To Kill A Mockingbird takes over the Dr. Phillips Center from March 21-26. With that, Broadway actress Melanie Moore gives an insightful look into playing Scout Finch on the North American tour and how she has put the famed character on stage.
In the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee, Scout Finch is the young, spunky storyteller of the show. But in the play, the story is told by all three kids, Scout Finch, Jim Finch and Dill Harris, showing them as adults looking back into their childhood.
“Aaron Sorkin rewrote this and sort of reworked Harper Lee’s version. He did such a great job of giving me so much room to play with so I get to play something new every single night which keeps it very interesting to me and very alive,” Moore said, “So many people have expectations of what they think that character is, whether it be from the movie version that they love or the book version that they love. And, you know, I always feel like our imagination is way more vibrant. And so when you see that somebody in front of you, and it’s not what you expected, you really have to sort of win people over.”
With the source material and the emotional power of the character, Moore takes inspiration from her own childhood to help her put Scout’s presence on the stage.
“Scout is very similar to my younger self in a lot of ways. I have an older sister who is the more girlier girl and I am three years younger than her and she wouldn’t always let me play with her and her friends so I was sort of hanging out with the boys and was always trying to be like one of the guys. I think that that has helped inform my version of Scout as just my own life experience in growing up in Georgia,” Moore said.
The book To Kill A Mockingbird was published in 1960 becoming a book taught across schools and read by thousands of people. The story touches on topics of racism, discrimination, and social class.
“The events of this story, especially the events of this story that center around the white sort of central family unit, learning about black trauma, and it’s the first time that they are sort of affected by racism in the town. And I think for so many people, they experienced that in 2020, when you couldn’t turn off your TV and you couldn’t just sort of zone out, you were seeing it over and over again, images of outright racism in our country. And I think for so many people, they wanted to say, oh, that doesn’t exist anymore. It doesn’t look like that anymore. And in reality, it does in an insidious and hard-to-identify way,” Moore said, “So I think what is so important is that people come to see our show, they read the book, and they say, wow, that still looks kind of similar to the country that we still live in today. And that they want to get inspired to make it look completely different. So that when our kids are reading this, your kids are reading this if you want kids, you know generations from now your grandkids, they say wow, I can’t believe that the country looks like that. Instead of saying, wow, that still looks very similar.”
Moore won season 8 of “So You Think You Can Dance” which is a dance competition show where dancers perform different dance styles trying to win “America’s favorite dancer.” Moore grew up being a dancer and allowed that to influence how she plays Scout.
“Dancing has been super helpful because I play her at different ages so I played her like an eight/nine-year-old self and then I played her late 30-year-old self. I observed how children walk differently than adults. You know they’re a little bit free, they’re a little looser as they walk, there’s a way that they carry themselves where you know their bones don’t exactly hurt quite yet. And I think that my understanding of body awareness and my understanding of how people move helps me so much and helped me find distinct versions of those two different Scouts,” Moore said.
Her professional career includes Broadway and a variety of New York productions of Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, Finding Neverland, Chekhov/ OS/an experimental game (Baryshnikov Arts Center/Arlekin Players Theatre), Cheek to Cheek: Irving Berlin in Hollywood (York Theatre Company), A Chorus Line (Encores! at NYCC) and Freddie Falls in Love (Signature Theater and The Joyce Theater).
“[Playing Scout] was the start of a very beautiful and very unexpected turn in my career. It’s just one of those moments where I always say to people, ‘just like say yes.’ Even if you don’t know if you’re going to be good at it, like trial by fire––you’re gonna learn so much and so what if you fail––that’s okay. Life is about failing and then learning from it,” Moore said.
Moore used her past dance and life experience to form this character on stage. Dissecting Scout’s inquisitiveness and creating a youthful character she can relate to.
“My biggest piece of advice is just to be fearless in a way. Go after it if you really want it and be open to the possibility it may not look the way that you expect it,” Moore said.
You can catch Melanie Moore performing as Scout Finch in To Kill A Mockingbird playing in Walt Disney Theater at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts. Tickets available at drphillipscenter.org.