Producing Director Jim Crabtree directs Christopher Sergel’s acclaimed dramatization of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning story of growing up and the loss of innocence, To Kill a Mockingbird, opening Sept. 6 at Cumberland County Playhouse. Set in rural Alabama in the 1930s, this classic tale is told through the eyes of a young girl, Scout, who learns grownup lessons when her small town is hit by a storm of controversy, as a black man is wrongly accused of an unspeakable crime, and Scout’s father Atticus must defend him. Novelist Lee recalled her own youth to create a rich atmosphere filled with the voices of the South. She once stated, “The novel is a love story pure and simple. My love of the South, a father’s love for his children and the love they give in return.”
Under the guidance of Assistant Director and Choir Director Nicole Bégué Hackmann, the play’s church choir uses spirituals, hymns, and the traditional instruments of the Deep South to underscore the story and bridge transitions. “Music of diverse cultures enriches the communities they share,” Crabtree said. “Music of the time and place reflects the shared — and contrasting — lives of the people of the South, both white and black.”
The cast includes over 50 diverse, multicultural professionals and volunteers, with several lead roles played by young Tennessee actors who are experienced veterans of many shows at the Playhouse, Cookeville Children’s Theater, and other groups. The cast includes Britt Hancock as lawyer Atticus Finch, Jason Ross as accuser Bob Ewell, Michael Ruff as the accused Tom Robinson, Illeana Kirven as housekeeper Calpurnia, Lindy Pendzick and Caitlin Schaub as Ewell’s daughter, Greg Pendzick as the trial prosecutor, and Keith McCoy as Pastor Sykes. Smoke on the Mountain veterans Daniel Black, Austin Price and John Dobbratz bring their musical skills to the choir and the show’s gospel songs.
Three girls share the role of 11-year old Scout: Sammy McKenzie and Emma Rhea Sells of Cookeville, and Emery Smith of Pleasant Hill. Alternating in the role of Dill are Crossville’s Joe and Josh Norris, and Cookeville’s Eli Choate. Cookeville’s Jayden Gabel and Knoxville’s Ransom Pryor play Scout’s older brother Jem.
To Kill a Mockingbird, sponsored by Kenneth and Carol Ann Chadwell/Looney, Looney & Chadwell, PLLC, is rated PG (for limited use of a racist epithet) and will run through November 3.
Currently onstage at the Playhouse are Ring of Fire: The Music of Johnny Cash, rated PG, sponsored by Stonehaus Winery through October 19; The King and I, rated G, sponsored by Holiday Inn Express/Comfort Suites/Hampton Inn through August 30; and Man of La Mancha, rated PG-13, co-sponsored by Cumberland County Bank and Dr. Anthony Wilson, MD through September 27. Tickets and information are also available for Southern Stars Symphonic Brass Band and other events.
All CCP productions are made possible through sponsor support, with additional support provided by the Tennessee Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.