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Press Release



February 14, 2005

'Remembering Mockingbird' to be performed by symphony in March


Brock Peters, Phillip Alford and Mary Badham, three cast members in the 1962 movie “To Kill a Mockingbird,” will join the Winfield Regional Symphony for a concert that will celebrate the message and music of the classic film.

“Remembering Mockingbird” is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. March 12 in the Robert Brown Theatre inside the Brown Center on Cowley’s main campus in Arkansas City. Tickets are $15 for adults and $5 for students and may be purchased from the Sid Regnier Bookstore, 207 W. Fifth Ave., or may be charged by phone at (620) 441-5277).

In April 2000, Badham, who played Scout in the movie, joined the Winfield Regional Symphony to present Elmer Bernstein’s score for the film at the Orpheum Theatre in Wichita. This time, Peters, who played Tom Robinson, and Alford, who played Jem, will join Badham during an evening that will take the audience down memory lane.

“We will have lots of new material,” said Gary Gackstatter, director of instrumental music at Cowley College and conductor of the WRS. “Besides narration by the three actors, Brock is also going to sing a couple of tunes before the Mockingbird portion.”

Gackstatter said the WRS also would pay tribute to Bernstein, who died last September.

“We’re going to start the concert with the last piece he ever wrote called ‘Fanfare,’ which was written for the 75th anniversary of the Hollywood Bowl,” Gackstatter said. The piece premiered on July 4, 2004.

Although “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which also is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written by Harper Lee, has such a timeless message, the symphony’s celebration of the work comes on the heels of the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka. On May 17, 1954, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously declared that separate educational facilities were inherently unequal and, as such, violated the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

“The ruling marked a major change in our society, and Mockingbird was a major change,” Gackstatter said.

Many activities have been planned leading up to the March 12 concert. “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be the focus of events in El Dorado, Winfield and Arkansas City as the “One Book, One Community” project embraces the novel in March. Members of each community are encouraged to read the book and attend the activities.

“The book and the film are widely considered masterpieces,” Gackstatter said. “The themes are timeless and told in such a way as to make ‘Mockingbird’ a favorite for many people for many reasons.”

On March 10, Badham, Alford and Peters will make appearances at Winfield High School during the day and will discuss the movie in an open forum at El Dorado High School that evening. On March 11, they will speak at Arkansas City High School in the morning and Cowley College in the afternoon. High school students will have the opportunity to ask questions of the actors during the workshops. Also on March 11, the film “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be shown in the Robert Brown Theatre. Admission is free and open to the public.

“There are so many points to talk about in relationship with the book,” Gackstatter said.

The culminating activity will be a concert that features Bernstein’s original film score and narration by Badham, Alford and Peters throughout the evening.

“We’ll also play the march from ‘The Great Escape,’ ” Gackstatter said. “Then Brock will come out and sing, and we’ll do the Mockingbird material. We’re playing the music written for the film, by Elmer Bernstein, and in between the movements, Mary, Phillip and Brock will talk about their memories of making the movie and how it has affected their lives since.”

Still photographs taken during filming of the 1962 movie also will be shown.

The film

The 1962 film, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was faithfully based on Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel written in 1960. Set in 1930s impoverished, racially-biased Alabama, the plot revolves around widowed lawyer Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck), who agrees to defend Tom Robinson (Brock Peters), a black man who has been falsely accused of raping a white woman. However, the story is more about Atticus’ two children, Scout (Mary Badham) and Jem (Phillip Alford).

The film won 1963 Academy Awards for Best Screenplay (Horton Foote), Best Actor (Gregory Peck), and Best Art Direction-Set Direction (Alexander Golitzen and Henry Bumstead). It also was nominated that year for Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Mulligan), Best Cinematography (Russell Harlan), Best Supporting Actress (Badham), and Best Music Score (Elmer Bernstein).

The artists

Badham won the role of “Scout” at the age of 10, with no prior acting experience. For her performance, she won an Oscar nomination for best supporting actress, the youngest person ever to do so. After TKAM, she appeared in two other films, “This Property is Condemned” with Robert Redford and Natalie Wood, and “Let’s Kill Uncle,” and had appearances on TV episodes of Dr. Kildare and Twilight Zone before retiring from the screen as a teenager.

Alford appeared in three productions with Birmingham’s Town and Gown Civic Theater before trying for the part of “Jem” in TKAM. After TKAM, Alford was featured in several films, but he returned to Birmingham at the age of 20 to enroll in college and later married.

Peters was born in New York City and set his sights on a show business career at age 10. A product of NYC’s famed Music and Arts High School, Peters worked his way up from Harlem poverty through many odd jobs. Before landing the role of Tom Robinson in TKAM, Peters had appeared in the Broadway production of “Porgy and Bess” and his film debut had been in 1954’s “Carmen Jones.”

The schedule for March 7-13

March 7—To Kill a Mockingbird will be shown on the big screen at Central Cinema 6, 300 E. Central, El Dorado. Admission is $2.

March 8—Harper Lee’s book will be discussed from 2-3 p.m. in the Kansas Room inside the 1500 Building on Butler Community College’s main campus in El Dorado.

March 9—Butler instructor Sonja Milbourn will conduct a book discussion at 6:30 p.m. in the Bradford Memorial Library Clymer Room, 611 S. Washington, El Dorado.

March 10—Badham, Alford and Peters will discuss the making of the movie at 7 p.m. at El Dorado High School’s auditorium, 401 McCollum Road.

March 11—A brown bag book discussion will be held at noon on the upper level of the L.W. Nixon Library on Butler Community College’s main campus in El Dorado. Also, at 7:30 p.m., the film will be shown free of charge on the Robert Brown Theatre screen inside the Brown Center at Cowley College.

March 12—“Remembering Mockingbird” with Badham, Alford and Peters, along with the Winfield Regional Symphony, 7:30 p.m., Robert Brown Theatre, Cowley College.

March 13—Race Relations in the Sunflower State will be the topic of discussion by Johnson County Community College history instructor James Leiker from 6-7 p.m. in the Nixon Library on Butler’s main campus in El Dorado.