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On Stage: 'Mockingbird' sings in its Insight Theatre presentation

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon, Sept. 24, 2012 - The Gist: Back when Harper Lee wrote her iconic book, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” she had no way of knowing that much of her 1935 context would be status quo today: Racial slurs shouted in the streets. Justice for some, not all. Bartering for services in hard times.

With the help of its enduring themes, Insight Theatre keeps the story fresh in its presentation of "Mockingbird," adapted to the stage by Christopher Sergel. A cast marked by the gravitas of Bruce Longworth (Atticus Finch), Joneal Joplin (Judge Taylor) and Donna Weinsting (Mrs. Dubose), and the fresh talent of bright young actors Lilly Orchard, Braden Phillips and Charlie Southern as Scout, Jem and Dill, also infuses new energy into the production.

You know the story: White, small-town-Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch defends, against all odds, a black man accused of raping a white woman, while his kids, Scout and Jem, watch wide-eyed, while also wondering about that mysterious Boo Radley who won’t leave his home. You probably even know the outcome. But you don’t know what you’re missing if you don’t check out Insight’s staging. The production runs through Sept. 30.

A Sample: In one of his many “Do the right thing” lines, Atticus Finch tells his children why he wages a severely uphill battle: “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see through it no matter what.”

Social Justice FYI: Many may appreciate, as I did, the disclaimer in the student study guide warning of the offensiveness of some language -- specifically the use of the "n" word, noting that its inclusion is needed to portray the speech of the day. I'd like to see something similar in every local playbill, when appropriate.

Nancy is a veteran journalist whose career spans television, radio, print and online media. Her passions include the arts and social justice, and she particularly delights in the stories of people living and working in that intersection.