The production will be the last of the 2016-2017 season and also the biggest, according to Centerstage co-founder Mitchell Vantrease, who said the latest production will feature a cast of 20 people.
The production will also take place at a new location as the group will venture away from the Market Street Community Center to the Living Word Family Worship Center at 3633 Poplar Hill Road in Watertown.
“I think that location is actually appropriate for this show because of the small town setting,” said Vantrease, who said the location is more accommodating for the cast and features theatrical lighting.
Vantrease said the cast consists of the typical mix of new and experienced talent, but said the group has pulled together for a great production.
“The rehearsals have been amazing. These people are their characters,” he said.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” focuses on the trial of a black man, Tom Robinson, who was accused of raping a young white woman. Although significant evidence of Robinson’s innocence was shown during the trial, he was convicted of the rape.
Vantrease said the production would rival “Fences” for the group’s most serious rendition yet.
“It’s sad, but shows how much we’ve progressed and how much things have stayed the same because the issues they addressed in the ’30s, we’re still dealing with now,” Vantrease said.
Thomas “Tap” Tapley will play Robinson and worked with Lawrence McKinney to gain insight into the role. McKinney was released from prison in July 2009 thanks to DNA evidence after spending 31 years in prison for rape and robbery he didn’t commit in 1977 in Memphis.
“This story is very similar to what Lawrence went through,” Vantrease said.
“Lawrence was very enlightening. He put some reality to the character. Regardless of what your perspective may be, for it to come from someone who has lived it, brought a lot of light to the character,” Tapley said. “The biggest thing I got from talking with him was to keep the faith regardless of the situation. God is God. He will prevail regardless of the situation.”
Centerstage will also honor and dedicate the first night’s production to McKinney.
“This is [Tapley’s] big arrival. It’s the hardest part he’s had to take on. He’s not the lead, but he’s a pivotal character,” said Vantrease, who said he’s proud of the progress Tapley has made in just three productions with the group.
“Community outreach is important to us and we’ve watched some people blossom. It’s been amazing watching people grow and come out of their shell and have an appreciation for the arts,” he said.
“Mockingbird” will mark the end of the group’s first full year, which Vantrease said was successful.
“I think we’ve been solid and pleased with the first year. We’ve attracted some great talent and our audience has been building. ‘Mockingbird’ will kind of be a go big or go home production,” Vantrease said.
Vantrease said the second year production will include “Charlotte’s Web,” “Father of the Bride,” “Miracle on 34th Street,” “The Piano Lesson” and “On Golden Pond.”
“We have something for everybody next season,” Vantrease said.
Vantrease said the goal for the group is to have its own stage, but would test out moving shows to different locations, starting with Living Word Family Worship Center.
“We just want to do great quality productions and the crowd will come,” Vantrease said.
The production will run May 12-14 and May 19-21. Show times are 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.
Tickets are available at brownpapertickets.com and Iddy and Oscar’s on the Lebanon Square.