The lights dim. The crowd grows quiet. Their attention flicks to the stage. They are locked into the show, totally engrossed in the play that is about to be performed. That play is To Kill a Mockingbird, a play based on a timeless novel by Harper Lee which was released in 1960. Timothy Booth puts the novel as, “Such a good play… a poignant masterpiece.” Booth is an Actor’s Equity Actor, who starred on Broadway in plays such as Mamma Mia and She Loves Me, among others. Booth plays Atticus Finch in the Dreamland’s production of Lee’s classic. The play also stars Nantucket’s own Chloe Girven and Phineas Byrn as Scout and Jem Finch respectively.
The story, is set in Maycomb, Alabama, in 1939 and tells the tale of Tom Robinson, a black man accused of molesting a white woman. Tom Robinson seemed to have no chance against the all white jury, but Atticus Finch made it his personal mission to see Tom acquitted. To hear how it ends, either watch the movie, read the book, or best of all, go to the play.
The story is timeless for several reasons. First, it deals with issues such as racism and discrimination, which are problems that are always relevant. As Booth puts it, “This is such a now play. You know, I come from Charlottesville, Virginia and with the white supremacy, this is the time. There is prejudice in this country. Obviously, black and white, but all the other stuff too. So I think this is the time to see the world from other people’s point of view. Like, just try. Just try to see things from their point of view before you take rash, and often harmful, action.”
Caleb Beidelman, who plays Boo Radley in the play as well as being the production manager agrees.
“In the times we currently live in we tend to see a lot of negativity and unhappiness in the world around us,” said Beidelman. “We see lots of people treating others terribly and without compassion. There seems to be a lack of unity amongst a large majority of those who live on this earth. I feel as though theatre is something which can unite all of us. It gives us the chance to escape the negativity of this world and step into the shoes of others and walk around as they would. The Dreamland hopes to spread positivity and bring compassion and unity to a world that very much needs it. Nowadays we live in a time where race and violence are an issue and To Kill a Mockingbird reminds us that these issues have been around for awhile. Hopefully those who attend To Kill a Mockingbird come away with the message of peace, compassion towards others, and unity.”
The other reason that To Kill A Mockingbird will continue to be read and loved by generations to come is the language and the dialogue used in the book. The way Harper Lee crafted To Kill a Mockingbird showcases a skill that is not seen very often. Booth mentioned this as the reason why he took the role of Atticus.
“This has always been a dream job for me, and now I’m the right age,” joked Booth. “When I heard about this production, it wasn’t really an option for me not to take the role. This is a way for me to spread the poetry in [To Kill a Mockingbird]…The reason I like this adaption by Chris Segal is because it is so close to the book. It draws directly from it. So much of the dialogue is word for word what Lee wrote.”
The play was a sight to behold, and Booth did an exemplary job in the iconic role of Atticus. His mannerisms, his delivery of his lines, and most importantly the way he interacted with the other actors in the play helped bring his role- and the entire play- to life. All of the actors, in fact, performed incredibly from the fantastic Pat Jones as Ms. Dubose and the hilarious Colin Christie as Dill.
This play, and the novel it was based on, will be around for a long time. Hopefully, for as long as they are around, talented actors will continue to perform to help us understand the racial divides that plagued- and to an extent still plague- our country. Perhaps, they might help us resolve them. Atticus Finch says it best. Scout tells him, “Atticus… he was real nice.” Atticus’ response is almost as timeless as the novel itself. He said, “Most people are, Scout. Once you finally see them.”