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Monday, July 20, 2009

Good Neighbors

We don't always get to know our neighbors the way we used to in the old days. Since we can find people with common interests on the internet, make party plans on Facebook and e-vite, and even Skype with old friends across the country or even across the ocean, the need for getting to know your neighbors has diminished considerably.
Of course, how well did we ever really know our neighbors anyway?
This is at the heart of Harper Lee's classic American novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Yes, it could be argued that the novel is about racism, hatred, and justice, and that is all true, but for little Jean Louise Finch, nicknamed "Scout," the events surrounding the Tom Robinson trial were more about its impact on her neighborhood.
The Colorado Shakespeare Festival's production of To Kill a Mockingbird brings this idea vividly to life. It is a memory play. The adult Jean Louise (Tammy Menighini) wanders through the old town of her memory, the houses blending together and, at the same time, fading into oblivion. At one end of her street is a beautiful garden before a well-kept fence and a porch to a house that is filled with hatred, racism, and intolerance. At the other end is a sinister and dilapidated monstrosity, holding secrets and ultimately heroism.
The young Scout, played with a beyond-her-years brilliance by twelve-year-old Ellie Schwartz takes us on a journey with which we, as readers of the 1960 book and fans of the 1962 Gregory Peck film, are already quite familiar, but we go anyway, spurred on by her wide-eyed curiosity, her admiration of her brother Jem (Connor Shearrer), and the enthusiasm of newcomer Dill (Alex Rosenthal).
It is through her eyes that we see her father Atticus Finch (Denver favorite Sam Gregory) stand in opposition of his culture and his town to attempt the impossible: the exoneration of an accused black man in the 1930's South. Our hearts fill with Scout's hope, and our hearts break with her disappointment.
At this point, few of us don't know the story (and with Mockingbird as the latest One Book, One Denver selection, you no longer have an excuse not to), so I will not elaborate further on the importance of this story for both our historical and modern perspectives of this country.
I will say that it is presented nimbly by director Jane Page, that you will lose your heart to the adorable Ellie Schwartz, and that you will be moved by Sam Gregory's accomplished performance.
Why not ask a neighbor to join you?
Photo by Glenn Asakawa for CU Communications

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