Wendy and I feel so blessed to live a community this size (roughly 10,000) that has such great cultural offerings. Last night we ventured out to the gorgeous, historic Pella Opera House to watch National Players touring production of To Kill a Mockingbird. The wandering troupe of 10 players had performed Shakespeare’s The Tempest in the morning to a house full of students, and exposing many to their first experience with live Shakespeare.
It had been many years since Wendy or I had ready or watched Harper Lee’s classic story of racial injustice. The National Players production was a great way to refresh our memories of the incredible story. We loved the production and our post show discussion raised three great take aways…
- You don’t need a lot of window dressing. While we all love our Broadway extravaganzas, the truth is that great theatre requires very little spectacle. National Players had ten chairs, a few moving set pieces, and two pillars at the back of the stage. Yet, their performance effortlessly took our imaginations to a front porch, a courtroom, and a country road.
- Transitions, transitions, transitions. I am convinced more than ever that one of the crucial details between great theatre and mediocre theatre is in the scene changes. For scene changes, the National Players cast sang a cappella versions of spirituals that both kept us in the period of the play while entertaining us as they moved the set pieces around. The changes were seamless. Rather than being an interruption to the action of the story, they became enjoyable bridges.
- The script makes a difference. There’s no substitute for good writing. A great script can still inspire even when produced by rank amateurs. A poor script in the hands of the best professionals cannot hide its flaws. The adaptation of To Kill a Mockingbird used by the National Players was a great script that told the story in a succinct way without losing its power or inspiration. Last night we had a capable group of talented professionals performing a great script, and we were blessed and inspired.
I hope that Kevin will find time on the Pella Opera House schedule to book National Players again next season. An evening of quality live, professional theatre in a priceless, historic venue for $12 a seat. I love this town!