Thursday, May 07, 2009

Eighth Graders Take in a Play

By Jen Lindsay

On March 19, the eighth grade traveled to Hartford to see a performance of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. After studying the novel in language arts class, and viewing Horton Foote's screenplay, students enjoyed seeing Hartford Stage's Artistic Director Michael Wilson's interpretation of the plot. Set in 1930s Alabama, To Kill a Mockingbird follows the life of children Scout and Jem Finch as their father defends an African-American man who was falsely accused of attacking a white woman.

Harper Lee wrote the novel in 1960. It won numerous awards immediately, including the 1960 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Hartford Stage's performance of To Kill a Mockingbird was part of the National Endowment for the Arts initiative designed to encourage literacy in America. In conjunction with the Hartford Public Library, community members were encouraged to read (or reread!) the novel. We were delighted to see Matthew Modine (Memphis Belle, Gross Anatomy, Vision Quest ) in his stage debut as Atticus Finch as well as many local actors.

Following the performance, the mostly school group audience, enjoyed time to ask questions of the performers. This interesting opportunity allowed students and actors to discuss the themes of the novel, the differences between life in 1930s Alabama and today, and the challenge of discrimination, racism and prejudice.

Students were encouraged to expand their view of the world and to avoid passing judgment on others. In a phrase, they were encouraged to "…climb into his skin and walk around in it." (Lee)
While at the theater, and during a brief lunch stop, several teachers enjoyed comments from passersby about our eighth graders. It was observed that students were courteous, helpful, and appropriate. They truly represented our school and community well. We look forward to sharing more events with this class as we head toward graduation.

If you have not read To Kill a Mockingbird, or if it has been some time, do consider reading it again. You won't regret it!