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Remembering Harper Lee, Who Died Days Before Syr Stage Opens "To Kill A Mockingbird"

  Syracuse Stage has an unfortunate note of nostalgia added to its production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” that opens this week.  The passing of Harper Lee who wrote the novel has caused some reflection on the story and its characters.

There might be a few more people that go see Syracuse Stage’s production of To Kill A Mockingbird…because of the memory of Harper Lee.  Resident Dramaturg Kyle Bass says Lee wrote much of the book through the eyes of the young character scout.  In the play, Bass says, we might be meeting the author.

“In the play we have a narrator; we have Jean Lousie Finch, who is the grown Scout, leading us emotionally through the story.  So in Scout we have, for all I’ve learned and know about Harper Lee, is very much the child Harper Lee.”

To Kill A Mockingbird Feb 24 thru Mar 26 @ Syracuse Stage

The rich character study within a racially charged courtroom drama is set in a time earlier than the civil rights era in which Lee wrote it.

“I think authors are under a kind of pressure.  The culture and the zeitgeist kind of express a pressure on writers and they respond to it.  And so she responded in 1960 to what was happening, but set it in 1935.  Something in 1960 reminded her of 1935.” 

In Fact, Bass says, Syracuse Stage decided to produce the play because of contemporary problems of race.  

Kyle Bass elaborates on the characters Harper Lee wrote in the novel, as well as the connections to civil rights in the book and the play.

The story many know from the book and the movie, might be more relevant as live drama.

“You read books in isolation; we take in theater as a community.  And this story in particular, and particularly our production of this play, is very aware of the community that is the audience.” 

Syracuse Stage presented “To Kill a Mockingbird” 20 years ago…but Bass says there’s a new audience now…and maybe even more of a nostalgic connection. 

To Kill a Mockingbird at Syracuse Stage runs February 24th thru March 26th.  


Chris Bolt, Ed.D. has proudly been covering the Central New York community and mentoring students for more than 30 years. His career in public media started as a student volunteer, then as a reporter/producer. He has been the news director for WAER since 1995. Dedicated to keeping local news coverage alive, Chris also has a passion for education, having trained, mentored and provided a platform for growth to more than a thousand students. Career highlights include having work appear on NPR, CBS, ABC and other news networks, winning numerous local and state journalism awards.