“The festival was insightful and fun,” said Barbara Hall, English teacher at Gordon Central High School. “Visitors are able to visit the museum, gift shop, and walk through the court house.”
Hall said that festival included interactive reenactments from the novel.
“The jury [for reenactment of the famous trial scene] is picked from actual visitors, who are called up by Sherriff Heck Tate before the play begins. They are ushered in and actually sit in the jury box and give their verdict during the play.”
The experience “takes your breath away,” said Hall.
Hall journeyed on the trip with fellow Gordon Central teachers Sherry Sullivan, Susan Skaggs, Tammy Miller, and Shannon Rainwater.
The group learned a good deal about Harper Lee during the trip, said Hall.
“There is a great deal of history on the making of the movie and the friendship between Harper Lee and Truman Capote,” she said.
Also, she said, all of the actors and participants are locals from Monroeville, which gives them a true sense of ownership of this wonderful novel.
“We even had dinner at a little restaurant named The Radley Grill, so named because the owner was told that she was as crazy as Boo Radley for wanting to open the establishment,” said Hall.
Hall said that she and her fellow teachers enjoyed the trip. They were reminded of the charm of the novel, she said, which is one of the many reasons why they frequently assign the novel as required reading for their students.
“[The novel] is a powerful portrayal of family love, coming of age, and respect for others,” she said. “Students are taken on a wonderful journey, and in the end, they learn how important it is to be kind, tolerant, and knowledgeable about the past.”
Students can connect to the book, said Hall, because the material remains relevant 50 years later.
“50 years later, people are still forced to deal with prejudice, both social and racial,” said Hall. “Most importantly, [the novel forces students] to take a look at themselves, their views, and the many social and racial issues facing the world today.”
A book like “To Kill a Mockingbird”, said Hall, has the potential to change the life of a student.
“The universal theme I want them to carry with them after reading the novel is that all people deserve a place here on this earth,” said Hall. “We must respect the opinions and beliefs of others and not let our own views infringe upon the rights of others.”