Harper Lee’s timeless novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” will receive a makeover next Saturday in Albert Taylor Hall with the unveiling of Christopher Sergel’s adapted play of the same name. Featuring the Montana Repertory Theater, “To Kill a Mockingbird” presents the same story from the novel, but with some modifications.
“Instead of having Scout be the narrator, Atticus’ neighbor Maudie Atkinson, who will be played by Kathleen Conry, is narrating the story,” said Katie Hanson, Company Manager for the Montana Repertory Theater.
Despite the changes, Hanson believes audience members will relate to the familiar story which follows the growth of Scout (played by Marie Fahleren) a spunky girl living in poverty during the Great Depression. She’s also the daughter of Atticus Finch (played by Mikel MacDonald), a local attorney whose services are retained to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman.
“It’s a beautiful story with a beautiful message, and the play really gives justice to that,” Hanson said. “It’s a great story to learn from and it teaches a lesson that is still relevant to learn from today.”
Several other elements of the original story have been changed in the play’s modern adaptation. Specifically, the three roles for children have been filled by adults and that two of the male students played by women.
“These are the roles filled by our student performers,” Hanson said. “We are an in-residence theater company, which means we’re based at a university. We’re actually out of the University of Montana, and so we include the university a lot. We offer up quite a few positions to students so that they have the opportunity to go on the road with us. A couple members of our crew are actually students, as are a few of our actors. It’s a great opportunity for everyone involved.”
The effort to bring “To Kill a Mockingbird” to Emporia began over a year ago, according to Melissa Windsor, Executive Director of the Emporia Arts Council, which is sponsoring the presentation.
“We went to the Midwest Arts Conference and found out they were touring in our area, so we booked the group to come to our area,” she said.
Windsor also said that the time of the presentation made “To Kill a Mockingbird” an appealing selection.
“There certainly were a lot of reasons why this play was appealing, and we felt that it would be really well-received in our community because it would take place during Black History Month,” she said.
To compliment the production, the Emporia Arts Council has decided to adopt an approach with an educational outreach, networking with several local high schools in Olpie and Topeka to allow their students to view the show.
“We know we have a wonderful mission and product to provide to the community,” Windsor said.
For Hanson, the Montana Repertory Theater felt a strong connection to the material and spirit of the play from the beginning.
“We strive to bring change,” she said. “We are all firm believers in equality and we recognize that there is a lot of room for improvement.”
The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in Albert Taylor Hall and tickets are $28 for adults and $12 for children. Tickets can be purchased from the Granada coffee shop or the Emporia Arts Council. ESU students can be admitted to the performance for free. However, there are no more student tickets available through the ticket office on campus.
“Come to the performance anyway,” Windor said. “You’ll still get in for free, as long as seats are available.”