On the first day of rehearsals for its upcoming production of “Mockingbird,” Nashville Children’s Theatre Executive Artistic Director Ernie Nolan spoke to the cast and crew about the play’s themes of understanding and healing in the wake of school violence. But there’s no way he could have known just how timely that conversation would be, in light of the recent shooting that took place in Parkland, Fla.

“Usually, we tell stories that are very ‘Once upon a time,’” Nolan says. “But ‘Mockingbird’ is so current, so of the moment. It’s shocking to think that we are literally responding to what is happening in our schools right now.”

"Mockingbird With Red Beak" is one of the drawings
“Mockingbird With Red Beak” is one of the drawings by local artist Sarah E. Vaughn featured in “Mockingbird” at Nashville Children’s Theatre. (Photo: Sarah E. Vaughn )

Based on the award-winning book by Kathryn Erskine and adapted for the stage by Julie Jensen, “Mockingbird” centers on Caitlin, an 11-year-old with Asperger’s syndrome, who must navigate the complicated emotions surrounding grief and loss when her older brother is killed in a school shooting.

“For me, this show is really about empathy. It’s about a community responding to violence. But because of the specific difficulties facing our main character, she is quite literally discovering what it means to have empathy. She’s dealing with her own feelings, while trying to understand her father and everyone else searching for closure. It’s such a beautiful story, and I think it really offers an important springboard for conversation for both children and parents.”

Nolan has enlisted a pair of Broadway designers to bring “Mockingbird” to life, including scenic designer Court Watson (“Guys & Dolls,” “The Coast of Utopia,” “Grease!,” “Little Women,” “High Fidelity”) and sound designer Joanna Lynne Staub (“Angels in America,” “The Color Purple,” “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time”).

“It’s been so exciting to work with these amazing artists. We’re really thrilled to have Court and Joanna on board, along with the rest of our incredible cast and design team.”


Read the full article from the Tennessean here.