Posts Tagged ‘justice’

Last Friday night, the theatre that I belong to opened a new show, To Kill A Mockingbird. This is the reason that I haven’t blogged in a while. Every spare moment I’ve had in the past six weeks, and even those moments that had to be shared instead, have gone into rehearsing for this play. It has been challenging. It has also been fabulous.

For those who are unaware, TKAM began as a novel, written by Harper Lee, a reclusive author who, until recently, was thought to have written only one book. In the past month, the public has discovered that she had actually written one before TKAM that involves the same characters and had been hidden in a vault for the past sixty years. It will be released this summer, much to our cast’s delight. I believe that the information about the new book came to light only a week or two after our auditions had passed, so the news made some of us absolutely giddy. If there’s one thing an actor loves, it’s an audience, so the prospect of renewed interest in the book practically guarantees that people will want to reacquaint themselves with the story. What better way to do it than in our little theatre? (Shameless plug, had to be done.)

TKAM is one of those stories that stays with you forever. I read it for the first time in 5th grade. I didn’t understand all of it then, but what I did get out of it was that judging people for the color of their skin was wrong, a good lesson for a suburban white girl who knew exactly one black person at that time. I read it a few more times on the way to adulthood and each time I got something new out of it. It appalled me that a black man could be convicted of something he didn’t do, even in the face of blatant evidence to the contrary. I wished that I had a father like Atticus Finch, who wasn’t afraid to stand up to a whole town on the basis of being fair and doing the right thing. I was angered by the lies told, the two-faced commentaries of the town folks, and the absolute injustice of it all. I was envious of Scout, and felt her apprehension at having to grow into a young lady. I wanted a big brother like Jem (I was the oldest), a cranky Aunt Rachel to live with me, and a Miss Maudie next door. This book began a short love affair with all things Southern and I began practicing my accent when no one else was around.

Reading that book changed my perspective on so many things. When I was a child, it was common for racial jokes told be told and comments to be made in my mother’s husband’s family. After reading TKAM and other books like it, I realized that those jokes and comments were not only wrong, they were destructive, unfair, and damaging to a entire group of people that I was just learning about. TKAM began to teach me about the sad history of racism and how standing up for the right thing could be difficult, but so worth it. As Atticus states, “They’re certainly entitled to think that, and they’re entitled to full respect for their opinions… but before I can live with other folks I’ve got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”   My own conscience was growing, developing, and every time I heard derogatory comments about other races, it rankled me. It still does.To Kill A Mockingbird began that process.

I hadn’t though about the novel for quite a while, but then the shows for the next year were announced. To Kill a Mockingbird was on the list and I was intrigued, but dismissed it almost immediately. I had never gotten into a straight show (non-musical) before, even after several auditions. My heart just wasn’t in it, even though I knew it would be a great show, but then a theatre friend of mine suggested that I audition.

“It’s a memory play!” he said, “You should audition for the adult Scout.” He told me that he thought I would be wonderful in that role and for the first time. I began to actually consider auditioning for it. I ended up going for it and while I didn’t get that particular part, (which went to someone who is AMAZING, by the way) I was so fortunate to get the role of Miss Maudie, neighbor of the Finches and adult friend to Scout and Jem. I’ve come to know Miss Maudie in a new way; I have to become her, I have to make her mine and I think that I’ve done the best I can. I hope that I can do her justice. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast is absolutely stellar. The kids are fabulous, our Atticus is exactly as he should be, and everyone has become this small community of Maycomb, Alabama. That being said, I wasn’t prepared for the emotions that would come to the surface. Actually watching Tom Robinson being grilled by Mr. Gilmer on the witness stand still makes me feel sick inside, even knowing that the actor playing him is his exact opposite in real life. Waiting for the jury verdict still fills me with dread. Somewhere in my head, my brain is screaming that they HAVE to find him innocent this time, even though I know perfectly well how it will turn out. I tear up at so many parts, even after all this time.

Being a part of this wonderful show makes me realize that it’s a story that still needs to be told. No, we don’t live in 1935 anymore, there are no more Jim Crow laws, but just this morning, an Oklahoma fraternity was effectively closed down for shouting derogatory racial slurs on a YouTube video. Racial injustice is still a problem, a huge problem. There are still people in this world who are raised on hate and prejudice, where a person’s skin color is the determining factor in how they are treated. How do we solve this problem? I don’t know. I don’t even pretend to know. Maybe reading and discussing TKAM should be a part of every middle or high school curriculum. Maybe it won’t change every student or their parents, but it may touch a few who are open to the idea that al people are created equal. Well, not really. As Atticus puts it, “…some ladies bake better cakes than others.”

I’m grateful for so many things, but the one thing that stands out for me at this moment is that I read To Kill A Mockingbird and it changed my life for the better. Peace be with you all.


Read Full Post »