It was a big year for fans of “To Kill a Mockingbird” with Harper Lee publishing the sequel, “Go Set a Watchman” over the summer. Now, New Yorkers are seeing the story played out on stage for a very limited time. Allison Kaden brings us to Queens to meet the actors taking on the classic roles.
“You heard about Tom Robinson, everyone’s heard judge,” an excerpt from a play reads.
It's a name we all know, from the iconic story "To Kill a Mockingbird."
“There’s racism and gun violence,” Shannon Harrington said.
Serious issues 11-year-old Shannon Harrington is being exposed to as she takes on the role of Scout in the Queens Theater production.
“These are things that are still happening today and even though it takes place in the 1930s, it's still relevant today,” she explained.
“We’re still seeing this kind of miscarried justice,” Nafeesa Monroe, who plays Calpurnia, said.
“When I first read the book in middle school, I think my experience of it was not visceral, meaning that, yeah this is an interesting story, this stuff happens but it was very removed, at arm's length,” she explained. “But now it’s very much in front me on TV, in the newspapers, I see Tom Robinson’s every day.”
It's all about provoking change for Ezra Barnes, who plays Atticus Finch.
"A powerful story like this gives people a chance to just pause and reflect," Barnes said. "To just say okay where are we now in relation to when this took place, where would we like to be.”
And these three feel this is the perfect spot to perform it.
“The iconic structures in Flushing-Meadows Corona Park were built for the World Fairs," Taryn Sacramone, managing director of the Queens Theatre, said. "Our building was build as part of the New York State pavilion. People from all walks of life [came here] to have these really unique experiences and it’s something that I actually think about as part of our heritage.”
And they hope it'll also be part of its future.
“To build the next generation of theatergoers, people who love the arts, and build the next generation of arts makers,” Richard Hinojosa, Queens Theater education director, said.
Which is why they offer several educational programs that give kids the chance to write and perform plays as well as see professional shows for free.
"We generally target schools that don’t have very much of an arts program,” Hinijosa said.
“I’m excited about having young people experience this story for the first time,” Monroe said. "I think that’s an unique thing happening here at Queens Theater."
“This play will spark their interest and make them want to know more about what is going on,” Harrington added. "I think they’ll really like it!”
The Queens Theater's production of to "To Kill a Mockingbird" is only playing through November 22nd.