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“To Kill a Mockingbird” arrives in Salt Lake City

SALT LAKE CITY – “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a story most know because of the beloved book and movie. Now the Broadway touring company is coming to the Eccles Theater with the Tony award-winning production.

“When I was little, my father gave me one of these air rifles.”

A defense attorney addresses the jury in a small town Alabama courthouse.

Harper Lee’s iconic American novel now has a new life on stage.

Popular stage and film actor Richard Thomas plays Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Like most of us, the book was required reading for him as a young teenager, but to prepare for the role, he says he decided to read it again.

“Read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ as an adult, and if you’re a parent, even more; it is a wonderful book. It’s not a children’s book, and when you read it as an adult, you realize that,” Thomas said.

When asked why it was important for him, at this point in his career, to play this role, he said: “The revitalization of the social justice movement and the racial justice movement made this play particularly exciting and personally exciting to me. It would always be a good time to take ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ across the country, but now is a particularly good time, I think.

Addressing the jury, Atticus continues the story and explains the reason for the title. His daddy said, “Always remember it was a sin to kill a mockingbird, a sin.”

There are some notable differences between the 1960 book and the 1962 film. In Aaron Sorkin’s play, adult actors fill the roles of the children, as they tell the story, and Calpurnia, the housekeeper, has a more important role. Also, says Thomas, Atticus steps off his pedestal.

“Now the story is as much about Atticus’ loss of innocence as it is about the children’s loss of innocence,” he said. “It allows me to give the audience a flesh and blood person they can relate to and go hand-in-hand with throughout the story.”

And then, Atticus finishes the story.

“He said it was because they were innocent, and I became a lawyer.”

Thomas hopes audiences will first be entertained before being moved by these performances.

“It’s the spoonful of sugar that brings down the medicine,” he laughs. “But I think theater, at its best, is kind of an empathy machine. It is a common experience where we share what it means to be human.

This story, said Richard Thomas, is one we must never forget.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” runs for eight performances at the Eccles Theater in downtown Salt Lake City, starting Tuesday, September 6.

For ticket information, click here.

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion