Being brave, in the theater -- UPDATE
Harper Lee, author of the novel "To Kill a Mockingbird", has died. Here is a link to an editorial about her influence as a Southern writer:
Can a theater be brave?
Bravery is an attribute most often reserved for the heroes among us. Certainly, in their times, Ibsen’s “An Enemy of the People” and Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible” were brave theater productions, opening eyes to difficult subjects.
It is the same, I think, with a theatrical rendering of the classic American novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The production was last week at the Greenwood Community Theatre. As I write this on Thursday, it is opening night for the show, and as things look right now, I will not be able to see it because of scheduling conflicts.
Certainly, I should have kept my eye more closely on Index-Journal.com and planned better for a trip to the Emerald City. The last theater I had an experience with in Greenwood was a couple years ago with “Man of La Mancha.”
“To Kill a Mockingbird” is my favorite book. The movie is superb. It was back in the news because author Harper Lee supposedly wrote a second novel, and it was published last year. It took some luster off the heroic image of “Mockingbird’s” protagonist, Southern attorney Atticus Finch. I have not read the new book.
I don’t like a lot of sequels. The second “Godfather” movie was better than the first, and miles ahead of the third. The second “Star Wars” movie was great - that’s the 1970s sequence of “Star Wars,” not the later 1, 2, 3 sequence; I have not seen the new “Star Wars.”
I want the real, original “To Kill a Mockingbird” - in print, on film and on stage. I believe a live theater production also came to The Peace Center last year, and some school children got a chance to go there and see it.
TKAM is a tough choice for theater companies. It has the N-word. That’s why the book has been banned from school libraries, same as “huckleberry Finn” - the N-word is racist, ugly and offensive.
Offensive, no matter who says it, I might add.
African-American rap performers have “taken possession” of the N-word and, thereby, have supposedly diffused its racial ugliness. I don’t agree with that logic. The phrase “My N-word” is, to me, just as offensive as the word being printed in a book. “American Idol” was back on the other night, and they had Kanye West in an audition tape, and all I could do was cringe at the “bleep” “bleep” “bleep” of his performance. Pretty sure he used the N-word and the F-word a few times - all in good fun, of course.
It is a symptom of the degradation of our language. People don’t think twice about cursing anymore. If they are cursed back at, they get their feelings hurt, of course.
I was at a basketball game once, and from behind me I could hear a young man telling a young woman he was trying to impress (I guess), “Yeah, that’s My N-word, and that’s My N-word over there.” I gave him the daddy eye. Mainly because the superintendent of schools for that district was a couple rows in front, watching the game with his wife, and that distinguished black gentleman didn’t need to hear all that (plus, I’m pretty sure the offender was a student and, as everybody knows, the superintendent has suspension powers - this young man looked like he could use all the schoolin‘ he could get).
Back to Greenwood. I applaud the theater there for producing TKAM on stage (Jan. 7-10). They can’t just cut the N-word out of the book (Pulitzer Prize for Fiction 1961)/movie (1962)/play (1990) - in the book, it almost takes on a life of its own, like another character alongside Atticus, Scout, Jem, Tom Robinson.
The N-word comes alive in the book. I suspect it does on stage, also. It is a universal sign of the worst in us, just as TKAM carries a timeless theme. Unjustly accused black suspect shot to death by white officers of the law - it’s right out of 2015’s news.
(Vic MacDonald is Editor of The Clinton Chronicle. Reach him at 833-1900 or firstname.lastname@example.org.)