West Valley High School drama students are ending this school year with a bang, and possibly some fireworks.
The students will perform an adaptation of Harper Lee’s classic novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” tonight, Friday and Saturday at the school. Admission is free, but donations are welcome.
According to the American Library Association, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is one of the top 100 most frequently challenged books, likely because of strong language including racial slurs.
“This isn’t a play that you really expect a high school to do,” said director Jacquei Bailey, 18. “But I think we’ve worked really hard to live up to the original characters of the book. I’ve probably read it about three times since we decided to do this because if Harper Lee were out there, I wouldn’t want her to be offended.”
The drama teacher, Kamiel Youseph, asked the district’s instructional materials committee early in the year for permission to perform the controversial play.
“Honestly, before now I didn’t have a cast mature enough to handle it,” Youseph said. “You’ve got kids going over strong language for three months, and doing research for themselves, and I’ve just never had a cast strong enough to take that on, until now.”
The committee was concerned about the use of the word “nigger” used frequently in the book.
“They talked about that we can’t just put on the play and have that ‘N’ word in there so many times,” Youseph said. “So how can we make it into an education experience?”
Youseph and the students have assembled educational packets to hand out with background information about the play, and a list of discussion questions on various themes in the book. They also will show a brief video before each performance.
“I’m not normally a person who says the ‘N’ word, but I think it’s OK because we know we are putting emotions into other people when we are up there,” said Sarha Chastain, 18.
Chastain plays the part of Miss Stephanie Crawford, outspoken neighbor to Atticus Finch and his two children. This is her first time acting in the play. She has previously been the head lighting technician.
“It’s my senior year so I thought I might as well do this,” Chastain said. “I don’t really think there could have been a better play for our senior year.”
Local journalism is essential.
Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.
Subscribe now to get breaking news alerts in your email inbox
Get breaking news delivered to your inbox as it happens.