All-School Trip to Experience “To Kill A Mockingbird”

On the evening of April 7, Roxbury Latin’s students, faculty, and staff had the rare opportunity to attend—as an entire school—a professional theater production at Boston’s Citizens Bank Opera House. Broadway’s acclaimed touring production of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird brought to life, for the school community and fellow theater-goers, the long-time staple of RL’s English curriculum.

Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of the novel—combined with exceptional acting and stage design—told the story of summer 1934, in the life of Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and friend, Dill; of Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch defending the falsely accused Tom Robinson; of Calpurnia; of Arthur “Boo” Radley; and of a town—and a nation—plagued by racism. In Sorkin’s adaptation, the call of “All rise” was not simply a charge issued by Judge Taylor during the dramatic courtroom scenes, but also a call to action for audience members, to rise up in the face of injustice.

Before boarding buses to travel from Roxbury Latin into Boston’s Theater District, students enjoyed dinner and a pre-show presentation by Mr. Cervas, English Department Chair, and Mr. Nelson, Director of Dramatics.

First, Mr. Cervas reminded students and adults about Harper Lee’s iconic novel—the context in which it was written; the success of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book in the United States and abroad; its various storylines, characters, and themes; and finally critiques of the novel, especially of Lee’s thinly-drawn representations of Black characters in the book, namely Tom Robinson and his family. Mr. Cervas urged students to pay attention to the character arc of Atticus and how he was portrayed, and to the roles of the various townspeople in the narrative.

Afterward, Mr. Nelson spoke about the film and stage adaptations of the story—specifically, of what’s involved in condensing a 300+ page book into a performance-based work of art. He shared details about the acclaimed 1962 film, adapted by Horton Foote, which won three Oscars and is considered one of the best American films ever made. Dr. Nelson mentioned, as well, some of the challenges that Aaron Sorkin faced in adapting this well-known and powerful 60-year-old story for the theater, in the year 2022.

Finally, Headmaster Brennan—who put into action this all-school trip to take in the traveling Broadway production—reminded students to be aware of the ways in which art can communicate important messages; how different modes of storytelling can reach audiences in different and important ways.

Thank you to the many Roxbury Latin adults who made this adventure possible, especially Mrs. Driscoll and Mr. Reid. And thank you to the remarkable cast and crew of this national touring production. Boston audiences—and RL boys!—are among the first to experience this important and critically-acclaimed play outside of New York City, as it begins a tour of cities across the U.S.