By Abby Stadlin, Schechter Parent and Board Member

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view – until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
-To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee

Parents, Grandparents and friends of our Middle School students were privileged to see a beautiful stage adaptation of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird on November 26th. Our own Sheri Gross & Lauren Henkin coached and directed twenty of our students in this complex and thought provoking work, shedding light on both racial injustice and the power each person has to effect positive change.

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Lee’s work (which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961), takes place far from Cleveland, in the sleepy, Depression era town of Maycomb, Alabama, and allowed the kids to grow their acting skills, as well as address challenging social issues from the past and the present. .

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“The idea of tackling To Kill A Mockingbird with our 5th-8th graders was an ambitious one,” said director Sheri Gross, “but we knew our students were up for the challenge. They took the process very seriously, and the very mature content and the subject of racism has become extremely important to them.

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“I am so proud of these young actors,” Sheri continued. “They did a wonderful job, and I know that participating in this production has helped them become stronger advocates for justice.”

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The play was made all the more significant, when afterwards, community leaders shared their thoughts about the play and how the thematic content was highly relevant some 60 years  after its publication. We heard from Schechter’s guidance counselor, Dr. Shiri Katz, Rabbi Melinda Mersack, and one of Gross’ former students, Reverend Darrien Fann, the Pastor of the Second Episcopal District CME Church.

Reverend Fann spoke powerfully about the connections between the play and the civil rights movement in America. The audience was silent and the children were riveted by his words, as he congratulated them for their willingness to take on such a difficult subject with compassion and sincerity. 

Afterwards the cast did a formal Q&A where they expressed their feelings about what it was like to play the characters, from heroes like Scout & Atticus Finch, to the villain, Bob Ewell. 8th Grader, Arthur Stadlin, who played the part of Bob, said, “it wasn’t easy, but without being the bad guy we wouldn’t have been able to put on the play and tell this important story.”

Kudos to Sheri, Lauren, and the entire middle school cast on a memorable performance.
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