WATERLOO — “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” written in the 1960s and set in the 1930s, still has relevance to a small upper Midwest city, said director Greg Holt.
Holt, artistic director of Waterloo Community Playhouse, directs the upcoming production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Live theater can bring people together.
“I feel a theater can be such a transformative space and have so much to say,” Holt said. “It would be nice if we could use it to bridge some demographics.”
However, it isn’t a place people of all walks of life come together. Holt said he hopes to begin change that with the upcoming production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The play, based on a memoir novel by Harper Lee, has various roles specifically for African Americans. It deals with racial tensions and treatment of African Americans in the South in the 1930s.
Few African Americans audition for roles at WCP. To cast the show, Holt had to recruit people for those roles.
Newcomer Will Frost plays the accused, Tom Robinson. The Rev. Abraham Funchess, of Jubilee United Methodist Church, plays the Rev. Sykes.
Although based on a book written more than 50 years ago about events more than 80 years ago, Frost said the play’s message still strikes a chord for him. Although some of the play’s tones and language can be harsh, Frost said he expected that.
“It’s the 1930s in the South, you expect that kind of stuff to be the case,” he said. “Black people were treated so, so bad and in some cases still are.”
Holt said Frost’s amiable attitude is admirable.
“I would think it would be tough for him,” Holt said. “Why would you want to relive — play a character — being abused in that sort of way.”
“I’m OK with it,” Frost said. “A lot of people feel bad like I’m enduring some punishment.”
Frost said although he was approached by Holt to be in the show, he had intended on auditioning for a show at some point. Now that he’s had a taste, Frost said he he will likely continue to be involved and audition for future shows.
Frost said it helps to be involved in a show that is easier to relate to.
“A lot of the plays done in the past really had nothing that was a part of my upbringing, my history,” Frost said.
Holt said finding more relatable shows is part of his plan to broaden WCP audience and casts.
“I’m hoping to actually do some modern plays and have some more interracial cast members,” Holt said. “The goal is to be more of a cross-section of society.”
The cast and crew will hold public talk backs following the Sunday performances Sept. 18 and Sept. 25. The talks will be led by Funchess, who is also the city’s human rights director.
“Hopefully it opens up some dialogue” Frost said.
Tickets are still available for performances. The show opens Friday followed by performances on Saturday and Sunday. Next week, performances are scheduled Sept. 22 through Sept 25. Start times are at 7 p.m. except the Sunday shows, which begin at 2 p.m.