It is a story of growing up in a less-than-perfect world. It is a story of courage, learning right from wrong, and accepting others. Harper Lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” paints the picture of life in Maycomb, Alabama in 1935 during a time of racial tension.
A cast of talented performers enacted Lee’s work at Theatre Macon for their opening show on Oct. 18. Patrons scrambled to buy tickets for the opening night performance, and the sold out theater and waiting list attested to the overwhelming interest people had in seeing the show. Accompanying the performance was an “Opening Night Champagne Dessert Reception” that was sponsored by Jackson Automotive Group and other theatre supporters. One volunteer, named Margaret, said she liked serving the refreshments at the reception because it was her way of demonstrating her love for theater without actually stepping onstage. Coffee, champagne, fruits, and a cake decorated with the play’s title were offered to audience members following the play in celebration of the actors’ work.
The actors in “To Kill A Mockingbird” did a brilliant job. The cast was comprised of children as young as age nine to adults who have built up a reputation by participating in past performances at the theatre. They successfully portrayed the emotions of the characters, drawing the audience into the scene to better understand the struggle between justice and bravery presented in Lee’s book. The Total Praise choral group also enhanced the production with both their singing and acting talents. The African-American choir acted as a courtroom audience in between singing such songs as “Amazing Grace” and “I’ll Fly Away.” Their music served to further set the tone of the play, and the resounding “amens” that could be heard throughout the audience as the choir sang were proof of the choir’s’ impact.
The play was narrated through the eyes of Jean Louis Finch, known to Maycomb as “Scout” in her younger years. Act I opened with the choir’s rendition of Amazing Grace and continued with Jean Louis’s initial descriptions of herself, her brother, Jem, her neighbors, her father, Atticus and the mysterious Boo Radley. She tells the audience of a time when Atticus once told her, “Remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” Confused by her father’s words, Scout went to speak to Miss Maudie, a neighbor, who replied, “Your father’s right. . .Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy . . . [and] sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” The entire performance was filled with life lessons and words of wisdom expertly portrayed by the actors.
Jean Louise Finch, played by Gail Johnson, and Dill, played by nine-year-old Dane, were two particularly notable performances. Johnson’s enthusiasm as she narrated the story accurately illustrated how one would feel if they were given the opportunity to observe their childhood self through their adult eyes. As a storyteller, she kept her audience engaged. Dane was natural on stage, despite his young age. He fit the part of Dill perfectly. His character’s personality of a scheming, fun-loving boy was competently executed as he acted out the part of Dill.
This notable production only took five weeks to rehearse, according to Sarah Mullens who played Mayella Ewell in the production. The high school senior said that she loved playing the part of Mayella because it gave her the chance to act completely dramatic during the courtroom scene. Mullens plans to continue her theater involvement following her graduation. When asked why she had chosen to be a part of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” the actress said, “I fit the age description of Mayella, and I wanted to be with some of my other friends who performed in the show. We always have fun together.”
Additional performances will take place Oct. 23 and 24 at 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 25 and 26 at 8 p.m. Calling in advance for ticket reservations is highly suggested. With a valid student ID, tickets are $15. Regular adult tickets are $20. Theatre Macon is located on Cherry Street in downtown Macon.