Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Burning Coal’s “Mockingbird” Flies Again March 10th

Roger Rathburn as Atticus Finch and Whitney Madren as Mayella Ewell (photo by Right Image Photography, Inc.)

Roger Rathburn as Atticus Finch and Whitney Madren as Mayella Ewell (photo by Right Image Photography, Inc.)

On March 10-13 and 17-20, Burning Coal Theatre Company will reprise its critically acclaimed 2010-11 season opener, To Kill a Mockingbird, in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School. There will be only two major cast changes, with Fred Corlett replacing Paul Paliyenko and Emelia Cowans replacing LeDawna Akins, in this warmly applauded Burning Coal production of Christopher Sergel’s 1990 dramatization of Harper Lee’s award-winning 1960 Southern Gothic novel about racial injustice.

Among other awards, Harper Lee’s first and only novel won the 1961 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. By July 11, 2010, when the book celebrated the 50th anniversary of its publication, America had elected its first black President, an event inconceivable to the white racists of a small town in Alabama portrayed in To Kill a Mockingbird.

The 1962 motion-picture version of To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Robert Mulligan from a screenplay by Horton Foote, starred Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, Mary Badham as Scout, and Robert Duvall as Arthur “Boo” Radley. Nominated for Best Picture, Best Director, and nine other 162 Academy awards®, To Kill a Mockingbird won three Oscars — for Best Actor in a Leading Role (Gregory Peck); Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium; and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Black-and-White (Alexander Golitzen, Henry Bumstead, and Oliver Emert).

“I read [first] read [To Kill a Mockingbird] as an adult, recalls Burning Coal artistic director Jerome Davis. “For some reason, it wasn’t on any high school or college reading lists that I encountered.”

He adds, “I like the fact that [To Kill a Mockingbird] is a fairly accurate representation of the small-town South during this period, and that it shows people with a variety of qualities, good, bad and undecided! I wanted [guest director Randolph Curtis Rand] to direct it, because he dealt so dexterously with our production of Uncle Tom’s Cabin a few years back and I felt it would be a nice “book end” event for him. [Uncle Tom’s Cabin] is widely regarded as having helped begin the seminal event of the 19th century in America, the Civil War. Mockingbird holds a similar place in regard to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s.”

When the curtain rises on Christopher Sergel’s stage adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird, Jerry Davis says, “A small-town Alabama lawyer, Atticus Finch (Roger Rathburn) has been chosen to represent a young black man, Tom Robinson (Jade Arnold). Tom has been accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell (Whitney Madren), by her father, Bob Ewell (Fred Corlett). Atticus’ daughter, Scout (Liz Beckham), and son, Jem (Adam Patterson), along with visiting friend Dill (Samantha Rahn), watch in wonder as Atticus, who they had previously reckoned to be an ‘ordinary father’ became the talk of the town, and a hero, as well.”

Davis adds, “[Guest director Randolph Curtis Rand] is doing the show with nine actors playing all the many roles. The technical challenges inherent in such a choice are extreme. It means the cast are having to change, on a dime, from one character to another, often with diametrically opposed worldviews, physical realities, voice qualities, etc.”

In addition to director Randy Rand and Burning Coal artistic director Jerry Davis, the To Kill a Mockingbird creative team includes assistant director Kylie McCormick, technical director Mark Peelman, set designer Snow (a.k.a. Rand and Marc Bovino), lighting designer Daniel Winters, costume designer Kelly Farrow, properties manager Jan Doub Morgan, sound designer Elijah Vick, and stage manager Melissa Ricketts.

Jerry Davis says the show’s set is “drawers, a rocking chair, a doll house”; its light is “stark, then naturalistic”; and its costumes are “realistic of the period.”

Selecting To Kill a Mockingbird as Burning Coal’s 2010-11 season-opener was a no-brainer, says Jerry Davis. He adds, “We thought it would be a good idea to celebrate [the 50th anniversary of the book’s publication] and also to look at the material in light of current events in our county.”

SECOND OPINION: Sept. 15, 2010 Raleigh, NC Classical Voice of North Carolina review by Kate Dobbs Ariail:; Sept. 15, 2010 Durham, NC Independent Weekly review by Byron Woods (who awarded the show 3.5 of 5 stars):; and Sept. 14, 2010 Raleigh, NC News & Observer review by Roy C. Dicks: (To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of the Sept. 9, 2010 Triangle Theater Review preview and the Sept. 15, 2010 review, both by Robert W. McDowell, click and, respectively.)

Burning Coal Theatre Company presents TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD at 7:30 p.m. March 10-12 and 17-19 and 2 p.m. March 13 and 20 in Burning Coal Theatre at the Murphey School, 224 Polk St., Raleigh, North Carolina 27604.


BOX OFFICE: 919/834-4001 or





The Play: (Dramatic Publishing).

The Playwright: (Dramatic Publishing), (Internet Off-Broadway Database), and (Internet Broadway Database).

The Novel: (HarperCollins Publishers: “To Kill a Mockingbird at 50″), (Encyclopedia of Alabama) and (Wikipedia).

The Film: (Wikipedia), (Turner Classic Movies), and (Internet Movie Database).

Harper Lee: (Encyclopedia of Alabama), (Wikipedia), and (Internet Movie Database).


Robert W. McDowell is editor and publisher of Triangle Theater Review, a FREE weekly e-mail theatrical newsletter that provides more comprehensive, in-depth coverage of Raleigh, Durham, and Chapel Hill theater than all of the other news media combined. This preview is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review.

To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line.

To read all of Robert W. McDowell’s Triangle Theater Review previews and reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click

Tagged as: , , , ,

Categorised in: Features, Theatre Feature