Believe it or not, we had 64 people audition for this show! Lots and lots of talented people trying to get a role in this classic bit of American literature.
The version we are doing has the character Jean Louise as an “older Scout.” She serves as a narrator throughout the show, and ties the pieces of the story together. Our Jean Louise will be played by Sydnee Rider. Here’s her thoughts are being cast as Jean Louise.
Thoughts on Being Cast as Jean Louise
by Sydnee Rider
I think I was nine years old the first time I read Harper Lee’s classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird, and at the time, I remember being so angry upon finishing the last page because it didn’t have a happy ending. I was so angry; I read it again just to be sure. How could there be such a world where a man was killed for a crime he did not commit when it was so blatantly obvious that he was innocent. Of course, I now know that I was born into a privileged generation; one who never had to experience the heartache of segregation or slavery.
Granted, there is still ugliness in this world. I know that now, but as that nine year old girl, curled up on my bed surrounded by about a thousand Beanie Babies, I couldn’t fathom how the simple matter of skin color could affect one’s opinion of a person. And I certainly couldn’t understand how the justice system, our American justice system, could be rigged to fail an innocent man. I was naïve then.
But that book stayed with me. Maybe it was partially because I saw some of myself in Scout Finch, with her innocent optimism; her spunky personality. Of course, I wasn’t as tough as Scout was then, but I like to think she help shaped me into the woman I would become; perhaps through reading her story, I was able to soak up some of her quiet strength and maybe half of her heart.
It wasn’t until I read the book once more in high school that I realized Scout was a version of Harper Lee herself, or really even, that Harper Lee was a woman. This, of course, only made me love the book more because I had just discovered the joy of writing myself. I’d always been a reader, ever since I was able to sound out the simplest words in a Dr. Seuss book, but there’s something even more satisfying about writing. There is no greater joy than finding your story and putting it into words.
I became fascinated with Harper Lee, I read every piece of information I could find about her. (These were the days before smart phones and Google, kids, so I spent many a school lunch hour in the library…those funny places that house books.) What I found was fascinating; first of all, she is a descendant of Robert E. Lee, the famous general from the Civil War, but then as I read, I realized that Ms. Lee is Jean Louise a.k.a. Scout Finch. This is her story. More than that, Scout’s friend Dill was the fictional equivalent of writer Truman Capote, Harper Lee’s friend who wrote the true crime bestseller In Cold Blood.
Naturally, when it was confirmed that the Guild would be putting this show up, I committed to audition; I would make time for this if necessary. Of course, I was more than slightly intimidated to come to auditions and find myself up against around ten other equally talented women. Sixty-four amazing people tried out for this play with twenty-one parts to give. This show could plausibly have been cast (and well cast) three times over. So, I did what any actor does; I came in, I read a couple of times and I resigned myself to the fact that the odds were not in my favor with numbers like that.
But the call did come, early the morning after auditions from the director himself and despite my excitement, I found myself suddenly wondering if I was the best choice. How can I even come close to doing this amazing woman justice when there were so many others to choose from? So ladies, I thank you from the bottom of my heart; because your incredible talent pushed me further than I could have ever pushed myself. Every single one of you made me strive to sound better, be better. Your amazing strength and talent will continue to drive my determination to give a genuine and sympathetic portrayal of Jean Louise Finch.
I think it’s fitting that the Players Guild of Dearborn should bring To Kill A Mockingbird to the stage now, when our country has been in such a state of unrest. Perhaps it can remind us all that “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.”
I’m going to give it everything I’ve got.