Harper Lee’s Iconic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Lives on in Rural Alabama with Spring Drama

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At the end of a winding country road in rural central Alabama, there is a plaza like those found in countless other small American towns.

Except it’s not just any other square.it is This The plaza where legendary Alabama scribe Nelle Harper Lee spent her childhood summers and was inspired to create her iconic Pulitzer Prize-winning work, To Kill a Mockingbird. It was the epicenter of the Southern literary scene, and is now a time capsule from long ago, when Scout Finch watched her conscientious father Atticus fight for truth and the rights of all. war.

The Old Monroe County Courthouse, the centerpiece of the plaza, first opened in 1904, 22 years before Lee was born and nearly 60 years before the adventures of Scott, Jem, Dill, and Bo Radley were incorporated into American literature. . It still towers over the countryside and now doubles as a museum and the backdrop for the production of the “To Kill a Mockingbird” play that has become a sign of spring at Lee’s home in Monroeville, Alabama.

The works — which run through May 21 this year — have become a mainstay in Monroeville for the past three decades and have been lauded by Auburn professors for bringing Lee’s story to life from around the world of thousands of visitors and inherited the legacy of prized prize-winning novels. Presented by The Mockingbird Company’s troupe, The Mockingbird Players, this spring’s installment will be directed by Monroeville native Carly Jo Martens, who once played Scout. Most of the show’s cast are part-time actors, most of whom have connections to about 5,800 people in the town.

The first act of the stage production took place outside the courthouse at the Otha Lee Biggs Amphitheatre, before audiences entered the courtroom to watch the climax of the second act. According to a 1935 Maycomb, Alabama law, each performance required 12 white males 18 and older to “serve” as a jury member during Act II, while Scout, Jem and Dill were in the second act. Floor viewing and commentary balcony.

The show has received rave reviews every year, and tickets have become a hot commodity. Bert Hitchcock, professor emeritus of English at Auburn, frequently included Lee’s book on the reading list for his graduate course in Southern literature, and when he traveled to Monroeville a few years ago, he was fascinated by the show. Living.

“It’s as good as anything I’ve seen on stage,” said Hitchcock, a longtime educator whose Auburn legacy lives on through the Hitchcock Graduate Award. “It’s amazing what they’ve been able to preserve there and how this novel has such a lasting impact. The cast is amazing and I salute them.”

Auburn’s Wayne Flint, professor emeritus in the history department and longtime friend of Lee, was delighted to see the book live on the show and be a boon to the town.

“It’s definitely at the heart of Monroeville’s identity,” said Flint, two-time Pulitzer Prize-nominated and author of 15 books. “Their self-identity and self-concept are related to their writers and their brilliant writer Harper Lee.”

Flint’s second book on Lee, titled “Afternoon with Harper Lee,” will be released on September 27 and is available for pre-order on Amazon.com. It chronicles the 12-year friendship Flint shared with Lee and his late wife Datti, and serves as a follow-up to his 2017 book, Robin Song: My Friendship with Harper Lee.

“I’m not interested in summarizing everyone’s fantasies about Harper Lee, I’m interested in having Harper Lee tell you who she is and tell her story in her own words,” Flint said of the upcoming book. “How far a historian can get away from the stories they tell makes the best history. What I try to do is distance myself from the story and let people see through the lens she says they want Any conclusions about her. My job is to make her Harper Lee.”

Flint, who performed Lee’s eulogy after the writer’s death in 2016, said Lee had never seen the play on any stage. However, he regularly brought Auburn’s students to Monroeville to experience it, and still visits the town frequently.

Flint has high praise for the production.

“On Broadway, it’s a show. On Monroeville, it’s an experience,” said Flint, a prominent Southern historian and educator for more than 40 years. “Watching it in this context in Monroeville was transformative, no doubt. You could watch it on Broadway and not have half the experience of watching it in Monroeville with a bunch of amateur actors.”

Flint agrees that the show’s more than three-year run is yet another example of the power of Lee’s legendary novel, which was voted “Best of the Last 125 Years” in a New York Times reader poll last December. books”.

“I love the play, and for me, it maintains the ethical and moral meaning of the book,” said Flint, recipient of numerous teaching and writing awards and former editor of the Alabama Encyclopedia . “The most obvious and most important point is, ‘Don’t judge a guy until you’re walking around in his shoes.'”

Another week this month, and another week next spring, Scout, Jem and Dill will be returning to their old antics in the show’s 32nd year (the 2023 season will run from April 10 to May 20) , while Atticus Finch will serve as the North Star for his children and the moral compass for humanity, he does his best to uphold the laws of Maycomb. Hundreds of people will flock to Monroeville Jr. to see the works and immerse themselves in one of the South’s most famous stories, as Nell Harper Lee’s legacy lives on as one of literary history’s greatest figures.

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