By Gene Davis, DENVER DAILY NEWS
Head over to the Colorado Shakespeare Festival this week and get a jumpstart on this year’s “One Book, One Denver” selection, “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Mayor John Hickenlooper has chosen the beloved Harper Lee novel for his 2009 citywide book club that’s kicking off this fall. Meanwhile, the Colorado Shakespeare Festival (CSF) is putting on the play version of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” giving Denverites the chance to see the words come to life under the stars.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” tells the tale of a courageous lawyer who defends a black man in court against a false charge. The novel/play also focuses on the lawyer’s children and how they come of age in a small southern town in the ’30s.
“The story is anchored in the love of a family in the midst of a small community divided by fear and racism and tells of wonderful childhood friendships and adventures,” said Jane Page, the CSF director of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in her director’s notes. “The story is told from the open-hearted perspective of children who are often the truth-tellers in life. These children almost magically map the cultural context of their community, influencing lives and events without once recognizing that they could be in any sort of danger.”
In CSF’s “To Kill a Mockingbird,” an adult Jean Louise “Scout” Finch narrates the story. As a result, memory plays a key part in the plot.
The contrasting realities of memory — some parts are crystal clear while other memories are forgotten altogether — are reflected in the design elements for “To Kill a Mockingbird,” according to dramaturg Emily K. Harrison. The characters’ costumes are detailed and crisp while the set offers no concrete details.
“In this way, we hope to reflect both the inherent beauty and the unavoidable sorrow of memory,” Harrison said in the production notes.
It’s interesting to look at “To Kill a Mockingbird” through a 21st century lens. As Page pointed out in her notes, the United States has seemingly gone from falsely accusing a black man like Tom Robinson to electing the nation’s first black president. However, the story’s central theme of true courage remains just as relevant today, wrote Page.
“’To Kill a Mockingbird’ not only provides Scout a profound lesson in life, it also extends that lesson to each of us, inviting us to measure how far we have come, and emphasizing how we must continue to be diligent on the road to justice and freedom,” she said.
“To Kill a Mockingbird”
Where: Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre
When: Through Aug. 5
Cost: Adult tickets start at $14
Distributed by Colorado Capitol Reporters