Wednesday, December 7, 2022

A conversation with Jacqueline Williams who plays Calpurnia, often called the "heart of the Finch family", in the National Tour of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD

Jacqueline Williams
Photo by Julieta Cervantes

from our friends at ASU Gammage:

A staple of high school reading lists and an iconic eye-opener into injustice in America, Harper Lee’s "To Kill a Mockingbird" is a classic that remains relevant years after the book’s publication and the film that came shortly after. Now, the story has been adapted for the stage, and the national Broadway tour is at ASU Gammage this week.

Set in 1934, To Kill a Mockingbird explores racial injustice, morality and the undertones of the deep south in Maycomb, Alabama, through a lens of childhood wonder in the eyes of tomboy Scout Finch, whose father, the small-town lawyer Atticus Finch, defends a black man accused of rape. 

62 years after the novel’s release and just before the 60th anniversary for the film, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, adapted for the stage by Aaron Sorkin and directed by Bartlett Sher, sends a message that is just as impactful today as in the past.

Jacqueline Williams, who plays Calpurnia, the housekeeper and often called the ‘heart’ of the Finch family, said she feels “blessed to be revived” in the role, and that it has “been a joy, and honor and a duty to travel and share the story.”

In Sorkin’s Broadway adaptation of the novel and film, her character, who plays a pivotal role in the life of the family at the center of the plot, has been expanded, and she has been given new lines never seen or heard in the book or film. 

“She's funny, wise, quick, sharp and honest,” said Williams.

To theater goers who are familiar with the story, Williams shares, “For those who know the book and film, its neither; it’s both and more at the same time. Sorkin’s live theater event is an honoring of Harper Lee’s story and message, and at the same time, elevates it to our time without taking it out of 1934 where the story takes place. It’s a story that a lot of people have a relationship with, including myself.”

The well-known story is one that many can recall from memory, yet live on stage, Sorkin brings a new, animated edge to the tale.

“It's a story that sits in people's hearts and a story still relevant today,” said Williams.

She hopes the stage production will encourage the audience to think about the show's themes in modern contexts, and reflect on their own experiences. 

Through her character, Williams said it’s important to bring to life the impact of these issues on stage in front of an audience. “Part of it is a duty, out here trying to fight the good fight, elevate each other, uplift each other and be better together.”

For Williams, each time the curtain rises is a chance to share the message of human goodness versus evil, and bring light to the importance of justice served, and morality weighted through her character. 

“My favorite thing about the tour has been that every now and then, I can hear by reactions, surprised reactions, regarding the trial, that someone is out there experiencing the trial for the first time,” said Williams.

Williams shares the spotlight with a star-studded cast, including Emmy Award winner Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch, Melanie Moore as Scout Finch, Justin Mark as Jem Finch, Yaegel T. Welch as Tom Robinson, and Mary Badham, Oscar nominee for playing Scout in the 1962 To Kill a Mockingbird film, who returns to the production as Mrs. Henry Dubose.
 
“A fantastic group of humans, every performance eight times a week is amazing as we live and breathe together and also shine together,” claimed Williams.  
 
To Kill a Mockingbird at ASU Gammage will continue through Sunday, Dec.11. 

Tickets are available at the box office, or online at asugammage.com


1 comment:

  1. We saw the show last night. I, myself, could not help but to draw comparison to the political climate in our society today. I felt uncomfortable at the use of derogatory words and phrases and moved by the integrity of the characters fighting to correct a society full of hate and prejudice. I feel this play brings to light racial prejudice has no place in society.

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