Monroeville’s To Kill a Mockingbird production has
become one of the South’s hottest theater tickets
Monroeville’s Mockingbird Players have a distinct edge in performing the dramatization of To Kill a Mockingbird. Monroeville, Ala. is the birthplace of Harper Lee and is generally regarded as the model for the novel’s fictitious setting of Maycomb. Hollywood filmmakers carefully recreated the Monroeville courtroom for the 1962 movie, but the Mockingbird Players regularly perform in the real thing.
The Mockingbird Players, an amateur theater group, have performed the play to sold-out crowds at the Old Courthouse Museum since 1991. The players are all volunteers — even the mockingbirds that appear on cue in trees outside the courthouse during Act I volunteer their vocal abilities. The first Monroeville production was in the courtroom of the Old Courthouse in November of 1991. A standing room only crowd braved freezing weather for the premier performance, and, even in the unheated courtroom, they loved the show.
The next year, the production was moved to May. Soon, the production grew to two acts, with the first act on the back lawn of the courthouse. The sets include the homes of Atticus Finch, Miss Maudie and Miss Dubose, and Boo Radley.
The role of Atticus Finch was first played by T.M. McMillan, Jr., a Presbyterian minister, who was fond of quoting Gregory Peck about the role: “Atticus Finch was the kind of man I wish I was.” In 1996, he turned over the role to attorney Everette Price, Jr. and others who followed. Tom Robinson, the wrongly accused black man, was played by Monroe County Commissioner Charlie McCorvey, Jr. for many years.
In 1994, old spirituals sung by the Monroe County Interdenominational Mass Choir were added to the performances. The choir has been a popular addition to the play at home and internationally.
The Mockingbird Players gained international attention in 1996 when they were invited to perform at the Jerusalem, Israel International Cultural Festival. The production was well received, performances were sold out and covered by Israeli television and CNN International.
In September of 1998, the Mockingbird Players traveled to Kingston-upon-Hull, England, to perform at Hull Truck Theatre and conduct an Alabama Cultural Symposium. In addition to performances of the play, the cast and crew offered seminars on Alabama agriculture, music, cooking and a special session for teachers on teaching To Kill a Mockingbird. Again, the group had an international success with sold-out performances each night.
In 2000, the Mockingbird Players took their production to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. where they did a special sold-out performance for members of the U.S. Congress and other dignitaries. The five-night Kennedy Center run was a huge hit with this national audience.
In 2004, they made a return trip to Kingston-Upon-Hull, again playing to sold-out houses. In 2005, they traveled to Chicago for five performances at the Museum of Contemporary Art. In 2012, the Players traveled to Hong Kong for a performance and cultural exchange in China.