Directed by Hope College retiree and HSRT Founding Artistic Director John Tammi, the stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic American novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” comes to HSRT for the very first time. This production couldn’t be more timely, with the release of the novel’s sequel, “Go Set a Watchman,” set for July 14.
Refresh your memory of Atticus’ search for justice, and the lasting impact it has on his daughter, Scout, before reading the sequel. Performances of “Mockingbird” run June 26, 27, July 1, 8, 9, 16, 18, 22, 28, and August 8 at 8:00 p.m. in the DeWitt Main Theatre. There will also be a 1:30 p.m. matinee on July 18.
It is 1935, and racial tensions are high in Maycomb, Alabama. Nonetheless, young Jean Louise Finch--or Scout, as she is fondly called--manages to live a rather carefree, privileged existence, insulated from issues of race. But all that changes when Scout watches her father, Atticus Finch, defend an innocent man. Scout learns what it means to be an instrument of hope and that growing up often means doing what is right, even when it comes at a great cost.
Lighting Designer Stephen Sakowski wants to capture Jean Louise’s story using “a sense of memory, almost like old sepia-toned photographs…. It will be important, when we travel from memory to memory, to focus down to Jean Louise and then back out to the story smoothly and fluidly. The audience should feel that they are watching the story unfold right alongside Jean Louise as she recalls [those memories].”
Stage Manager Carolyn Fast believes that part of what makes “Mockingbird” so special is that it “really resonates with people of all ages…. There are so many moments in the play that relate directly to what is happening in our country today and it's sobering to realize how we're still struggling with the same issues 80 years [after the novel is set].”
Director Tammi says, “The themes of courage and compassion, racism and tolerance, institutionalized justice, and moral responsibility throughout the story urge us to think about the kind of society we want to inhabit. It pricks our national conscience.”
Tammi has been involved in theatre at Hope College since the department was founded in 1968. In addition to directing more than 100 productions for Hope College and Hope Summer Repertory Theatre, he has worked with the Colonnades Theatre in New York City, served as dramaturg for the New Harmony Project, coached dialects for two feature films, and served as chair of Region III for the Kennedy Center/American College Theatre Festival. He is also the founding producer and director for Brilliance Corporation, a leading audiobook publisher (now part of Amazon).
Portraying Atticus Finch is award-winning, Atlanta-based actor Mark Kincaid (AEA), who was last seen on our stage in “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Oliver!” in 2006. Kincaid is no stranger to “Mockingbird,” having played Atticus before at the Georgia Ensemble Theatre nine years ago. An accomplished actor, Kincaid has worked with many theatres in and around Atlanta, was a company member at the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival for eight seasons, and has toured the nation twice with The Acting Company.
Kincaid was more than willing to play Atticus a second time. He says, “I'm older, I'm the father of a teenage daughter, and I've played roles that have expanded my range. Hopefully my work has deepened. But it's been my experience that, even if you've played a role before, it’s always something new, something fresh, something exciting.”
Playing the role of Scout is Ava Britt, a student at Black River Public School in Holland. Portraying her brother, Jem, is Adam Chamness, whom you may recognize as Kurt von Trapp from last year’s hit production of “The Sound of Music.” Their friend Dill is played by Jack Burkholder, a student at Harbor Lights Middle School in Holland.
For Stage Manager Fast, working with kids that carry such a large part of the show has been a unique experience. “It's been great watching them grow as actors and as members of the cast over the past 3 weeks. They bring an energy and excitement to the room that doesn't always exist with an all-adult cast. There's something quite special about seeing a young actor bring a character to life onstage with such sincerity.”
The supporting cast consists of Sierra White (AEA) as Calpurnia, Chip DuFord (AEA) as Bob Ewell, Ashlee Elizabeth Bashore as Jean Louise, Mychael Thompson as Tom Robinson, Callee Miles as Mayella Ewell, Liam Snead as Boo Radley, Trequon Tate as Reverend Sykes, Brandon Campbell as Heck Tate, John Ozinga as Judge Taylor, Shannon Huneryager as Mrs. Dubose, and Kristopher Kuss as Mr. Gilmer.
Additional ensemble members include Kira Alsum, Kenny Cole, Raina Houston, Danielle Lee James, Mollie Murk, Simeon Rawls, and Paul Williams.
Kincaid continues, “The people of Georgia and Alabama hold this story dear. They think it's their story. But I've discovered that people all over the United States and the world have a special place in their hearts for this remarkable book. I'm humbled by it and am working very hard to do it justice.”
Tammi adds, “Don’t set aside your memories and long-held impressions of the full novel while seeing our condensed version. We hope our production will trigger your personal attachment to Harper Lee’s story: recollections of your first time hearing it read, reading it as a young person, re-reading it as an adult, or seeing the film for the umpteenth time. Live theatre is very much communal storytelling.”
The production team for “To Kill a Mockingbird” includes Kristin Ellert as the scenic designer, Stephen Sakowski as the lighting designer, Jodi Ozimek as the costume designer, Jeffrey Levin as the sound designer, Carolyn Fast as the Stage Manager, Richard Perez as the Managing Director, and Rachael Hasse as the Production Manager.
Individual tickets are now on sale at the college’s downtown ticket office, located in the Anderson-Werkman Building at 100 E. 8th St., which is open Monday - Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tickets are also available at the DeWitt Ticket Office (141 E. 12th St.), which is open Monday - Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays from noon through intermission. Adult tickets are $30 for Mezzanine or Balcony and $25 for Orchestra seating. Senior, faculty, and staff tickets are $28 for Mezzanine or Balcony and $22 for Orchestra seating. Student tickets are $15 for all seating. Patrons can also purchase individual tickets online by visiting hope.edu/hsrt or calling (616) 395-7890.
Ticket options also include the Season Ticket Package, which saves patrons up to 30% off individual ticket prices and guarantees a terrific seat for every performance. Season Ticket Packages are available at both ticket locations. The Best Buy Package offers seating for four main-stage performances for only $75 for adults, $70 for seniors, and $40 for students. The Super-Saver Package includes seating limited to the orchestra and admission to the four main-stage productions for $60 for both adults and seniors, and $40 for students.
If you want to stay connected this summer, make sure to sign up for the HSRT E-Newsletter on our website. Subscribers will receive behind-the-scenes videos, interviews, photos, articles and insights about this season’s productions. Make sure to set a reminder in your calendar to join us for our Bookfair at the Holland Barnes & Noble July 10 - 19. We will have live performances and readings with our actors. More updates to come.
More information is available online at hope.edu/hsrt and facebook.com/hopesummertheatre.