‘Mockingbird’: On stage at SHS

November 2014 Posted in Arts, Culture & History, School
Actors portray Scout, Jem and Dill in the Silver Mask Thespian production of To Kill a Mockingbird at Silverton High. Photo by Brenna Wiegand.

Actors portray Scout, Jem and Dill in the Silver Mask Thespian production of To Kill a Mockingbird at Silverton High. Photo by Brenna Wiegand.

By Brenna Wiegand

Tickets are on sale for Silverton High School’s latest theater production, To Kill a Mockingbird based on the Pulitzer Prize winning book by Harper Lee.

“We’ve never done this show and I think it’s one of the greatest pieces of literature ever written,” theater teacher Doug Ousterhout said. “It was just a matter of time before I had the right group and it was the right time.”

The story depicts racial prejudice and abuse in the 1930s Deep South. It centers around the trial of a black farmhand accused of rape and the persecution the family of white lawyer Atticus Finch undergoes during his defence.

In the lead role as Atticus’ 8-year-old daughter Scout is sophomore Jeslyn Pool.

“Jeslyn just has a natural energy that’s very contagious and I liked her presence and her natural youthfulness,” Ousterhout said. “She draws inspiration from a lot of little siblings.’ ”

“Scout is very innocent; almost oblivious to a lot of what’s going on,” Pool said. “She’s just tired of her brother bossing her around; he attempts to protect her from the ugliness, but in the end it affects her.”

Scout’s brother Jem is played by Jaydyn Burns who demonstrated his energy as Thing 1 in last year’s Suessical the Musical.

Burns said it’s painful having to grasp the reality of what took place in this country just decades ago.

“I knew about it but I never actually had to deal with it, but seeing stories like this and that they’re actually accurate – it’s intense,” he said.

To Kill a Mockingbird
Silverton High Theater,
1456 Pine St.
Thursday – Saturday,
Nov. 20-22, 7 pm
$5 adults,
$3 senior citizens & children,
$1 students with ASB card

“Though it’s challenging, as a teacher it’s very rewarding to see these students have very little prejudice or racism in them,” Ousterhout said.

Another challenge, Ousterhout said, is that a large portion of the cast are written as African Americans.

“As a cast we have elected not to use stage makeup to make their faces darker …We felt it would be better just to let them play it,” he said.

Reagan Schiewe plays Atticus Finch, a resident of the fictional Maycomb County, Ala., and the father of Jeremy “Jem” Finch and Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. He is responsible for defending Tom Robinson.

“Reagan has a very mild manner about him and he has made some really good choices as far as Atticus is concerned,” Ousterhout said. “It’s nice how he remains calm, especially contrasted with the energy Scout and Jem have.”

Elijah Newman plays Boo, a mysterious recluse who has an impact on the kids.

“…he doesn’t make it complicated which is what I want,” Ousterhout said.

Bridger Lanning is cast as Bob Ewell, the drunken, abusive father of the accuser.

“He’s one of our best character actors,” Ousterhout said. “For him to play a villain, he has to do some serious acting – I think it’s the toughest challenge of his (four-year) high school drama career.”

“It’s really difficult; just the language he uses and how he feels – it’s really hard to even understand it,” Lanning said.

“It’s hard to stay focused and not mean what you say but make it seem like you mean what you say and stay in character.”

Elise Agenbroad plays Mayella Ewell, the accuser. Ousterhout has watched the senior work her way up from an usher to a starring role.

“I knew racism was around,” Agenbroad said. “My dad had a nanny who was African-American and he told me she wasn’t allowed to eat with them at the table and when they went on vacations she’d have to get a separate hotel.”

Agenbroad has a healthy way to transform from who she is into who her character is.

“I usually just take all my stress from the day and I smash it into the character,” she said.

“I also know she has a really traumatic background so you smash that into and sometimes I’ll get angry just sitting there for a long time (waiting to rehearse) so I’ll use that too.”

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