For many of us, To Kill a Mockingbird is little more than required reading in English class, but its themes of tolerance and empathy are the same today as when the book was first published in 1960 important, even more important. .
The Broadway tour “Mockingbird” is coming to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center from August 9-14. The adaptation is written by Oscar-winning author Aaron Sorkin, author of The Social Network, A Few Good Men, Becoming Ricardo, and featuring Harper · Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece as the basis.
Emmy winner Richard Thomas plays Atticus Finch on national tour. It was directed by Tony Award-winning Bartlett Shell and starred Mary Badham, who played the Boy Scouts in the 1962 film version, which became an instant classic.
The story follows the family of widowed attorney Atticus Finch and his two children, 6-year-old Scott and her brother Jem, who served as public defender for Tom Robinson, who was accused of rape White woman Mayella Ewell. Although the charges were false, Robinson was found guilty and was shot while trying to escape. Told from Scout’s perspective and set in Depression-era Alabama, this is both a poignant coming-of-age novel and an important social commentary on racial injustice in America.
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Yaegel T. Welch plays Tom Robinson and says the new adaptation is more timely than ever.
“I haven’t seen an audience that doesn’t acknowledge other people’s injustices, I think it’s because of the way Sorkin’s acted – he gave black characters more voice and more agency, so we got more of them view,” said Welch.
“It’s not a movie, it’s not a book, it’s something that can stand on its own. A lot of games revolve around the trial of Tom Robinson because there are so many Tom Robinsons in the modern world: we see them in the news feed ;Whether it’s Breonna Taylor, Jayland Walker, or George Floyd, it still resonates, which is sad because we’re still experiencing it, and as a community, it provides insight and awareness. I don’t think anyone in America wants to continue Seeing these things happen – mainly because the video exposes the injustices of our legal system.”
He also noted that pre-pandemic audiences reacted differently to events on the show than they do now. Previously, theatergoers got nostalgic about the show by reading To Kill a Mockingbird or watching the movie, and loved the Finch family characters. After the pandemic, viewers reacted markedly differently.
“When we opened in October, the audience was calling and responding, and that was because it was clear that this kind of thing was still happening — the system is different for people of color and audiences, which is usually most are white and are calling for a response to social injustice,” Welch said.
“They were outspoken about what happened to the black characters on the show – everyone had a very clear view that this ‘legal anomaly’ shouldn’t be legal, the way things are going on in the real world.” , Tom couldn’t have done that, and people responded – like asking ‘how did this fish kill this bird in the top of a tree?'”
Welch also brings a fresh perspective to the role. Like many, he read the book at school, was drawn to the mysterious character of Boo Radley, and was later drawn to Brock Peters’ portrayal of Robinson in the film. But he wanted to bring Tom Robinson to life with a modern feel.
“I grew up in a world with videophones, and we’ve seen these injustices happen – I think my biggest challenge with Tom Robinson is to play him realistically and get people to see him and empathize with one another – just Because it didn’t happen to you, can you sympathize with us, understand that this is wrong, and fight on our side?” Welch said.
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“I think we’re going to be better in the future – if you look at this and imagine these things happening in real life, maybe you’re going to have a lot to say about women’s rights, immigrant rights, transgender rights, religious rights – everyone. Have a higher level of empathy. . . Even if this didn’t happen to me and it wasn’t my battle, we were all connected. I feel like my role as Tom Robinson gives people a chance to learn a lesson.”
if you go
“To Kill a Mockingbird”
when: August 9-14
Where: Jackson Hall at TPAC, 505 Deaderick St.
Tickets: $36 and up
information: TPAC.org; 615-782-4040