Few books have had as significant of a cultural impact as Pulitzer Prize winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird. Through the warmth and humor of a child’s perspective, author Harper Lee regaled readers with a stunning, timeless story about racial inequality and integrity in the Deep South. This month, Grand Rapids theatre goers have the opportunity to experience this American masterpiece on stage for the first time at Circle Theatre.
Adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel and directed by longtime Grand Rapids theater director Penelope Notter, the production is rated PG-13 for thematic material, some language and mild references to rape.
Ashley Isenhoff makes her Circle Theatre debut as Scout Finch. The young actress is armed with a lengthy resume and an understanding of how impactful the material is. She described observing the reactions of her younger siblings as a reference for shaping Scout’s response to the tumultuous events occurring around her.
Stage veteran and lakeshore actor Joe Carmolli plays Atticus Finch, Scout’s father and the centermost figure in the conflict that splits the town of Maycomb, Alabama and calls everyone’s morals into questions as the attorney defending the falsely accused African American farmer Tom Robinson.
Carmolli describes the thrill and challenge of playing one of the most beloved literary characters of our time.
“As a father and someone interested in social justice, I was able to draw on those parts of myself [for Atticus],” he described.
This marks Carmolli’s first production with Circle Theatre. He anticipates the climax in the courtroom will be made all the more striking by the theater’s intimate setting, which allows for the audience to be almost physically immersed in the scene, right alongside the actors themselves as the main players in the conflict take the stand to testify.
“It’s wonderful this way,” he said, gesturing to the arena-style seating that places audiences member around the actors. “I prefer it—it’s a very exciting way to perform.”
The production will run from August 10-12, 16-19 and 23-26 at 7:30 p.m., with a 5 p.m. showing on August 20. On August 11, the Lobby Bar at Circle Theatre opens 30 minutes before showtime and will offer a selection of Michigan craft beer and wine. On August 18, audience members are invited to participate in a post-show talkback with community leaders to explore the themes of To Kill a Mockingbird.