ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — “To Kill a Mockingbird’s” Scout courses through Staci Robbins’ veins like the scent of magnolia blossoms in the moonlight.
The Mother Road Theatre Company director will helm Harper Lee’s classic tale of racism and innocence, kindness and cruelty, sexism and ageism at the Albuquerque Little Theatre.
Robbins played the 6-year-old Scout, whose memories narrate the unfolding story, when she was just 8. The Workshop Productions play traveled from New York, Washington, D.C., and Florida.
“I was living in Virginia at the time,” Robbins said in a telephone interview. “I grew up in the South. I had a black nanny and the whole story of the Southern belle in the South was sort of my story.”
She first read Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning book in middle school.
“It wasn’t until then that the whole picture of social justice and racism came out,” she said.
Robbins will direct the play in a first-time joint collaboration between Mother Road and the Albuquerque Little Theatre.
Published in 1960, “To Kill a Mockingbird” tells the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer in Depression-era Alabama, who defends a black man against a false rape charge and his children against prejudice. Lee modeled Scout’s childhood friend Dill on her friend Truman Capote. She has always denied basing Scout on her childhood self.
“Harper Lee says it’s not her,” Robbins said. “But you can’t really dismiss that thought.”
Albuquerque’s Christopher Atwood will play Atticus. Mackenzie Jarrell and Traeton Pucket will play his children Scout and Jem. Julia Thudium narrates the story as the older Scout. “She and Mackenzie look alike and sound alike,” Robbins added.
The 1962 classic film version lingers long in many people’s minds, a help to the local production, Robbins said.
“People know the story,” she continued. “It’s still on the reading list of every middle school in the country.”
“To Kill a Mockingbird” has been continually published since its inception, winning its author the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007. In 1963, Gregory Peck won the Oscar for the film role of Atticus.
In 2006, British librarians ranked “To Kill a Mockingbird” ahead of the Bible as one “every adult should read before they die.”