by MIKE CHAIKEN
“To Kill A Mockingbird” is one of those novels that holds a special place in the annals of American literature.
It was a novel that helped shed light on an earlier time of America where racism didn’t just lurk under the surface but typically boiled over in explosive ways.
Next week, the students of Bristol Eastern High School will bring the story to life with a dramatic interpretation of Harper Lee’s seminal novel.
The play’s publisher, Dramatic Publishing, explained the plot as: “Scout, a young girl in a quiet southern town, is about to experience the dramatic events that will affect the rest of her life. She and her brother, Jem, are being raised by their widowed father, Atticus, and by a strongminded housekeeper, Calpurnia. Wide-eyed Scout is fascinated with the sensitively revealed people of her small town, but, from the start, there’s a rumble of thunder just under the calm surface of the life here. The black people of the community have a special feeling about Scout’s father and she doesn’t know why. A few of her white friends are inexplicably hostile and Scout doesn’t understand this either. Unpleasant things are shouted and the bewildered girl turns to her father. Atticus, a lawyer, explains that he’s defending a young Negro wrongfully accused of a grave crime.
In the Bristol Eastern Theater Arts production of the play, which opens Nov. 19, Emma Guilmette plays Scout and Alex Lefebvre tackles the role of Atticus.
“I like the plotline is really serious,” said Alex of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” “It’s not like most of the plays we do (at Bristol Eastern). Usually, we do funny plays to get the audience happy and laughing. And now we’re doing something serious to get them more involved and more connected.”
“It’s different from what we usually do,” added Emma. “Usually when I’m on stage it’s something happy and not really serious. It’s funny. It’s nice to do something different.”
Although the plot is set decades ago, both Alex and Emma said the story is still pertinent in 2015.
“Nowadays,” said Alex, “we feel there’s not a whole lot of racism. But we don’t realize that there is. If you don’t want to look at racism, there are still other ways people are discriminated again.”
Emma said the news is filled with events that still tie into what you see on stage with “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Alex said he likes that “the characters (of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’) are really serious, that they go along with the (serious) plot. But there are moments where those characters bring some happiness and a comic break.”
As for her own character, Scout, Emma said, “I like how she is still so young so she is still learning about, what’s going on.” And like herself, Emma said Scout is “very curious… We want to know what’s going on.”
Alex said he likes Atticus because “he knows what he believes. He’s a very convincing character. He’s very intelligent. And he’s very calm.”
Both Emma and Alex said transforming the novel into a stage play has changed their appreciation of Harper Lee’s work.
Alex explained, “Honestly, I didn’t enjoy the book. But once I started looking at the play. I started enjoying the story a lot more. When you put it all on stage, and it’s right in front of you— and you envelope yourself in it— you’re much more connected to it.”
“It’s definitely easier to understand different characters’ views,” said Emma of the transformation of the book into a stage play. “So I think it would be entertaining to watch.”
Audiences will be drawn to the show, said Emma. “because they could just like the message. They could just be a fan of the book to begin with. They might want to enjoy watching it in their own town.”
“There are plenty of people who love the story and putting it on stage makes it even better,” said Alex.
As for the performance of their cast mates, Alex said, “It’s going to be a good show. And I’m glad we’re all trying our best and committing to it.”
The cast of “To Kill A Mockingbird” is:
Jean Louise Finch (Scout)— Emma Guilmette; Jeremy Finch (Jem)— Collin Stone; Atticus Finch—.Alex LeFebvre; Calpurnia—.Fadima Kamano; Maudie Atkinson—.Anna Korpanty; Stephanie Crawford— Taylor Millman; Mrs. Dubose— Lacey Knox; Charles Baker Harris (Dill)— Nathan Leboi; Heck Tate—.Edison SzymanskiJudge Taylor— Noel Westhoff; Reverend Sykes— Alyssa Cross; Mayella Ewell—Valerie Bush; Bob Ewell— Alex Mika; Walter Cunningham—Tyler Roberts; Mr. Gilmer— Mckenna Domiano; Tom Robinson— Tristen Wade; Clerk— Brithanie Liddy; Townspeople, Congregation, Spectators— Kaylah Jewel, Morgan Moliengo, Makayla Orsi.
Bristol Eastern High School’s BETA presents “To Kill A Mockingbird” Thursday, Nov. 19, Friday, Nov. 20, and Saturday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m. at Bristol Eastern, 632 King St., Bristol. Tickets are $8 for students, $10 for faculty/ seniors, and $12 for general admission.
Comments? Email mchaiken@BristolObserver. com.