A black Huck Finn and a white Jim might be okay for a high school production of Mark Twain's classic tale, but those performances had to be edited out of a C-Span talent show after the copyright holde


GLENELG, Md. (AP) -- A black Huck Finn and a white Jim might be okay for a high school production of Mark Twain's classic tale, but those performances had to be edited out of a C-Span talent show after the copyright holder objected to the cross-casting.

Jay Frisby, a black student who played Huck, and Nick Lehan, a white student who played Jim, taped their performance of the song ''Muddy Water'' for ''Close Up,'' a weekly show that highlights high school excellence.

When the program aired May 20, the two Glenelg Country School seniors were introduced, but viewers were told that ''Close Up'' could not show their performance because of ''copyright restrictions.''

Lehan and Frisby had played the roles of Jim and Huck in the school's production of ''The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn'' without complaint. But when the show's executive producer asked for the right to air the students' performance, permission was denied.

Bert Fink, a spokesman for R&H Theatricals -- the Rodgers & Hammerstein organization which administers the live stage performance rights of the musical -- said his organization is not against cross-casting in general.

''But when you're dealing with a theatrical work and race or ethnicity is a key factor, many authors or playwrights feel strongly that ethnicity has to be reflected in the actors who portray the characters,'' he said.

''In the books, Jim is a runaway slave. He is clearly in the novel an African-American man. And Huck is a free white man -- that is central to the story. To ignore that component or to comment on it by switching is not faithful to the story.''

Frisby's father, attorney H. Russell Frisby Jr. with Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Nicholson Graham in Washington, D.C., said he was appalled by the decision.

''The only rationale for it is that someone in New York believes Huck Finn can't be played by an African-American. I thought we were past the days of 'whites only' clauses,'' the elder Frisby said.