The father is Atticus Finch and the unpleasant business is the defense of a young Black man charged with rape. The time is 1935, the place is Maycomb, Alabama, and the story is To Kill a Mockingbird, one of the most-read books in American history.
The Sugar Creek Players’ production of To Kill a Mockingbird opens April 15 and runs for consecutive weekends. Performances are scheduled for 8 p.m. April 15-16 and April 21-23, and there is a 2 p.m. matinee on April 17. Tickets go on sale Monday, April 11.
“The cast feels honored to bring this classic story to the stage of the Vanity Theater — the first time the play has been performed in Montgomery County,” said the play’s director, Jim Amidon. “While the story deals with unpleasant issues like racism, sexism, and class differences, it also celebrates the integrity of Atticus Finch and the lessons he imparts on his children. The central theme of ‘walking around in another man’s skin’ is as pertinent today as it was when Harper Lee wrote the book 50 years ago.”
The play condenses the book’s two years into a couple of hours, but the powerful themes remain, Amidon said.
“Much like the book, the play is narrated throughout by Jean Louise Finch,” he said. “Our Jean Louise, played by Niki Hutson, returns in memory to her small town home and recalls the people and events that changed her life. And only by recalling these events does she gain a full and real understanding of the motivations of her father. It’s a wonderful script that does justice to the book.”
Some members of the 27-person cast have rehearsed since early February.
Damon Lincourt, who last appeared in Sugar at the Vanity, is a poised and proper Atticus Finch, who with the help of his housemaid Calpurnia (played by newcomer Debbie Reed) raises two precocious and curious children, Scout (played by Sammie Amidon) and Jem (played by Conner Smith). The role of the children’s friend, Dill, is played by Trey Rogers.
The play tells the story of Finch’s defense of Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping Mayella Ewell — though Finch claims Mayella was beaten by her father and that the rape never occurred.
“I feel blessed to have such talented actors in these key roles,” Amidon said. “Two Wabash students, DeVan Taylor and Larry Savoy, will share the role of Tom Robinson. Both are experienced actors and both delivered stirring auditions.”
Taylor will have the role in the first weekend and Savoy will play Tom in the second weekend.
Alli Aldrich appears in her third Vanity production as Mayella, while Stephen Morillo, a history professor and author at Wabash College, makes his Vanity debut as the bigoted Bob Ewell.
“This is a tough play,” Amidon said. “Its themes, its language, the treatment of African Americans and women — these are difficult issues. But in spite of these crucial themes, it is Atticus Finch’s goodness, the innocence of Scout, the power of one man standing up for what is right — those are the lessons that have made this one of the most-loved stories of all-time.”
Local attorney Stu Weliver, who appeared in the first Sugar Creek Players production at the Vanity Theater years ago, makes his return as Judge Taylor. SCP newcomer Matt Mayberry plays the rough-edged, but sensitive sheriff, Heck Tate. And Art Lang makes a return to the stage as the prosecuting attorney, Mr. Gilmer.
Heather Olin delivers some of the most meaningful speeches in the play in the role of Miss Maudie, while her gossipy neighbor, Stephanie Crawford, is played by Jill Rogers. Sue Rubner makes a fine Vanity debut as the angry, sickly Mrs. Dubose.
Other cast members include Barbara Walden and Sharyn Adams as Maycomb citizens; Rick James as the court clerk; Alex Livengood as Nathan Radley; Clayton Mikesell as Boo Radley; Jerry Bowie as Reverend Sykes; Rebekah Kirts as Helen Robinson; Bill Hepburn as Walter Cunningham; Mahlon Nevitt as Link Deas; Matt Clark as the angry boy; and Reggie Steele as a citizen of Maycomb.
Hoosier Heartland State Bank is the play’s sponsor. Tickets are $10 for adults and $6 for children 12 and under. Tickets can be reserved by phone at 765-362-7077, or purchased at the box office Monday-Friday, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and one hour before curtain each night.
The production has also garnered grants from the Montgomery County Community Foundation, Republican Women of Montgomery County, Delta Theta Tau, and the Women’s Auxiliary of the American Legion. The grants will be used to purchase tickets for students and teachers studying or discussing the book as part of classroom activities. Teachers interested in bringing students to the play — or offering extra credit to those who do — should contact Amidon at 361-6364.
A “talk back” session with selected members of the cast and production team will be held following the performance on Sunday, April 17. Audience members are welcome to converse with cast members and ask questions about the play.