‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ ready to land at Community Theatre League

Less than a few weeks after descending onto Penn State’s University Park campus, the popular “To Kill a Mockingbird” is making a highly anticipated local landing on the Community Theatre League’s stage.

CTL presents “To Kill A Mockingbird” at 7:30 p.m. May 3-4 and 9-11, with a 2 p.m. matinee on May 12 at the downtown theatre, 100 West Third St., Williamsport.

Since Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel was first published in 1960, “Mockingbird” has spawned both popularity and controversy, with the movie version winning Gregory Peck an Academy Award for Best Actor for his portrayal of the folksy lawyer Atticus Finch.

This stage adaptation by Christopher Sergel is set in Maycomb, Alabama, in 1935. The familiar storyline focuses upon Atticus trying to teach tolerance and justice to his two children, while facing a prejudiced community, when assigned to defend a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman.

Perhaps one of the greatest assets of the Community Theatre League’s upcoming production is Marie Fox, returning to the director’s chair, after having directed CTL’s powerful and poignant “The Miracle Worker” last year.

Also returning from “The Miracle Worker” production are local actresses Hannah Bastian and Arielle Roush. Bastian, who played Helen Keller, now portrays Jean Louise, affectionately known as Scout, the precocious daughter of Atticus, who learns valuable lessons from her father. While acting as the play’s narrator, Scout is the epitome of innocence in this story, while still being a bit of a tomboy, who is not afraid to speak her mind when she feels that she has something to say.

Roush, who played Anne Sullivan in “The Miracle Worker,” and was featured in CTL’s recent “Rabbit Hole,” plays Mayella Ewell, the forlorn white woman who lies in her testimony as to a sexual assault by the black Defendant.

“The story’s themes are still dealt with today, which makes the characters very relatable and memorable,” Fox says. “In this particular show, some of the language is tough because of its derogatory nature, but important so that the audience understands how awful some people were treated for so long.”

Heading the cast is Jason Kriner, playing Atticus Finch, constantly trying to instill values of tolerance and respect in his two inquisitive children. Although facing growing hostility from the bigoted Southern townsfolk, Atticus makes an impassioned defense on the trumped up charges. Director Fox thoroughly agrees with the belief that Atticus Finch is is “the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.”

Adam Fox plays Scout’s older brother Jem, with Naveen Ramsaran as the neighborly youngster Dill, a character supposedly based upon Harper Lee’s childhood chum Truman Capote.

With Community Theatre League’s policy of encouraging first timers, this production marks the Main Stage debut of Emily S. Gale, Clay Samuels, John Pfeil, Brian Johnson, Ian Harris and Aubyn Johnson (featured as Hoke in CTL’s Studio Series’ “Driving Miss Daisy”).

Also featured in the cast are: Rebekah Richardson, Sandie Fairman, Tara Deljanovan, Andrew Confair, Brad Heffner, Joseph H. Radley, and Kyle Huggins.

Although some adaptations feature an adult Jean Louise narrating the production, director Fox has chosen to use the youngster Scout to act as narrator, balancing her direct addresses to the audience, with the vivid reenactments of the fateful events which shape her life.

Scout and her brother learn from Atticus that “you can never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view … until you climb inside his skin.”

Fox further asserts that “If we don’t continue to try to break down barriers (injustices, racial or otherwise) we are just as guilty as those who raise those barriers… so we don’t allow history to repeat itself. We need to be presenting even more pieces that illustrate human beings learning to practice tolerance. It is up to us to remind our young people how human beings are supposed to treat one another. Theatre is a great way to do that!”

For more information, visit ctlshows.com.

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