It’s the greatest novel ever written (ok, that’s just my opinion but prove me wrong) that became a beloved film. Sixty-three years later, Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” has been adapted into a play by Oscar and Emmy Award winning writer Aaron Sorkin.
The play features Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham, who played Scout in the film, earning an Academy Award nomination for her performance, as the Finch’s cranky neighbor, Miss Dubose. In this production, the role of Scout is played by Maeve Moynihan. Ms. Moynihan recently took time while on the road to talk with Media Mikes about the show, her role and her journey to the stage.
MICHAEL SMITH: How did you come to be cast in “To Kill a Mockingbird?”
MAEVE MOYNIHAN: Its been kind of a wild journey for me. I auditioned for the show in 2019 and went through a few rounds of auditions. And then they offered me the tour. I didn’t even know there was a tour so I was thrilled. It was my first year in New York so it was really exciting. I was cast in the ensemble and I was supposed to understudy Scout and Mayella as well. Then COVID happened and I didn’t have an industry. I waited two years to do the tour. It was surreal that it even happened because I kept thinking it would never happen. They would cancel it, then they kept changing the dates. They kept everything on pause. So, just to be in rehearsals in the room in New York was thrilling. I toured with the show for a year and a half and then they offered me Scout. It was super exciting. It still doesn’t feel real.
MS: What drew you to acting?
MM: I grew up with three siblings and our parents gave us free reign to try multiple things out, Whether it was sports or the arts, they really wanted us to be exposed to things. When I was about eight I enrolled in a theater class and I loved it. That was at the Minneapolis Children’s Theater Company. They were holding auditions for “The wizard of Oz” for the Munchkins. My parents asked me if I wanted to audition and I told them “no. But then I did it. I didn’t think much of it but they offered me a role as one of the Munchkins and that was my first play. Growing up I was so exposed to so many great theater companies, so in addition to being in some great productions I was also able to see a lot of them. That had a huge impact on me as a young adult.
MS: Prior to being cast in the show had you read the novel or seen the film?
MM: I had read the novel, I think in ninth grade. I had never seen the film but once I got cast I watched it. Then I showed up at the table read, where we all sit down and read the script for the first time with each other and Mary Badham, who played Scout in the film and plays Miss Dubose in the play, was sitting across from me at the table. I looked over at her and I thought, “Oh my gosh…that’s scout!” I literally had just realized it. I hadn’t put two and two together.
MS: I have not yet seen the show so the answer to this question may be revealed during the show. At the end of the novel, Scout is eight. You obviously are not. How is that addressed in the show? Or is it?
MM: In our production, what Aaron Sorkin has done, is create this theatrical device for the three kids: Scout, Jem and Dill. They are all played by adult actors playing children and they serve as the narrators of the story. They look on the audience as their confidant. What I think is particularly interesting about Scout is that you get to see her as a young child and you get to see her as an adult lawyer reflecting on her life and reflecting on the choices her father made. I also think that with an adult actor you’re able to create a deeper sense of vulnerability that maybe as a child actor you can’t access. You can also delve into certain areas that may be hard to explain or hard for a young actor to grasp.
MS: Any tips from Mary Badham? Any notes after a show?
MM: No, but she is really supportive and really encouraging. She’s told me about her time with Gregory Peck and what it was like experiencing all that she did as a child. I can’t even imagine being Oscar nominated at her age. And she has such a great humility about her. What I have really appreciated is that she has allowed me to make the role my own. Obviously she’s there as a wonderful resource but she has also given me the time to figure it out myself.
MS: Do you have a dream role? Is there a role that, if they called you and sakd “would you like to play this?” you’d jump at it?
MM: Oh my gosh, that’s such a hard question (laughs). Scout is pretty much a dream role, I must say. It’s pretty fantastic. I kind of feel like I’m already living out my dream now. The classics, I guess. Juliet. Any of the Tennesse Williams plays. Any of the really great writers. There are some great roles you’d like to grow into, like Martha in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” That’s the kind of role I someday hope to play. But right now, this is definitely a dream.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” opens at the Music Hall in Kansas City on Tuesday, October 24th. For tickets and more information click HERE