By Shawna Linck, Poteet Theatre Director of Education
Poteet Theatre, located in St. Luke’s United Methodist Church at 222 NW 15th Street in Oklahoma City, is proud to present Christopher Sergel’s adaptation of the compelling drama, To Kill A Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. Lee’s novel was an instant success when it was first published in 1960. Set in Alabama during the Great Depression, we follow the journey of Jem and Scout as their father Atticus Finch attempts to defend Tom Robinson, a black man framed for a crime he didn’t commit. The lessons that Jem and Scout discover as they watch their community struggle with issues of racism and moral responsibility are timeless, and equally important to members of our communities today.
Poteet’s production of “To Kill A Mockingbird” is directed by Michael Payne, drama teacher at Classen School of Advanced Studies. Prior to his arrival in Oklahoma City, Michael worked professionally at the Dallas Theatre Center, where he was in charge of Education, and also served as Marketing Coordinator for the Dallas Symphony Orchestra.
This is Michael’s third time to direct “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and each time has been a different adaptation of this classic story. He feels Sergel’s adaptation is the most authentic, as the story presented is closest to the book. This version also differs sharply from the other two versions he has directed in that the story is not told from Scout’s point of view, but rather from the neighbors’ viewpoints, which allows the audience to fully realize the complete story.
Payne loves the story he has so carefully crafted on the Poteet Stage, having a high respect for playwrights and novelists. He feels that in every production “the playwright is the most important person in the room,” and thus, he goes directly to the text to create every element of his production as faithfully as possible. His representational set fluidly represents the two worlds embraced by the story. Both the southern gothic neighborhood and the courtroom are easily visualized without jarring the audience or distracting from the story by bringing in walls or requiring massive set changes.
This is Payne’s first time to direct at Poteet, and he has been thrilled with his experience. He describes Poteet as “ a professional family all coming together to put up a show.” He notes that the staff and crew at Poteet remind him of Stanislavski’s close knit family, who all knew what they were doing and would work together to create a work of art. He also feels he has a great cast for this truly ensemble piece, who all “know where we are, and work together to tell the story and strengthen it.”
Heading up the talented cast is Patrick Meirick as Atticus Finch, a fictional lawyer whose impact on the legal profession has been formidable. Alice Petry remarked that “Atticus has become something of a folk hero in legal circles and is treated almost as if he were an actual person.” Meirick is new to the Poteet Stage, in fact, he has not been active in theatre for 20 years. His 13 year old son recently became involved in community theatre and Patrick decided to audition with him for the Poteet production. Imagine their surprise when only the father was cast. His son has been very supportive and proud of his father’s work in this production.
Meirick has thrown himself heart and soul into his role. “Atticus is who I’d like to think I am,” Meirick humbly shares. “He is a bottomless well of integrity: brave, kind, modest. He’s everything I aspire to be.” Meirick’s biggest challenge? Getting a handle on Atticus’s famous monologue at the end of courtroom scene. “Atticus talks so much about the strict code of our society, condemning Mayella for flirting with a black man. It’s a code he doesn’t necessarily believe in. I had to figure out how to appeal to the jury’s belief in the code, while maintaining Atticus’s own integrity.”
Other notable performers include Nolia Sweatt as “Scout”, who appeared as the lovable red-headed orphan herself in Poteet’s production of Annie last fall, and Brian Scott, who made his Poteet Debut in The Color Purple, and performed in Poteet’s OCTAFEST contest piece, A Lesson from Aloes.
You won’t want to miss Poteet’s production of To Kill a Mockingbird which opens this Friday, September 14, and runs through Sunday, September 30. Performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturdays are held at 8 pm. Sunday matinees are at 3 pm. Tickets are available online at www.poteettheatre.com or by calling the box office at (405) 609-1023. Tickets are $20 and all seats are reserved.