Drawing Parallels + Making Changes: “To Kill a Mockingbird” Comes to Kennedy Center

“This isn’t your mom’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.'”

Actor Melanie Moore, who played precocious tomboy Scout Finch on tour of Harper Lee’s classic tale, shared on a recent conference call as the cast performed in Cleveland. this emotion.

“It’s not a movie. It’s not a book. It’s a completely different thing.”

She’s talking about Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that garnered national attention, directed by Tony Award-winning Bartlett Shell and played by Emmy-winning Richard Thomas Scout’s father, Atticus. Set in Depression-era Maycomb, Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird tells a coming-of-age story through the lens of an 8-year-old Boy Scout and a heart-wrenching parable about racism and consequences of prejudice. Atticus defends a black man accused of raping a young white woman.

The production, which runs from June 21 to July 10 at the Kennedy Center, has been on tour for two months after a two-year hiatus due to the pandemic. Moore said audience responses to the story varied slightly in each city, and she’d be interested to see how the response would continue to change as the tour went further south.

“It’s cool to watch the way our show impacts people across the country in different ways,” she said. “As we got closer to the Mason-Dixon Line, it had a slightly different impact because it was a show in Alabama. If you were from the South, you not only grew up hearing these stories, but also Will see things that are very similar to some of the things we talk about on the show. It will be interesting to continue moving south, where there are a lot of similarities to these stories. But unfortunately, across America right now, we are very similar to this 1934 There are a lot of similarities in what happens in the story.”

Moore was the first actor to play Scooter in Sorkin’s play, and he was actually from the South. She grew up in Georgia, and her entire family is from Tennessee, so she says she understands the role by nature — and it’s easy for her to pick up the accent.

“I know her. I feel like she lives in my bones.”

As someone with an almost entirely musical theatre and dance narrative background, she also brings a whole new experience to the role. Her credits include winning a season of “So You Think You Can Dance” and performing in Broadway musicals such as “Hello, Dolly!” and “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“[As] A physical person and a physical actor, I had a great time with me [Bartlett Sher] When I played my youngest and youngest version of Scout, I developed a different movement than the slightly bigger Scout, and the adult version of Scout. She walks differently. Her experiences – they do change people. When kids are young, they are very open and they are not afraid too much. These kids are sheltered, they’re a little wild in some ways, and it’s really fun to play with. It gave me a place to really grow. “

She is grateful for the physical vocabulary she built with Sher, as it leverages her strengths as an artist and complements Scout’s free spirit.

“Scout is ready to fight anyone and at the same time be ready to run across the stage and jump over hopscotch. She’s a very, very interesting character.”

While Scout is the central character of the production, she’s not the focus.

“Aaron Sorkin is an amazing writer,” Moore said. “He took this [story] And to flip it around, the Tom Robinson court case, which is a very short chapter in the book, is the main thing that happens on our show. It’s something we keep coming back to. It sets the stage for all transformations to take place. “

Moore thinks the show has hit a nerve with viewers because it’s so relevant to our current political climate. She hopes this might spark social activism in some and further spark enthusiasm in others.

“No matter which side of the political spectrum you are on, you can get away from that and want to sit at the table and investigate where you lied and where you are in those roles. Who are you in this community? You are Are you observing these events happening? Are you someone who is actively opposing these events? I hope it makes [audiences] Want to be part of their community and be a part of actual change so that when this drama does come back in 25 or 30 years, we can take our kids to see it and say, ‘Wow, this isn’t happening anymore. We have power. It’s our turn to get involved. “

The actor is also sure audiences will notice the cast’s closeness, thanks in large part to her on-stage parents.

“Our Atticus was Richard Thomas, who was very warm and friendly on and off stage. I think his warmth and the love our actors had for each other really permeated the company and the audience.”

She also said that Jacqueline Williams, who plays Calponia, the housekeeper and Scott’s mother, was delighted to be opposite Thomas. She must have noticed that Mary Badham, the actress who originally played Scooter in the 1962 film, is playing the grumpy neighbor Mrs. Dubose.

“[When we] Walking into our first table reading room, where Mary Badham was there, I was like, ‘Okay, right here. She was nominated for an Oscar for this.when you talk about [playing Scout] This is a tough task. But Mary has been supportive. She just had a good time. “

Whether it’s Badham’s supporting role, the cast’s intimacy, or the relevancy of the subject matter that appeals to you, Moore believes everyone leaves the theater with a lot of thought.

“I hope [the audience] Meet people in the community and make changes, and make sure this becomes a memory game rather than just a few small changes that can be ripped from today’s headlines. “

“To Kill a Mockingbird” runs June 21-July 10 at the Kennedy Center Opera House. Tickets start at $49. Visit kennedy-center.org to learn more and follow Moore on Instagram @melaniekmoore.

John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:
2700 F St. NW, DC; kennedy-center.org // @kennedycenter

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