Friday, January 12, 2007


This story is freaking awesome. And rather uplifting.

A high school play based on Harper Lee's classic "To Kill a Mockingbird" brought together black and white high school students to tell the classic story of racial injustice — and even drew out the novel's reclusive author.

Wednesday night's invitation-only performance was organized to celebrate diversity and arts education in Alabama, the home state of the novel's author, whose book and the movie made from it won immediate acclaim at a time when Alabama was still rigidly segregated.

This is truly great.

The two public schools near Birmingham are only about 16 miles apart. But Mountain Brook is one of the state's wealthiest communities, with a median home price of about $300,000, while the same figure in Fairfield is about $68,000.

Mountain Brook High draws from an overwhelmingly white suburb, while Fairfield students are from a mostly black district.

The performance has helped the students transcend not only the 30-minute distance between their communities, but a cultural divide as well. Teens who were strangers this time last year are spending hours on the phone, sending each other multiple text messages per day and chatting on the Internet networking site Facebook.

The Montgomery performance was in Troy University's Davis Theater, directly across the street from the bus stop where civil-rights icon Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat to a white man 51 years ago.

The symbolism of the location was not lost on Regan Stevens, a 17-year-old Mountain Brook senior who plays Scout, the book's main character in the fictional Southern town of Maycomb during the Depression.

Scout recounts how her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch, fought in vain to save a black man wrongly accused of raping a white woman.

"I hate to say life's not fair," Stevens said backstage after lamenting the play's sad, but realistic ending. "But it's just that things are not always where they need to be. The great thing about Harper Lee's novel is that it helps us address that because it shows us the problem areas that we need to work on and that's what the civil rights movement thankfully did."

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