HART presents 'To Kill A Mockingbird'

Required reading comes to life for students
Apr 23, 2014

If you were to hear the names “Atticus Finch,” “Scout” or “Boo Radley,” chances are you would immediately recall memories of your first encounter of  “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

The novel by Harper Lee is considered one of the most cherished American novels ever written, for which Lee won the Pulitzer Prize and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. The novel inspired the Academy Award-Winning film adaptation starring Gregory Peck and Robert Duvall, as well as a stage version adapted by Christopher Sergel.

“Mockingbird” is a standard of required reading for school, and many Haywood County students will get the unique opportunity of seeing the novel come to life onstage in Hart Theater’s production of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” opening their 2014 Main Stage Season.

After spending part of the school year reading the novel, more than 500 students will take a field trip to the theater on May 7 to see the novel they spent so much time reading and analyzing come to life.

Kelly Hunt, the show’s stage manager, helped put together this special school performance, coordinating with all Haywood County middle and high schools.

“What is truly amazing to me is how completely willing the cast and crew of the show was to create this opportunity for our community’s students,” Hunt said. “Everyone involved had to take the day off work and some are losing money to volunteer their time to bring this story to life for the school performances. And all of them immediately agreed because they all love the book, and they are all so invested in it that it makes this so much more than just a play.”

Wanda Taylor, the play’s director, agrees that “Mockingbird” is more than just a great show, but an extremely important work that confronts issues that are still very relevant today, such as racism.

“Each individual will leave with his/her own connections and meaning, but even if we make baby steps in the direction of tolerance, every step is a good step toward racial harmony,” Taylor said.

Jackie Simms plays Calpurnia in the show. She is one of two founding members of the Ethical Society of Asheville and also believes the themes of the show have a place in today’s world.

“Racism is still alive — sometimes in different forms than in the past and sometimes in the exact same way. It is an insidious evil that harms everyone involved. Take the character of Boo Radley for example, once you get to know someone and walk in their shoes, you can understand and identify with them. I believe all people have at least a nugget of good in them.”

Atticus Finch is played by Dave Evanoff, a chemistry professor at Western Carolina University, and this story is important to him — it was one of his favorite books in high school.

“I find it very endearing, which is a strange because some terrible things happen in the story, and the themes can be upsetting, but the way it’s told through the narration of Scout, she imparts an innocence on the events that speak the truth without malice or malignance,” Evanoff said. “Racism is still around. We are all aware of it. But I think it’s going to be great when the power of racism is lost. The ‘N-word’ is used a lot in this show, and it unfortunately is still used at times in our area in a very negative and racist connotation. That word still has power. But the time is coming and if we can work towards tolerance together, won’t it be great when that word and so many others have no power any more?”

In view of the show’s theme of racial justice, the cast and crew have joined with the nation-wide YWCA Stand Against Racism Focus for 2014, and will host a Q&A and discussion after the show’s regularly scheduled matinee performances at 3 p.m. on April 27 and May 4.

During that time, the cast/audience will discuss the play, its message about racism, and ways that racism in America has changed since 1935 (when the play takes place).

In addition, the recently-formed Haywood County chapter of the NAACP, will have a booth in the lobby at each performance with information and encouragement for anyone who would like to join the organization or get involved.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” will be showing at 7:30 p.m. April 25, 26, May 2, 3, 9, 10 and at 3 p.m. April 27, May 4 and 11 at Hart Theater. Tickets can be purchased at the box office from 1 to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Call 828-456-6322 for reservations or go online to www.harttheatre.com (note online ticket sales have an automatic service charge)