By Julia Ferrell
Ames247 Staff Writer
Harper Lee wrote a novel 52 years ago that would later win her the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the title “Best Novel of the Century” in a 1999 Library Journal poll. Now, ISU Theatre is paying tribute to Lee in the upcoming production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The play, adapted for the stage by Christopher Sergel, will open in Fisher Theater this weekend.
“I have talked about doing ‘Mockingbird’ for a long time,” said Jane Cox, the show’s director. “It has wonderful characters with a wonderful plot that has so much to say.”
Cox said this theater season seemed like an appropriate year to perform the show, as it is the 50th anniversary of the Oscar-winning film version of “Mockingbird.”
Though she has never seen the film version, Kiah Kayser, sophomore in performing arts, has read the novel three times. Kayser reread the book for the first time since her teenage years shortly after she found out she was cast in the lead role of Scout Finch.
Kayser said it has been a “weird” experience to play the classic character, but she and the rest of the company have been working to “stay true” to the play and script, but also pay tribute to the book.
“This book means so much to so many people. You can’t ignore the fact that it’s not just a play,” Kayser said. “Everybody has these connotations and what they think Scout is to them, what they think Scout is in general. That’s something we’ve really had to balance.”
Along with Kayser, Brent LeBlanc, sophomore in performing arts, and Taylor Sklenar, freshman in English and chemistry, are also portraying the well-know roles of Jem and Atticus Finch, respectively. Although Kayser and Sklenar are familiar with “Mockingbird,” LeBlanc is fairly new to the story. While relying solely on research he has done for his role, LeBlanc said he “didn’t have a model” for playing Jem.
“I go with what the text gives me and I try to build a character true to [Jem's] actions and his words in the text,” LeBlanc said.
Like Kayser and LeBlanc, Sklenar is also working to create a familiar version of his character, Atticus. He said playing the role has been “intense,” but he has created a strategy to get ready for portraying the 50-year-old lawyer.
“It’s a mindset sort of thing,” Sklenar said. “I like to find a place where it’s quiet and just sort of puff out my chest and hold my posture up. You get the physicality and then the mindset follows.”
While the actors are hard at work to perfect their characters, Cox hopes the production will be a successful interpretation of the novel.
“Everybody has expectations of what the characters will be like,” Cox said. “We’ve done our best with what we think they’re like from Harper Lee’s novel.”