8th Grade to See Broadway’s Take on ‘TKAM’

Actor Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch and Gbenga Akinnagbe as Tom Robinson in the famous trial scene of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Photo from shubert theater

Actor Jeff Daniels as Atticus Finch and Gbenga Akinnagbe as Tom Robinson in the famous trial scene of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Lucia Wang, Staff Writer

On June 5, eighth graders at Bedford will take their annual field trip to New York City. There, they will watch “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the 2018 Broadway play at the Shubert Theatre.
Earlier in the year, students read the 1960 novel of the same name, which was written by Harper Lee and had won the Pulitzer Prize in 1961.

The story takes place in the mid-1930s during the Great Depression in fictional Maycomb County, Mississippi. It is narrated by an older Jean Louise “Scout” Finch looking back on her childhood with her father, Atticus, and his battle in court to defend an African American man falsely accused for raping a white woman. Meanwhile, she, her older brother Jem, and their best friend Dill, wrestle with their curiosity for their mysterious neighbor Boo Radley.

Themes of racial injustice, the loss of innocence with age, the goodness and evil that co-exists within people, and the ability to look through multiple perspectives are prominent. Scout’s naive and childish point of view is a particularly significant element of the book.

However, the play will showcase the classic story in a new light, all in an attempt to modernize it and successfully adapt it to the modern format. It will take place primarily in the courthouse, starting the story there and returning to it throughout. This is in contrast to the novel, which spends the entire first half devoid of the trial and introduces the important setting and characters to the reader.

The book has been adapted to other modes before, most notably the award-winning film that came out in 1962; however, it was still from the point of view of an older Scout looking back on the events, and any revisions to match it to the time were unnecessary. An earlier play was produced in 1990.

This time, though, Scout, Jem, and Dill will be played by adult actors. According to the review by the “New York Times,” these characters narrate together in between scenes of the trial.

The review also notes that due to the stage format, the audience sees Atticus in their own eyes, rather than Scout’s, which gives the writer, Aaron Sorkin, the ability to change or add certain aspects.

For instance, Calpurnia, the Finches’ African American maid, and Tom Robinson, the man on trial, have expanded roles. Along with clarifying that Bob Ewell is an anti-Semite as well as extremely racist, these insertions were clearly made to update the old story for our current politics and society, while also modifying the perspective the audience receives.

Mrs. Sara Camarro, the language arts teacher in the eighth grade green pod, said, “I can’t wait to see it, and I think my students are too. I honestly don’t know what to expect, but I am excited.
“To me this story is about empathy and growing up, and in my experience eighth graders love reading it. I think the book is beautifully crafted — I’ve read it hundreds of times, and every time I notice something I hadn’t noticed before. I am hoping [the 2018 play] will give students a different perspective,” said Camarro.

Students reflect this attitude, especially after reading the novel in January.

Ella Grace Worraker, an eighth grader in the purple pod, said that she’s “really excited.” She added, though, “I don’t want it to ruin the story.”

Colin Morgenson, who is in the red pod, also said, “I’m very excited. I think it’ll be very enlightening to watch the classic story in play form.”

Overall, the play will certainly have its differences with the original, but this is all done to update the story to our current times However the adaptation, the important themes “To Kill a Mockingbird “carries will surely be retained.