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'To Kill A Mockingbird' at Oregon Stage Works

Oregon Stage Works presents Christopher Sergel's "To Kill a Mockingbird," the powerful story of one man's stand against prejudice as seen through the eyes of his child. Based on Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "To Kill a Mockingbird" opens at 8 p.m. Thursday, March 22, at Oregon Stage Works, in Ashland's A Street Market Place.

The play unfolds in rural Alabama in 1932. As young Scout and her brother enjoy the games and freedoms summer brings, their town is shaken when their father, a lawyer, agrees to defend a black man accused of rape. The alleged victim is white, and as the community around them struggles with old fears and with change, Scout and Jem emerge from their world of playful fantasy into a new maturity and compassion.

Director Peter Alzado describes "To Kill a Mockingbird" as an American classic, a play that speaks directly to audiences of our day. "There seems to be a really significant malaise in our country," Alzado says, "a sense that one person can no longer make a difference. So this is a good time for us to take a look at a man of integrity and the impact he has on his children, the way that one man of character and substance can give the next generation something to stand up for."

In fact, says Alzado, children are the play's focal-point. "This play carries such hope," Alzado says, "because we see that the children will carry this story with them for their whole lives. We see the impact events have on them, and that's what gives the play such power."

The actors who play these children all come from the Acting Academy of OSW's Ashland Children's Theatre. Sierra Allegra Wood, a veteran of commercials and films, was last seen in OSW's productions of "Scroogical" and "The Crucible." Miko Hughes appeared in OSW's "Our Town." Colin Chasey, who played in Ashland Children's Theatre's "The Peter Pan Project," makes his OSW mainstage debut.

The play also features Sam King a graduate of the North Carolina School of the Arts. After working in theater in New York and Los Angeles, King moved to Ashland, where his most recent OSW appearances include "On Golden Pond" and "The Wild Guys." Joining him is Judith Sanford, who trained at the National Theatre School of Canada in Montreal and worked in Quebec and Toronto on stage and in film and TV. She performed with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival for six seasons and was last seen at OSW in "Our Town" and "Copenhagen."

Other OSW veterans include Brian Wallace, who worked in film, TV and theater in Los Angeles before relocating to Ashland and who was seen most recently at OSW in "The Crucible" and "Scroogical"; Rochelle Savitt, of Southern California's South Coast Repertory and OSW's "Crossing Delancey"; and Steve Wood ("The Crucible").

Karyn Joseph makes her OSW debut after performing in musicals and theater productions in the United States, Canada and Japan. Joining her are Wrick Jones, a veteran of Actors Theatre and the Oregon Shakespeare Festival; Joe Charter, who last appeared in Camelot Theatre's "Beard of Avon"; Larry Aerni, Ty Boyce, Scott Ford, Phylesia Fratus, Hessan Harris, Tim Kelly and Terry Kolkey.

Peter Alzado holds an MFA in directing from the University of Montana. He most recently directed OSW's productions of "Crossing Delancy" and "The Crucible." "Cyber Seranade," which he directed at the former Actors' Theatre, in Talent, was nominated as the best new play produced outside New York City by the American Critics Association.

The show's stage manager is Lisa Marie Wingbermuehle, with assistance from Stephanie Edwards. Chris Premi is in charge of lighting design and Charles S. Couraud of scenic painting; Doug Ham is Set Design Consultant. Rhonda Lawrence designed the costumes for the show.

As part of its wish to underscore theater's connection to issues vital to the Rogue Valley community, OSW has donated the entire house on Thursday, April 5, to the American Humanics Student Association, an association of students training for non-profit service. For benefit tickets, contact Linda Richards at 944-5960.

The theater will also offer a special Senior Night on Thursday, March 29. Tickets will be available for $12 to all seniors 65 and over.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" will run at 8 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through April 22. Tickets are $17 and $10 for students, at Grocery Outlet in Medford and the Music Coop in Ashland. Call 482-2334.