AUBURN -— “When I read a script and it makes me cry, then I know it’s a show I just have to direct.”

So said Linda Britt about her reaction to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which will open on the Community Little Theatre stage on Friday, Feb. 4.

It’s particularly appropriate, Britt said, to present this play, based on the classic book by Harper Lee, during the 50th anniversary of the iconic novel about race relations and the values of family, truth and quiet heroism.

The story is renowned for its warmth and humor, despite dealing with serious issues of rape and racial inequality. It takes place during the Great Depression in a “tired old town” in Alabama. Its central figures are a young girl, Scout, played by Julia St. Laurent, 11, a student at Geiger Elementary School, Lewiston; her brother, Jem, played by Drew Masse, 13, Lewiston Middle School; and their widowed father, a middle-aged lawyer, Atticus Finch, played by Stan Spilecki, a veteran of numerous area stage performances.

Britt said the stage version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” differs from the book in a few ways. Rather than covering three years, it focuses on the trial of Tom Robinson (played by Boyd Scott), a black man whose defense Finch takes on despite community criticism.

“As much as we would like to think that as a society we are beyond this (racism), it simply isn’t true,” Britt said. “Whether race or other discrimination, it is still current and it’s important for us to address it.”

Britt said the subject in “To Kill a Mockingbird” is “all the more immediate because it is seen through the eyes of a young girl, and she doesn’t understand it.”

The role of Finch is among the most enduring fictional images of racial heroism, and Gregory Peck’s portrayal in the 1962 movie is etched in the memory of audiences. Nevertheless, Britt said, Spilecki is successful in bringing that character’s exceptional integrity to his performance.

She also noted that the three young people in the cast are particularly compelling when they are on-stage together. Dill, a friend of Scout and Jem who is visiting them for the summer, is played by Dante Baskett, 12, a student at Auburn Middle School.

Masse and Baskett had roles in last summer’s CLT production of “Peter Pan.” St. Laurent was in the CLT youth production of “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.”

Portraying Mayella Ewell is Danielle Sicotte, who has choreographed other CLT performances, but this role “takes her outside her comfort zone” for a dramatic performance, Britt said.

Deidra Opfermann , who plays Calpurnia, is making her first appearance in a play.

Harley Marshall, who portrays Mr. Gilmer, is in Maine for just a few months before returning to Kansas. He has extensive theatrical experience there.

Other cast members are Michelle Jacobus, Andrea Quaid, Rachel Morin, Mark Hazard, Bob Greeley, Glenn Atkins, Roger Philippon, Ronald Charest, Phil Vampatella, Luka Baskett, Travis Mayo, Paige Berube and Nakesha Myrick.

Bill Hamilton, who has designed and built numerous CLT sets, has created a stage with four of the town’s houses on one side and the courtroom on the other. Scene changes are done seamlessly with no blackouts.

Director Britt warns that because of language, the play is not for young children. But, she noted, “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a book used in schools so it’s a reflection of a time and a place in America.

She added that there are moments that are very funny.

Go and do

WHAT: “To Kill a Mockingbird”

WHO: Lewiston-Auburn Community Little Theatre

WHEN: 8 p.m. on Feb. 4-5 and 11-12; 2 p.m. on Feb. 6 and 13; and 7:30 p.m. on Feb. 10

WHERE: Great Falls Art Center, 30 Academy St., Auburn

TICKETS: Call 783-0958

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