Harper Lee’s classic 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird consistently ranks at the top of America’s favorite books. The 1962 film adaptation won an Academy Award for Best Actor for Gregory Peck. Aaron Sorkin’s 2018 Broadway box office hit.
Lesser known is Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation from the late 1960s, which Lee approved for school and community theater productions.
“It’s been loved and celebrated since it was published,” said Benny Sato Ambush, who is directing Sergel’s stage production for the Venice Theatre adaptation. “I admire what Harper Lee did and how risky it was for her, as a white Southern woman, she told a story she knew. But she knew the story through her eyes .”
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Venice Theater’s new artistic director Ambush brings a different perspective to the Venice-produced Alabama town that was rocked when respected attorney Atticus Finch defended a black man accused of assaulting a white woman .
“What we don’t hear or have is the presence of black people,” said Ambush, who is black. “I know there’s a counter-narrative in the black community that isn’t reflected in the novel or the adaptation at this stage.”
Ambush was quick to add that he didn’t change the production, but “expanded” it.
“I’m joining a black community,” he said. “I used a lot of extras in this production. That courtroom scene, everyone in the county came for it. It was a high-profile experiment and people flocked to it. I was packed in courtrooms Audience, white people on the floor, black people in the gallery.”
The script itself only identified four black characters, including defendant Tom Robinson (Alfred Redmond).
“Those black characters are second-class citizens, but they absorb the blows of silence, humiliation and insult in the silence of the silent black community,” Ann Bush said. “None of them fought back. They had to bite their tongues.
“I know there’s another story. I can’t change the script, but I can keep the script and strengthen it a little bit to imply that there’s a black community out there without a voice, and show it, as well as show what’s really going on in the courtroom, the rave atmosphere.”
The play comes with a caveat that its language is consistent with the attitudes of the South in the 1930s.
It stars longtime Southwest Florida actor Jim Floyd as Atticus and Dylan Grantham as his daughter Scout, The story is told through her eyes.
Ambush says the show remains relevant in 21st-century America because it’s “about the unfinished business of this country. America is not just an idea, it’s an ongoing debate. Look around you; in Some of the same dynamics that existed in that small town still exist and it affects me personally. The United States is still trying to achieve the revolutionary vision in the legislation of the United States of America.
“I noticed that I’m telling this story in 2022, and the dangers or pitfalls of telling this story now, it can be seen as a point, a chapter, from the modern history behind us, what a terrible thing was and is now so much more Well. Not really. Through these eyes, I said, not much better.
“History isn’t like that,” said Southern writer and celebrated author William Faulker. This is. “
“To Kill a Mockingbird”
Dramatized by Christopher Sergel. April 15-May 1 at the Venetian Theater, 140 Tampa Ave, Venice. Tickets are $28, $20 for college students, $15 for teens, and $12 for the school-age show at 11 a.m. on April 22. venicetheatre.org.