out by Anna Shirokikh)

JUDGE ________________________











1. original or: adapted from traditional 0 1

2. native-like grammar / vocabulary choices 0 1

3. plot development: beginning / climax / close


4. characters 0 1

5. entertaining use of the language 0 1

6. creativity with the name of the performance 0 1

Total: 6


1.voice: volume / clear 0 1

2. modulations / pacing, pausing 0 -1

3. phonetics 0 1

4. rate of delivery / fluency

0 1

5. memorization

0 1

Total: 5


1. body language / poise and posture 0 1

2. eye contact 0-1

3. facial expression 0 -1

4. use of decorations

0 1

5. expressive style 0 1

Total: 5


1. setting the mood

0 1

2. enthusiasm 0 1

3. originality 0 1

4. message 0 1

Total: 4







0 AVERAGE 1 OUTSRANDING Eg: 1 +0+1+0+1=3

If the story is NOT to the topic we do NOT evaluate it at all.

Original Story or Adapted from original makes one rubric of story quality.

Please give the total points to the secretary before the next teller is called.








1. . 0 1

2. 0-1

3. 0-1

4. 0-1

5. 0-1


0 1 : 5

1. : /

0 1

2. , , 01

3. 0 1

4. 0 1

5. 0 1

: 5

1. , ,

0 1

2. 0-1

3. 0 1

4. 0 1

5. 0 1

: 5

1. 0-1

2. 0 1

3. 0-1

4. 0 1

: 4


0 1 : 1 +0+1+0+1=3









SIGNATURE __________________________

Appendix 2

Best Question to M. Twain Contest

I. University students

  1. Do you know what Hannibal of our days looks like?
  2. Do you like reading agricultural papers? Can you say that now you know more of agriculture than in times of editing an agricultural paper?
  3. What were the most attractive and the most difficult things in being a steamboat pilot down the Mississippi?
  4. Have you personally ever tried betting on frogs (like on the height of frog jumping)?
  5. Who (and how) actually convinced Miss Watson of freeing Jim in her will before she died?
  6. Are the reports of Mark Twain's literary immortality greatly exaggerated?
  7. You started your career as a journalist. Does journalism contribute to literary writing or does it as some critics claim corrupt the writer's style?
  8. In your novel The Innocents Abroad you claim that there was no poetry in them [Indians] except in the Fennimore Cooper Indians. Can a modern American editor accept a phrase like that?
  9. You devoted a book to F. Cooper's literary offenses. Why, in your criticism, did you prefer him to W. Irving, N. Hawthorne and E. A. Poe?
  10. Can such towns as Saint-Petersburg (or, rather, Hannibal, Missouri) be found in America yet?
  11. Are all American watchmakers as zealous as the hero of your famous story?
  12. If an American of our days found himself in King Arthur's court, would the plot of the novel be different?
  13. Can Hadleyburg be corrupted nowadays easier than one hundred years ago?
  14. When you were interviewed by an unknown British journalist Rudyard Kipling, could you imagine that a year later you would meet him as a well-known author? Can literary talent be foretold?
  15. Why, plunging into history, did you take in Jeanne DArcy more interest than in any American hero?
  16. You have traveled more than a time about Europe and America. Has the world greatly changed since the time of your travels?
  17. Have you seen Russian (Soviet) screen versions of your books? What do you think of them?
  18. You often appeared before the audience as a performer. Would you like to be called the father of stand-up comedy?
  19. You characterized the 19th century as the gilded age. What name would you like to give to the 20th century?
  20. What do you think people will say of you in 2010?
  21. Would you like your grandsons to follow Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn in their likes and dislikes?
  22. Are you used to glory or tired of it?
  23. Are you a sinner? If so, would you like to repent?
  24. Do you think an Afro-American will ever be President of the USA?
  25. Are you acquainted with O. Henry's works? What do you think of his short stories?
  26. Who were Tom Sawyer's parents?
  27. When reading The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, I could never understand the relations between Aunt Polly, Tom and Mary, the latter's cousin. Who are Mary's parents? Is she an orphan, too? She can't be Aunt Polly's daughter as Aunt Polly is too old for that!
  28. Are there any reasons for your deep interest for British history manifested in A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, ThePrince and The Pauper and other novels?
  29. We know you see a mysterious relationship between the dates of your birth and … m-m-m departure and the approaches of Halley's Comet to the Earth. What do you think will happen in 1986 when Halley's Comet is close to the Earth again?

II. School students

School 690

  1. After Mark Twain died, William Dean Howells compared him with this man.
  2. Who was Mark Twain compared to?
  3. When and where was The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras published firstly?

School 1475

  1. Once you said: I never let my schooling interfere with my education. Do you really think it's possible to become a famous writer without schooling?
  2. You associated your life with Halley's Comet. Are you a superstitious man to believe that many events in our life depend on mysterious signs?

School 681

  1. What does Mark Twain mean?
  2. Why are Tom and Huckleberry Finn drawn to each other?
  3. How does Tom Sawyer relate to the world of adult authority?

School 1752 (Questions to Ken Richters)

  1. With whom did you work in Hollywood like a partner?
  2. How many roles did you play in general and which is your favourite?
  3. Have you ever played in the theatre or you just a movie actor?

School 766

  1. What profession would you have chosen if you hadn't become a writer? (We know that you had many jobs. You worked for a printer, as a journalist, a pilot for the boats on the Mississippi River.)
  2. What did Tom and Huck become when they grew up?
  3. What would you advise to be the boys who have something in common with Tom Sawyer?

School 2036

  1. In 1867 you visited Russia. What things have changed since that time? And what are your impressions of Russia today?
  2. You are known for your quotations and a good sense of humour. Once you said: An Englishman is a person who does things because they have been done before. An American is a person who does things because they haven't been done before. A Russian person is a person who Could you complete the sentence, please?

Appendix 3

Crying and Laughing America through the Eyes of Children

Festival Final Event Programme

12.00 13.00 Registration. Authentic Material Exhibition devoted to Mark Twain.

13.00 13.15 Opening Ceremony (Galina Gumovskaya foreword)

Word of greeting:

Marina Volynkina, IGUMO IT Rector

Mike Snyder, Public Affairs Section, US Embassy Moscow

Alyona Gromushkina, newspaper English of the Publishing House The First of September

13.15 13.45. Research Project Contest. University students best presentations on Mark Twain and O Henry (4 students)

Masha Kondratyuk, MSRU, Mark Twain. One Day of the Writers Life

Ilya Fedorov, IGUMO, Cultural and Historic Background of Mark Twains Novel „The Adventures of Tom Sawyer“

Nastya Shestakova, IGUMO, Reasons for the nicknames of O Henry

Yulia Melnikova, MPSU, Insights into the life of O Henry.

13.45 14.15. A small concert of original Irish music and song performed by the students of IGUMO IT Faculty of Foreign Languages as a gift for the Festival.

14.15 15.15. Drama Festival of School English Theatres. Theatrical performances of school students (4 teams).

15.15 16.15. University and school students communication with Ken Richters/Mark Twain: Kens presentation and Best Question to M. Twain Contest

16.15. 17.00. Awards ceremony.