Racism and loss of innocence take the stage with “To Kill a Mockingbird”

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“To Kill a Mockingbird” by Harper Lee was a book that shook the United States. It was a wakeup call to the American people that racism is an issue that plagues all people, children included. The book follows the story of a six-year old girl named Scout Finch living in Maycomb, Alabama in 1933.

Scout’s father, Atticus, is a lawyer and is assigned to defend a black man by the name of Tom Robinson. He’s been accused of rape and Atticus decides to take the case.

The play that Bethel will be putting on next weekend is based off this book. The surrounding middle schools have “To Kill a Mockingbird” on their reading list for this semester, and the theatre department thought it appropriate to put on the play. “To Kill a Mockingbird,” both the book as well as the play, covers a lot of themes and topics. Deb Swerman, who is directing the production, comments, “This story deals with prejudice, prejudice of all kinds. Not just black and white.” The story challenges it readers or viewers to see the prejudice, not only against a race, but against being different. The story also shows the loss of innocence, as the children in the story are exposed to the hatred around them. It shows that our hatred and our attitudes do not only affect us, but everyone around us, especially those who we have something against. The stage adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” written by Christopher Sergel, does an incredible job at showing the intense tension and issues that came up in this era. As theatre department chair Don Hunter puts it, “The racism will be put right out in front of the audience’s face, and they’re going to have to deal with that.” “A town may look pretty and the people in it may seem like nice Christian folk, but sometimes under all the nice is a lot of decay,” said Swerman of the lessons an audience can take from the play. “Decay of the soul… People should stand up for what believe. One person can make a huge difference.” When faced with a very powerful and intense message, students will walk away in a variety of different ways. Both Swerman and Hunter hope that students will walk away understanding that you have to look at the other person’s perspective. You have to begin to see that your view may not necessarily be the right one. “To Kill a Mockingbird” is not the only piece of literature that has changed the thinking of the major populace. Books and plays alike have been a very common mode to expose the prejudices, injustices and hatred toward many different kinds of people. Shakespeare highly influenced the world around him through his plays and his writings. And this effectiveness of drama still continues today, with plays like Lin Manuel Miranda’s “Hamilton,” Tony Kushner’s “Angels in America” and August Wilson’s “Fences,” to name just a few, changing and influencing the people around them. The department hopes that “To Kill a Mockingbird” will influence the Bethel students as well as anyone who comes to see it. Racism will be thrown at you, as well as many other issues and topics as well.
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