Happy Birthday, Harper Lee!

The Long Goodbye

The Long Goodbye
On this day in 1926, Nelle Harper Lee was born. She was the youngest of four children born to Frances Cunningham Finch and Amasa Coleman Lee. Had she not passed away in February of last year, Ms. Lee would be ninety-one years old today.

I was almost at a loss for words when it came time to write a birthday tribute to “Nelle” Harper Lee. What more could possibly be said about an award winning, nationally treasured author? This task was almost like searching for a gift for the person that has everything.

Very rarely does an author’s debut novel not only almost instantly become successful, but also go on to become a literary classic. Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird accomplished both of those feats. To Kill a Mockingbird was later adapted into a film version starring Gregory Peck, and the novel won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize in the fiction category.

For more than half a century, it was believed by most that To Kill a Mockingbird was and would continue to be the only book that Lee ever wrote or published. However, in 2015, Lee surprised us with her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, which actually turned out to be a prequel to Mockingbird.

Across the globe, To Kill a Mockingbird still has an impact on people’s lives. The classic novel is mentioned or quoted in numerous novels, television shows and movies. Even President Barack Obama quoted Atticus Finch in his farewell speech.

Furthermore, the legacy of Nelle Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird have lived on in Monroeville, even after her death. There are few places you can visit, or even drive past, without a subtle reminder of Mockingbird, or Nelle herself.

And on her birthday, perhaps that is what is best. For us to simply be reminded of her. Divulge yourself in a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird or Go Set a Watchman. Not a big reader? Perhaps you would rather watch the film adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you’re a fan of audio books, maybe you would like to listen to either the audio version of To Kill a Mockingbird (narrated by Sissy Spacek) or Go Set a Watchman (narrated by Reese Witherspoon). If you are able, go see a live theatrical performance of To Kill a Mockingbird. If you are local or happen to be in Monroeville, visit the Old Courthouse or take a drive or stroll through downtown.

While it may be her birthday, we were the ones who were given a gift. We have a legacy to remember her by, and to pass on to the next generation. Nelle Harper Lee was once quoted as saying that all she wanted was “to be the Jane Austen of South Alabama.

As a native of Alabama and Monroeville, and as a fan of both To Kill a Mockingbird and Jane Austen, I think it is safe to say that Ms. Lee succeeded.

So, we at OCBS ask that you remember and celebrate Ms. Lee on her birthday. She may have passed, but she is most certainly not forgotten.

Happy Birthday, Nelle Harper Lee!

Tickets for To Kill a Mockingbird, the play, on sale soon!

Mockingbird Players Amphitheater, To Kill a Mockingbird Play
Monroe County Heritage Museum Sign
Monroe County Heritage Museum

Aside from the book To Kill a Mockingbird, and Harper Lee herself, another thing Monroeville is widely known for is their yearly production of To Kill a Mockingbird. The play is performed by local members of the community, at the old Monroe County Courthouse. Performances begin in April and run through May. The first act of the play is performed outside on the Courthouse lawn; the second act is performed inside the old Monroe County Courthouse, in the court room.

Ticket Information

 

Tickets for the TKAM play will go on sale March 1st (next Tuesday!) All tickets are general admission, with open seating. Ticket price is $50 (plus fees). All performances start at 7:00 pm, with seating beginning at 6:30 pm. The duration of the play is two hours. In the event of bad weather, the full play will take place inside. You can purchase tickets online, however if you have a group larger than fifty people, please call 251-743-3386 to purchase tickets.

There are no refunds given for unused tickets. However, tickets may be returned for a donation to the Mockingbird Company if they are not able to be used. It is asked that no cameras be used or filming of any kind be done during the performance. Also, large handbags are not preferred because seating is often tight. If you are a white male over the age of 18, please be advised that you may be selected for jury duty and will be asked to sit with the jury during the trial scene.

Performance Schedule

Performances will be held on the following dates. Again, all performances will start at 7:00 pm, with seating starting at 6:30 pm.

Friday, April 15
Saturday, April 16
Friday, April 22
Friday, April 29
Saturday, April 30
Friday, May 6
Saturday, May 7
Friday, May 13
Saturday, May 14
Friday, May 20
Saturday, May 21
A special performance of TKAM will be held on Saturday, April 23rd. Ticket prices for the special performance are $75 (plus fees). After this special performance, attendees of  are invited to have drinks and hors d’oeuvres on the lawn, and will have the opportunity to mingle with the TKAM cast and crew.

A History of the Play

The first stage adaption of TKAM was presented in Monroeville, Alabama in November of 1991. Monroe County Heritage Museum Director Kathy McCoy had the idea to present the play as a way to raise money for renovations for the old courthouse. The first performance was only one act and held in the old courtroom.

This first performance was embraced positively, and the next year the play was presented in May. In 1996, the amateur actors who presented the play (now known as the Mockingbird Players) took the performance internationally. They performed the play at the Israel International Cultural Festival in Jerusalem to a sold out audience. In 1998, the Mockingbird players traveled internationally again. This time it was to Kingston Upon Hull, England and they performed at and lead an Alabama Cultural Symposium. The group traveled again in 2000, this time within the states, to present the play in Washington, D.C. They performed the play for Congress, and also sold out crowds at the Kennedy Center. The Mockingbird players returned to Kingston Upon Hull in 2004. In 2005, TKAM was performed at the Museum of Cultural Arts in Chicago, Illinois. The most recent non-local performance was in 2012 at the Hong Kong Asia Center.

Have you seen the play? Will you be attending this year? What are your thoughts? We would love to hear from you!

 

To Kill a Mockingbird Play Saved by Harper Lee

Mockingbird Players Amphitheater, To Kill a Mockingbird Play
To Kill a Mockingbird Play Amphitheatre
Mockingbird Players Amphitheater

There’s more good news for To Kill a Mockingbird fans. In addition to the recent announcement—that the parent book of the classic novel will be published in mid-July—it seems the author herself has begun a non-profit organization to protect the dramatic version of her masterpiece, the To Kill a Mockingbird play.

The popular play has been held in Monroeville, AL for some 26 years. It’s based on Harper Lee’s enormously successful novel, and was recently threatened when the Dramatic Publishing Company made the decision that it would no longer extend performance rights in Monroeville.

How Harper Lee Saved the To Kill a Mockingbird Play

In an effort to save the beloved production, Harper Lee has founded The Mockingbird Company. This 501c3 will assume the responsibilities of production for the To Kill a Mockingbird play, which is traditionally held during the months of April and May at the at the O.L. Biggs Amphitheater on the west lawn of the Monroe County Courthouse. The To Kill a Mockingbird play was written by Christopher Sergel and is based on Lee’s novel. It includes two acts, the first of which takes place on the lawn, and the second, which brings audiences into the courthouse balcony to see the trial they’ve certainly read about as children.

More Good News for the To Kill a Mockingbird Play

The town collectively breathed a sigh of relief on Saturday when the Dramatic Publishing Company also announced that The Mockingbird Players will continue to act in the production. On its Facebook page, Dramatic Publishing noted, “We believe that this is the best way (from the stage) to celebrate Ms. Lee’s masterpiece throughout the greater Monroeville area.”

Excitement about the play has been fanned by the announcement of Harper Lee’s previously written unpublished work Go Set a Watchman, from which To Kill a Mockingbird was eventually created. Those associated with the play give the news of its publication credit for an upswing in ticket sales for the play. Watchman will be released without revision on July 15, 2015.

To Kill A Mockingbird: The Play You Don’t Want to Miss

To Kill a Mockingbird Play Amphitheatre

To Kill a Mockingbird Play Amphitheatre It’s a sleepy little town, yet one that thousands of literary devotees make their ways to annually. One of the biggest reasons for their journeys is this: a stage production of the novel that has, in many ways, put the town of Monroeville, Alabama, on the map.

That play, of course, is To Kill a Mockingbird, created by Christopher Sergel and based on the book by town’s most famous resident, Harper Lee.

Held in April and May, year after year, and heralded worldwide for its theatrical value, the To Kill a Mockingbird play is achieved in two acts.

To Kill a Mockingbird, a Play in Two Acts

Play at Monroeville, AL CourthouseThe first act takes place at the O.L. Biggs Amphitheater on the west lawn of the Monroe County Courthouse. This was once the same working courthouse where a young Harper Lee watched her father, Amasa, practice law. The outside venue allows for a wonderful telling of the first part of Scout Finch’s story, and The Mockingbird Players employ a variety of props that take the audience back to 1930s Maycomb, the setting of the narration. From an antique car to a mule and a mad dog, the attention to detail brings the audience into the fold during Act I.

Act II invites the audience into the courthouse itself. Built in 1903, this building was the inspiration for the courthouse in To Kill a Mockingbird. Inside, the audience is drawn into the famous trial scene in which Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, defends the wrongly accused Tom Robinson from charges of rape. The black Robinson is destined to be judged by a jury of 12 white men, selected from the audience.

The entire production lasts about two and half hours, and audience members are invited to meet and mingle with stars of the production, The Mockingbird Players, after the show is done.

If you’re considering a visit to Monroeville, you may want to plan your trip for April or May and buy your tickets for To Kill a Mockingbird early.  The locals in Monroeville will tell you that tickets go fast, and the play is one of the real highlights of any visit to the town on which Harper Lee’s Maycomb was based.

What’s your favorite theatrical adaptation of a novel? Let us know!