An actress returns to work in a new role as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Comes to Boston

TonHis version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” is on tour, and this week, it’s coming to Boston.

Mary Badham plays Mrs. Henry Lafayette DuBose — if that name sounds familiar, it’s because she played the Boy Scouts in the original 1962 film adaptation. But now she’s playing a character living with addiction, a theme that resonates as much now as they did then.

Badham joins Arun Rath on GBH All situations are considered Today we discuss the relevance of Harper Lee’s 1960 classic. The theatrical adaptation will run until April 17 at Citizens Bank Opera House. What follows is a lightly edited interview.

Alan Rath: Mary, thank you for being with us. First, tell us what role you’re playing right now. This is Mrs. Henry Lafayette Dubois – did you say “Dubois” or “Dubois”? I don’t remember this character!

Mary Badham: [laughs] Yes. It’s Dubo!

Russ: So, who is she? Why should we care about her?

Badam: Mrs. Dubose was an old woman nearby. She’s very cranky because she’s addicted to morphine, because she must be hurt in some way. She’s not a very likable person for children. Very unpleasant. They do their best to be nice to her, but it’s a little difficult.

But she’s the crux of the story in many ways because it teaches the kids to be patient. It teaches them to understand people, all the lessons Atticus Finch wants them to learn about being kind to the elderly and doing the right thing.

It’s a good character, and it’s very popular today because we have a lot of older adults who are addicted to opioids. So for me, it gave me a good conversation about what happened today.

“We’re dealing with so much of this book today, and it’s kind of sad that it contains all the life lessons we obviously haven’t learned yet.”

Russ: Yes, it’s interesting to hear you talk about it – I was just reminded what a rich job it is. Because, you know, we tend to think about trials and race, but it involves a lot of other things. A character addicted to morphine is so important right now.

Badam: Yes. We have, you know, discussions about parenting and single-family parenting and how to deal with the ignorance around you and keep your kids safe. We deal with Boo Radley, the character Boo Radley. We deal with mental disabilities. We’re dealing with so much of this book today, and it’s kind of sad that it contains all the life lessons we obviously haven’t learned yet.

There’s so much in this book, and it’s a tiny book — it’s an overnight read — but it’s just stuffed with all kinds of stuff. And then you have the movie and the script, and I’m really excited about the show. I can’t wait for everyone to see it. I hope everyone will come.

Russ: Tell us a little about the drama and we’ll talk more about – obviously – your history. But for anyone who knows the book and the movie, how does the play compare — in terms of structure, how is it told?

Badam: Well, obviously, since it’s a theater, it has to change. And your time is very limited. So things have to go pretty fast, and they do – you definitely don’t get bored with things going too fast. You have to, like, pay attention because it’s really fast.

People will laugh. They will cry. They will cheer. It has a little bit of everything, all rolled into one. And the cast is excellent.

Russ: And when you’re dealing with that right now — we’ve touched on the various themes that come up in this very rich work — though, especially about race and social justice. I have to imagine, you know, after what we’ve seen in our country over the last few years, when you’re rehearsing a production like this that involves angry white thugs or something, what’s it like?

Badam: It’s scary. You know, I mean, because it’s registered so new. It’s a real shame that we still have to deal with this. But I have always said that ignorance is the root of all evil. Education is the key to freedom. We must educate our people and we must unite. You’re going to see these people saying, “Oh, you know, we’re Christians, we’re dah-dah-dah, you know, we think that’s the right thing to do with racism and bigotry.” That’s not Christianity at all in me represented in the book.

Russ: Let’s talk about your history in this production since you played Scout, of course. After playing Scout and now being Mrs. DuBose, please talk about playing both, and what you get out of working overall, from each of these characters.

Badam: Well, you know, from Scout as a kid, I was who I was. I mean, I’m just having fun. It is so similar to the family background I grew up in that it flows very easily.

Mrs. DuBose, now that I’m older, she’s more natural. And because I’m a certified nursing assistant, I’ve seen patients like Mrs. Dubose and had to deal with patients like Mrs. Dubose.

Russ: What was it like working with the kid who played Scout in this new stage release? That must be a little surreal, right?

Badam: Oh Melanie [Moore] just a doll. She’s so lovable and full of energy – and she’s a great Boy Scout. The entire cast is simply fantastic. I watched them work and they made me cry.

Russ: I’m very excited about this. It seems, gosh – I think, again, the more we think about it, the story really seems like a perfect piece right now – especially for its humanity.

Badam: I hope so. I hope people will see it that way and enjoy it.

Russ: Mary Badham, it was a pleasure talking to you, it was a pleasure, thank you.

Badam: Well, thank you so much for inviting me in. We are all here.

Russ: That’s Mary Badham. She played the scout in the 1962 film version of To Kill a Mockingbird. She will play Mrs. Henry Dubose in the stage version opening tonight at the Boston Opera House. The show will run until April 17th.This is GBH News All situations are considered.

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