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Director of Educational Outreach Lauren Unbekant (315) 443-1150

Study Guide Contents

Manager of Educational Outreach Kate Laissle (315) 442-7755

3.) Production Information

Group Sales & Student Matinees Tracey White (315) 443-9844

Box Office (315) 443-3275

4.) Introduction 5.) Letter from the Education Director 6.) About Harper Lee & the Playwright 7.) Characters 8.) Synopsis 9.) Fiction Vs Nonfiction 10.) The Trials of the 1930s 11.) America in 1935 and the Great Depression 12.) The Controversies of Go Set a Watchman 13.) Questions for Discussion 14.) Projects 16.) Elements of Teaching Theatre 18.) Sources & References





Timothy Bond Producing Artistic Director Diana C. Coles Interim Managing Director


Christopher Sergel





Timothy Bond






Bill Bloodgood

Suzanne Chesney

Dawn Chiang

Michael Keck



Stuart Plymesser

Harriet Bass


Produced by special arrangement with Dramatic Publishing, Woodstock, Illinois. February 24 - March 26, 2016



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audience etiquette BE PROMPT Give your students plenty of time to arrive, find their seats, and get situated. Have them visit the restrooms before the show begins. RESPECT OTHERS Please remind your students that their behavior and responses affect the quality of the performance and the enjoyment of the production for the entire audience. Live theatre means the actors and the audience are in the same room, and just as the audience can see and hear the performers, the performers can see and hear the audience. Please ask your students to avoid disturbing those around them. Please no talking or unnecessary or disruptive movement during the performance. Also, please remind students that cellphones should be switched off completely. No texting or tweeting, please. When students give their full attention to the action on the stage, they will be rewarded with the best performance possible.



As you take your students on the exciting journey into the world of live theatre we hope that you’ll take a moment to help prepare them to make the most of their experience. Unlike movies or television, live theatre offers the thrill of unpredictability.

GOOD NOISE, BAD NOISE Instead of instructing students to remain totally silent, please discuss the difference between appropriate responses (laughter, applause, participation when requested) and inappropriate noise (talking, cell phones, etc).

With the actors present on stage, the audience response becomes an integral part of the performance and the overall experience: the more involved and attentive the audience, the better the show. Please remind your students that they play an important part in the success of the performance.

STAY WITH US Please do not leave or allow students to leave during the performance except in absolute emergencies. Again, reminding them to use the restrooms before the performance will help eliminate unnecessary disruption.


Dear Educator, Live theatre is a place for people to gather and experience the joys, triumphs, and sorrows life has to offer. The Syracuse Stage education department is committed to providing the tools to make learning in and through the arts possible to address varied learning styles and to make connections to curricula and life itself. It is our goal in the education department to maximize the theatre experience for our education partners with experiential learning and in-depth arts programming. Thank you for your interest and support. Sincerely,

Lauren Unbekant Director of Educational Outreach

2015/2016 EDUCATIONAL OUTREACH SPONSORS Syracuse Stage is committed to providing students with rich theatre experiences that explore and examine what it is to be human. Research shows that children who participate in or are exposed to the arts show higher academic achievement, stronger self-esteem, and improved ability to plan and work toward a future goal. Many students in our community have their first taste of live theatre through Syracuse Stage’s outreach programs. Last season more than 15,500 students from across New York State attended or participated in the Bank of America Children’s Tour, artsEmerging, the Young Playwrights Festival, the Franklin Project, Young Adult Council, and our Student Matinee Program. We gratefully acknowledge the corporations and foundations who support our commitment to in-depth arts education for our comunity.


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Nelle Harper Lee, born April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama, was the youngest of four children. Her father, A. C. Lee, was a lawyer, a member of the Alabama state legislature, and part owner of the town’s newspaper. Her mother, who rarely left the house, was mentally ill, perhaps suffering from bipolar syndrome. Like Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird, young Nelle was the family tomboy, often rising to the defense of her friend Truman Persons, who was living with relatives after being virtually abandoned by his mother. Delicate and sensitive, Truman, who grew up to be writer Truman Capote, was often picked on by neighborhood boys. Lee attended all-female Huntington College in Montgomery, Alabama, then transferred to the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, where she was a contributor to the University newspaper and an editor of the humor magazine Rammer Jammer. Accepted into law school, she began the program and attended a semester at Oxford University in England, but then decided that her aspirations as a writer overpowered her law studies. She left school and moved to New York to pursue her dream. Struggling to survive through a series of jobs, she spent a lot of her time with Truman, now a rising literary star. She also befriended Broadway composer Michael Martin Brown and his wife Joy, who, in 1956, gave her the Christmas gift that made To Kill a Mockingbird possible: they supported her for a year so she could concentrate on writing. Working with gifted editor Tay Hohoff, who had rejected an initial manuscript called Go Set a Watchman, Lee reshaped the flashback material from that novel into a story of life in a small Alabama town set on its end by a racially motivated trial. She called this new novel, which she completed in 1959, To Kill a Mockingbird. Soon after she completed the book, but before it was published, she assisted Truman Capote, who was writing a New Yorker piece on the impact of the murder of a family in a small Midwestern community. They traveled to Kansas to conduct interviews with townspeople and the killers themselves who had just been captured. The New Yorker article evolved into the nonfiction classic In Cold Blood.

Christopher Sergel (Stage Adaptation), born in Iowa City in 1918. After graduating from the University of Chicago, he spent two years as the captain of a schooner in the South Pacific. Writing To Kill a Mockingbird was published in July 1960. A Book-of-the-Month Club and Literary Guild selection, the book was for Sports Afield magazine, he lived for a an immediate success and Harper Lee was a celebrity. In 1961, To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize. The 1962 film year in the African bush. As a playwright, version won four Academy Awards, including a Best Actor nod for Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. To Kill a Mockingbird Sergel found his niche adapting novels has been translated into more than forty languages. More than a million copies are sold each year. and non-fiction books to the stage. His adaptations include versions of WinesIn July 2015, Go Set a Watchman, the first manuscript Harper Lee submitted to her editor was published, igniting contro- burg, Ohio, Black Elk Speaks, Up the Down Staircase,The Outsiders, and of course, To versy. Kill Mockingbird. Christopher Sergel died in 1993.




characters Jean Louise: The adult version of Scout, who, look- Mayella Ewell: The eldest daughter of Bob Ewell. ing back at her childhood narrates the play. She accuses Tom Robinson of raping her.

a lawyer with goods. He has a son the same age as Scout.

Jean Louise (Scout) Finch: A nine-year-old tomboy through whose eyes the story unfolds.

Walter Cunningham, Jr.: Scout’s classmate. He taunts her about Atticus defending a black man.

Jem: Scout’s older protective brother Atticus Finch: Scout and Jem’s father. He is older than most of their friends’ parents. A respected lawyer, he is asked to defend Tom Robinson. Dill: A quirky ten-year-old boy, virtually abandoned by his mother, staying with his aunt. He quickly becomes Scout’s best friend. Tom Robinson: A black field-hand who is accused of raping Mayella Ewell.

Bob Ewell: A poor farmer, who with his daughter, accuses Tom Robinson of rape. He is an angry and violent man. Calpurnia: The Finch family housekeeper. She attends the same church as Tom Robinson. Mrs. Dubose: A cranky elderly neighbor. Miss Maudie: An older friendly neighbor who understands just how special Atticus is. Heck Tate: The sheriff of Maycomb, Alabama. Walter Cunningham: A farmer impoverished by the Depression who pays Atticus for his service as

Reverend Sykes: The pastor of Calpurnia’s and Tom Robinson’s church. Judge Taylor: The fair-minded judge who presides over Tom Robinson’s trial. Mr. Gilmer: The prosecuting attorney. Arthur “Boo” Radley: The reclusive neighbor around whom mystery swirls. He tentatively communicates by leaving gifts in a knot in a tree. The children are determined to lure him out of the house. SYRACUSE STAGE EDUCATION

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Jean Louise, the narrator, lays out the details of her childhood in town of Maycomb, Alabama, where she lived with her brother Jem, her father Atticus, and Calpurnia, their cook. It’s the summer of 1934. Scout (a younger Jean Louise) has found chewing gum in the tree in the Radley’s yard and Jem wants her to spit it out. They find more hidden treasures in the tree by the mysterious Radley house and wonder who put them there. In their adventures around the neighborhood with their new friend, Dill, Scout and Jem encounter members of the town. One neighbor, Boo Radley, especially fascinates the children. As Jem explains to Dill and Scout, Mr. Nathan Radley has kept his son, Boo, locked up in their house for twenty or thirty years, ever since Boo stabbed Mr. Radley in the leg with a pair of scissors. Despite Atticus’ teachings to leave the Radleys alone, the children try new ways to get Boo Radley to come out of his house. As the children concern themselves with Boo Radley, another issue develops in the town. Atticus, a lawyer, is assigned to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. When Tom Robinson is moved to the county jail the night before the trial, Atticus goes down to the jail to keep watch. Scout, Jem, and Dill sneak out and discover where Atticus has gone. A mob led by Bob Ewell and Mr. Cunningham comes for Tom, but Scout’s surprise presence and honest innocence makes Mr. Cunningham reconsider. The mob drives off. The next day, the entire town comes out for the trial. Against Calpurnia’s wishes, Scout, Jem, and Dill go to the courthouse to watch it. By the time they arrive, Mr. Gilmer (the prosecuting lawyer), and Atticus are already questioning the first witness, Sheriff Heck Tate. The trial continues with testimony from Bob Ewell, Mayella Ewell (Bob’s daughter and the alleged victim of the rape), and Tom Robinson. Atticus provides evidence that Tom did not harm Mayella. Instead, Atticus argues, Mayella was beaten by her father after witnessing her trying to kiss Tom. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, the jury convicts Tom of the crime. Atticus loses the case, but he has humiliated Bob Ewell. Outside the courthouse, Bob Ewell threatens to kill Atticus. Later that fall, Heck brings news that Tom Robinson tried to escape prison and was shot dead by the prison guards. Life in Maycomb carries on, and that Halloween, Jem and Scout (dressed as a ham), go to the school Halloween celebration. As Scout and Jem walk home late at night they are attacked and Jem is hurt. In the darkness, another man appears and the struggle stops. The unknown rescuer picks Jem up and carries him home. At home, Scout finds out that Jem’s arm is broken but that he will be all right. Heck finds Bob Ewell dead with a kitchen knife stuck under his ribs. Atticus and Heck ask Scout what happened, and she realizes that the man who saved her and Jem is Boo Radley. Heck convinces Atticus to say that Bob Ewell fell on his knife in order to protect Boo Radley from being dragged into the spotlight. Scout walks Arthur “Boo” Radley home. —Courtesy of Milwaukee Repertory Theater


Fiction Vs Nonfiction Autobiography In To Kill A Mockingbird Harper Lee in Monroeville The youngest of four children, Harper Lee was closest in age to her brother Edwin, who was five years her senior (Edwin passed away when Lee was in her 20s). Harper Lee’s mother was alive throughout her childhood, but was often detached from family life due to a mental illness. Lee’s father, A.C. Lee, was a partner in the town law firm, Bugg, Barnett & Lee. Early in his career he defended two black men accused of murdering a white shop owner. Both defendants were sentenced to death. According to Lee, Atticus Finch’s evenkeeled, civilized disposition is based largely on her father’s personality. Harper Lee was an independent tomboy, according to those who remember her as a young girl. “She got rid of her surplus of hair in the summertime, and she could climb all the tall trees,” says Taylor Faircloth, who spent summers with the author. “When we played capture the flag at night, she held on longer than anybody.”(Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee). As a child Lee was close friends with a boy named Truman Persons, later known as Truman Capote (author of In Cold Blood and Breakfast at Tiffany’s).Truman lived near Lee with his aunt and uncle after his parents’ bitter divorce. Near Truman’s house lived an ex-Confederate captain and his wife Mrs. Powell Jones, an elderly woman in a wheelchair who could often be heard scolding the kids on the block. Down the block from Lee’s house lived Alfred “Son” Boleware, who according to rumors, was held captive in his home for years by his father, after he robbed a drugstore as a teen. To cope with Mrs. Lee’s “nervous disorder,” A.C. Lee hired Hattie Bell Clausell to watch the children, cook, and clean the house. She walked over to Lee’s street from the “Negro” part of town. A.C. Lee never tried a case that involved a black man accused of raping a white woman. He did, however, cover a similar trial for his newspaper during the latter part of his career.

To Kill a Mockingbird is classified as a work of fiction, and Harper Lee is notoriously hesitant to speak about the connections between her life and the life of her main character, Scout Finch. But by tracing Harper Lee’s life, we can discover some key autobiographical elements in the novel—as well as plenty of fictionalized characters and plot points that differ considerably from Harper Lee’s life story.

Scout Finch in Maycomb The younger of two children, Scout is close to her older brother Jem. Scout’s mother passed away when Scout and Jem were young. This is rarely mentioned in the story. Atticus Finch is a respected lawyer in Maycomb, known for his steadfast morality and civilized nature. Scout is a tomboy, who spends her summer playing outdoors with the boys.Scout and Jem befriend Dill, a new neighbor who has recently moved in with his aunt and uncle down the street. Dill often feels abandoned by his absent parents, who live in a neighboring town. Mrs. Dubose lives near Scout and Jem’s house, she is an elderly woman who torments the children on account of their wild behavior—though she is more lonely than malicious. Scout and Jem are both frightened and intrigued by their reclusive neighbor Boo Radley, who almost never comes out of his house. After the death of Scout’s mom, Atticus hires Calpurnia to watch the children and keep the house in order. Atticus Finch is the lawyer appointed to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping nineteen-year old Mayella Ewell.


The fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, in which To Kill a Mockingbird is set, is based on Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville in Monroe County, Alabama, MONROE COUNTY, 1930 Total Population: 30,070 MONROEVILLE Total Population: 2,382 POPULATION BY RACE: (1930 Alabama census used three categories: Native White, Foreign-born White and Negro.) White 47.8%, Foreign-born White 0.1%, African-American 52.5%. EDUCATION (Those attending any form of schooling) Ages 7–13: 88.9%, Ages 14–15: 85.1%, Ages 16–17: 59.5%, Ages 18–20: 21.4% ILLITERACY: (% over age 10 who could not read or write) Total population: 4.8%, White population: 8%, Negro population: 25.8% (Source: 1930 U.S. Census: www.census.gov/prod/www/abs/decennial/1930.html)

—Courtesy of Milwaukee Repertory Theater


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The Trials of the 1930s

Is Tom Robinson’s case based on a true story? Or is it meant to be representative of many different trials going on in America during the 1930s?

Growing up in Alabama, there are certain trials that the young Harper Lee would have heard about, through her father or by reading the newspaper in her town. Below you will find a few cases that the young writer likely internalized as a young girl, and were seemingly influential in shaping To Kill a Mockingbird. WALTER LETT: A REAL LIFE TOM ROBINSON? When Harper Lee was 10 years old, a black man named Walter Lett was falsely accused of raping a white woman near Monroeville. While her father did not work on the case, the newspaper he wrote for at the time covered the story. It’s likely that the young Harper Lee heard her parents and other members of her community commenting on the Lett trial as it unfolded in a nearby courthouse. Lett was convicted and sentenced to death, but after a barrage of letters protesting the verdict were published in A.C. Lee’s newspaper, the sentence was commuted to life in prison. Lett died in jail of tuberculosis in 1937. THE SCOTTSBORO CASE: JUDICIAL RACISM AT ITS WORST Lee was also likely influenced by the infamous Scottsboro case, a 1931 trial that took place in Scottsboro, Alabama. Nine black youths were accused of raping two white women on a freight train making its way through the Alabama countryside. On the evening of March 25, 1931 a fight broke out on the train between a group of white and black riders (all of whom were homeless vagabonds looking for work).The white riders were subsequently thrown off the train in a nearby town, where they reported the incident to the station manager there. When the train made its next top in Paint Rock, Alabama, the nine black riders were suddenly detained and arrested. As the arrests were being made, two women (dressed in men’s clothing) emerged from the train. Immediately the black men were also accused of rape and taken to jail. Despite the lack of evidence, the all-white jury convicted the nine riders and sentenced eight of the nine to death (the youngest, a twelve year old boy, was sentenced to life in prison).While the Supreme Court did eventually overturn the sentences (Powell v. Alabama), many of the defendants were retried and reconvicted in the Alabama courts. It was not until six years later that Alabama agreed to release four of the youngest defendants, all of whom had already served six years in jail.




Jim Crow Laws To Kill a Mockingbird explores life in 1930s Alabama at a time when a set of laws referred to as “Jim Crow Laws” enforced racial discrimination. African Americans in the Southern states were subject to laws implementing racial segregation under the supposed principle of “separate but equal”. State and local officials posted “Whites Only” and “Colored” signs on schools, restrooms, and buses. Under Jim Crow, southern white supremacist groups like the Ku Klux Klan reached a membership of six million. Lynching became a public spectacle. In the notorious 1931 “Scottsboro Boys” case, nine young African-American men were accused of raping two white women. All-white juries returned guilty verdicts, ignoring clear evidence that the women had suffered no injury. Miscegenation laws banning marriage or intimate relationships between blacks and whites were upheld and often enforced in the United States until 1967. PLESSY V. FERGUSON: SEPARATE BUT EQUAL To Kill a Mockingbird contains many examples of a “separate but equal” legal system, a precedent set by the Plessy v. Ferguson case of 1896. When we see the black citizens of Monroeville sitting in the upper balcony of the courthouse or see an all-white jury representing a racially mixed town – these are all examples of a “separate but equal” society. Throughout To Kill a Mockingbird we see the dangers of this system, wherein black citizens have no legal way to defend themselves against racism and segregation. What happened in Plessy v. Ferguson? After Homer Plessy was arrested for sitting in the “white” car of the East Louisiana railroad, his lawyer argued that the Separate Car Act directly violated the 14th Amendment of the Constitution. The 14th Amendment includes what is known as “The Equal Protection Clause,” a clause that is supposed to guarantee equal rights under the law to all U.S. citizens. The U.S Supreme Court ruled against Plessy, writing: “The object of the Fourteenth Amendment was undoubtedly to enforce the absolute equality of the two races before the law, but in the nature of things it could not have been intended to abolish distinctions based upon color...” The opinion legalized what came to be known as “separate but equal,” a system wherein races could be legally separated as long as the facilities were technically equal. Of course, many facilities intended for black citizens were not – but the system would not be overturned until the Brown v. Board of Education ruling in 1954.

PHOTO: A segregated drinking fountain.

America in 1935 and the Great Depression In the mid-1930s America was still in the depths of The Great Depression, triggered by the stock market crash of 1929. As evidenced by the Ewell family in To Kill a Mockingbird, many Americans were living in squalor, without basic necessities like running water, sufficient food and medical care. Both in the city and in the country, Americans who had previously made up the thriving middle class fell below the poverty line.

By contrast, blacks made up only 1% of the Northern population and the North’s economy was essentially unaffected by the existence of slavery.

HERBERT HOOVER AND THE “RUGGED INDIVIDUAL” President Hoover took office in 1929, the year that the stock market crash sent America spiraling into The Great Depression. During the years immediately following the crash, Hoover refused to authorize broad sweeping social programs for the poor and unemployed, claiming that the “rugged individual” would pull himself through the crisis. Instead, Hoover created the Reconstruction Finance Corporation to help banks, railroads another major industries stay in business. The only problem? Very few Americans could afford to buy the goods these big businesses were producing or take the train for more than a few miles. With this decrease in sales came a natural decrease in production needs, which severely affected farmers across the country who counted on public demand for their crops.

After the North won the Civil War, Southern families had to comply with the newly minted PHOTO: Thirteenth Amendment and free A bread line during the Great Depression their slaves. The question of how these plantation and farming families would support themselves without slave labor lingered throughout the Reconstruction period, and animosity in the South grew as the economic engine of the region screeched to a halt. When we meet the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird, only 70 years (about one generation) has passed since the end of the Civil War and the South is still reeling from the economic repercussions of slavery’s end. While economic desperation cannot justify or explain away racism, it can put context around why Southern states typically bear the brunt of racism’s origins in the United States.

DEPRESSION ERA DESPERATION IGNITES MORE RACIAL TENSION After the stock market crash, middle class whites were suddenly desperate for jobs typically held by black Americans. In the city, unemployed whites sought out jobs as busboys, elevator operators, garbage men, cooks and maids – but often found these jobs occupied by their black counterparts. In Atlanta, a Klan-like group called The Black Shirts paraded the city with signs that read “No jobs for niggers until every white man has a job.” In other cities, the manta became: “Blacks back to the cotton fields. City jobs are for white men.” There were even a handful of instances during which desperate white men seeking train jobs ambushed and killed several black train operators. The Depression’s poverty brought out the worst in people, as economic woes mixed dangerously with racial tension. UNDERSTANDING THE SOUTH: WHY IS RACISM SO STRONGLY LINKED TO THE SOUTHERN STATES? Before the Civil War, one in four Southern families owned slaves and 95% of African Americans lived below the Mason Dixon line.

Questions: RACIAL INTOLERANCE AND INJUSTICE How does To Kill a Mockingbird approach racism and legal injustice? Why are some characters in the story more tolerant than others? Is Atticus Finch really a hero against racial discrimination? COMING OF AGE How do Scout and Jem’s ages affect their understanding of the trial and of Boo Radley? What do you think they are learning about their community and the world as the story progresses? —courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre Company


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The Controversies of Go Set a Watchman It had long been thought that To Kill a Mockingbird would be Harper Lee’s only published book and her sole literary legacy. Although she worked on a nonfiction book, that work never came to fruition. No other fiction appeared either and after decades of literary silence, rumors began to pop up that she might not have been the sole author of Mockingbird. There were whispers that perhaps her friend Truman Capote provided more than moral support. In actuality, her friendship with Capote was cooling as she was writing her novel. It has become very clear that To Kill a Mockingbird, shepherded by editor Tay Hohoff, is Lee’s own work, drawn from her earlier rejected manuscript. That first manuscript, Go Set a Watchman, had long been thought to be lost, but in February 2015, Harper Lee’s lawyer, Tonja Carter announced that the typed book had been found in a safe deposit box and that Lee wanted it published. Go Set a Watchman was released by HarperCollins on July 14, 2015. The announcement raised a few questions. Lee, now eighty-eight and living in an assisted living facility, had never mentioned that a copy of the book still existed. More troubling was the fact that the discovery was made after the death of her older sister and fierce protector, Alice Lee, who had stated that her sister, hearing-impaired and nearly blind, was vulnerable to deception and would “sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she had confidence.” Answering these questions through Tonja Carter the author said, “I’m alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to Watchman.” Friends and Alabama officials have met with Harper Lee and have found no evidence that she was coerced or deceived. Go set a Watchman, which takes place in the 1950’s has the adult Jean Louise returning to Maycomb from New York City. She soon realizes that her beloved father Atticus Finch, now elderly, even though he defended Tom Robinson all those years ago, is a segregationist who has attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting. The revelation that the beloved Atticus Finch, portrayed in Mockingbird as the model of American justice was in this earlier book shown to be so flawed, sent shockwaves through literary and academic circles, igniting online debate and discussion about the author’s creative process. Go Set a Watchman, which had broken the HarperCollins record for pre-sales, is a best seller. 12



(Adapted from material developed by Milwaukee Repertory Theater) • Monroeville in the 1930s was a much smaller and rural town than the city of Syracuse is today. How does the size of a community affect the relationships? • Although 52.5% of the population of Monroe Country was African-American, Tom Robinson’s jury was entirely white. What can you infer about the selection of juries in 1930s Alabama? Harper Lee knew about many cases like the Tom Robinson case. Research these historic cases to learn more about the inspiration for the novel’s fictionnel trial. • The Scottsboro Boys, a group of 9 black teenage boys accused of raping two white women in 1931. • Walter Lett, a black man accused of raping a white woman in 1934. • Emmett Till, a black teenager murdered for flirting with a white woman in 1955. Taking it into today—FURTHER DISCUSSION QUESTIONS. The events of To Kill a Mockingbird took place almost ninety years ago. What has changed in American society concerning race relations? What has not changed? Can you cite incidents and cases that support your opinion? The publication of Go Set a Watchman caused controversy on many fronts. Does the presentation of Atticus Finch in Watchman change your view of him in To Kill a Mockingbird? Do you think the book, which is a virtually unedited draft of a rejected novel, should have been published? Childhood memories often cluster around a single event or series of events. Scout’s look at the summer of Tom Robinson’s trial is detailed and evocative. Is there one childhood event that you can recall with that type of detail? Was it an important event? Why did it stick with you?


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(Courtesy of Steppenwolf Theatre Company) THE WORLD OF THE WRITER: EXPLORING TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD THROUGH CONTEXTUAL RESEARCH AND ART-MAKING IN THE CLASSROOM Before delving into a study of To Kill a Mockingbird with your students, take time for preparatory lessons that immerse students in the world of the writer. Through these active engagements students develop an inside understanding of the artistic choices that contribute to a work of art and activate their own imaginations. Follow these activity steps to connect students to the process of writing through contextual research and artmaking. Think of each step as a layer building upon the previous layer. These steps can take place over a series of class periods, prior to seeing the production. activity step #1: WRITING THROUGH PERSONAL EXPERIENCE Estimated Time: 20 minutes Description: This is an individual writing activity. Ask students to think about different times in their lives that might be considered “defining moments”. Ask students to think about how the place and the people around them helped shape these moments. Did these moments lead them to see something new about themselves or their world? Give students about five minutes to write a list of five moments. These do not have to be long descriptions, just a short sentence. It may be helpful to provide an example, eg. when Harper Lee first found out her book would be published. Next, ask students to think about five similar moments, but this time each situation is fictional. Give students about ten minutes to write. After giving students time to write, reflect as a class: • What did you notice about the writing process? • What were the differences writing from a personal place vs. writing fiction?

(Continued next page)




activity step #2 WRITING THROUGH CONTEXTUAL RESEARCH Estimated Time: 25 minutes Description: Have students bring in local newspapers and prompt them to pick a story where they see injustice occurring. It is important they find the story compelling. Why does this story need to be investigated further? Give students 20 minutes to write a short scene using characters from the story. Remind students to put their characters in climatic moments, and try to craft a dramatic scene. Ask students to see if they can infuse the scene with their own points of view, the way Harper Lee’s point of view comes through in To Kill a Mockingbird. After giving students time to write, reflect as a class: • What did you notice about your writing process? • Did having source material make it easier or harder to create characters? • Did you infuse your own voice and opinion into the scene? If yes, how so? activity step #3: CREATING A STORY VISUALLY Estimated Time: 45 minutes Description: Have students pick a fictional moment from the first exercise or a moment from the scene they wrote in the second exercise. Ask students to think about what that moment might look like if we were to see a picture of it? • Would it be two-dimensional or three-dimensional? • What colors would we see? • Would it be sparse or busy? • Would the moment be portrayed realistically or abstractly? • What emotions should the picture evoke? Give students about 25 minutes to create this visual image. They can choose to draw a picture or make a three-dimensional object, such as a sculpture. Then, have students silently walk around the room and view their classmates’ work. This is an observation exercise – students should not judge, but rather notice the choices made. Bring the class back to a group discussion. Questions might include: • What do you notice in the work of your classmates? • What are the differences and similarities? • What questions do you have after viewing others’ work? • Did someone else’s work remind you of a moment from your own life? • Did someone else’s work remind you of the news article you chose? SYRACUSE STAGE EDUCATION

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elements of drama PLOT

What is the story line? What happened before the play started? What do the characters want? What do they do to achieve their goals? What do they stand to gain/lose? THEME

What ideas are wrestled with in the play? What questions does the play pose? Does it present an opinion? CHARACTER

Who are the people in the story? What are their relationships? Why do they do what they do? How does age/status/etc. affect them? LANGUAGE

What do the characters say? How do they say it? When do they say it? MUSIC

How do music and sound help to tell the story? SPECTACLE

How do the elements come together to create the whole performance?

Other Elements: Conflict/Resolution, Action, Improvisation, Non-verbal communication, Staging, Humor, Realism and other styles, Metaphor, Language, Tone, Pattern & Repetition, Emotion, Point of view.




Any piece of theatre comprises multiple art forms. As you explore this production with your students, examine the use of:



At its core, drama is about characters working toward goals and overcoming obstacles. Ask students to use their bodies and voices to create characters who are: very old, very young, very strong, very weak, very tired, very energetic, very cold, very warm. Have their characters interact with others. Give them an objective to fulfill despite environmental obstacles. Later, recap by asking how these obstacles affected their characters and the pursuit of their objectives.


How are each of these art forms used in this production? Why are they used? How do they help to tell the story?

elements of design LINE can have length, width, texture, direction, and

curve. There are five basic varieties: vertical, horizontal, diagonal, curved, and zig-zag.

SHAPE is two-dimensional and encloses space.

It can be geometric (e.g. squares and circles), man-made, or free-form.

FORM is three-dimensional. It encloses space

and fills space. It can be geometric (e.g. cubes and cylinders), man-made, or free-form.

COLOR has three basic properties:

HUE is the name of the color (e.g. red, blue, green), INTENSITY is the strength of the color (bright or dull), VALUE is the range of lightness to darkness.

TEXTURE refers to the “feel” of an

object’s surface. It can be smooth, rough, soft, etc. Textures may be ACTUAL (able to be felt) or IMPLIED (suggested visually through the artist’s technique).

SPACE is defined and determined

by shapes and forms. Positive space is enclosed by shapes and forms, while negative space exists around them.


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Sources and Resources: HISTORICAL CONTEXT The Library of Congress’ Great Depression Student Resource www.loc.gov/teachers/classroommaterials/themes/great-depression/students.html. The Library of Congress’ comprehensive list of student resources on the Great Depression.

The Rise and Fall of Jim Crow on PBS. www.pbs.org/wnet/jimcrow Educational website with Jim Crow information.

www.jimcrowhistory.org. Site with links to resources on the topic.

Surviving the Dust Bowl on PBS. www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/films/dustbowl. A PBS website with video and resources about the Great Depression. HARPER LEE

Monroe County Heritage Museums, Monroeville: The Search for Harper Lee’s Maycomb. Charleston, SC: Ar cadia Pub., 1999. A look back at Monroeville in the 1930s.

Murphy, Mary McDonagh. Scout, Atticus, and Boo: A Celebration of Fifty Years of To Kill a Mockingbird. New York: Harper, 2010. Interviews and commentary about the novel by Harper Lee’s friends and well-known Americans. Petry, Alice Hall, ed. On Harper Lee: Essays and Reflections. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 2007. A compilation of essays on Harper Lee and To Kill a Mockingbird. Shields, Charles J. Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee. New York: Henry Holt, 2006. Draws on over 600 interviews from people close to Lee. 18



Shields, Charles J. I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee. New York: Henry Holt, 2008.



Go Set a Watchman: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/25/opinion/joe-nocera-the-watchman-fraud.html

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/14/books/review/harper-lees-go-set-a-watchman.html?&moduleDetail=section- news-2&action=click&contentCollection=Sunday%20Book%20Review&region=Footer&module=MoreInSection&ve rsion=WhatsNext&contentID=WhatsNext&pgtype=article

VIDEO Inside the Life of the Famously Reclusive Harper Lee 3:58 Mary McDonagh Murphy offers insight into Lee’s life now. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2eGrjS2w5HQ Harper Lee: American Masters Live Q and A 30:41 Questions and answers with https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IE6us6Zkz00 Beyond To Kill a Mockingbird: the Lost Novel of Harper Lee (Yahoo News) 20:00 A comprehensive look at Harper Lee and the book on the cusp of Watchman’s publication. With Katy Couric. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZX3zCymGE0g Monroeville AL To Kill a Mockingbird CBS Sunday Morning 7:03 A Mockingbird 50th anniversary segment https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NHpuMF0iMx4


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APRIL 6 – 24





MAY 11 – 29

Lila Coogan, Aurelia Williams, and Mary DiGangi in Hairspray. Marc Safran Photography.


Profile for Syracuse Stage

To Kill a Mockingbird study guide  

Show Info: http://syracusestage.org/showinfo.php?id=62 Description: Harper Lee's classic American story of courage and justice. In a small A...

To Kill a Mockingbird study guide  

Show Info: http://syracusestage.org/showinfo.php?id=62 Description: Harper Lee's classic American story of courage and justice. In a small A...

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