In Part 12 of a series of interviews with the cast and director of To Kill a Mockingbird at Rockville Little Theatre meet Natalie McManus.
Joel: Please introduce yourself and tell our readers where they may have seen you perform on local stages.
Natalie: I have been involved in theatre since childhood. By trade I am a Designated Linklater Voice Teacher for theatre voice and a Voice/Speech/Presentation Skills Coach. I trained extensively with Shakespeare & Company in Lenox, MA and has taught theatre skills and Shakespeare workshops for many years, along with occasionally directing/producing various shows. Locally,I have performed at numerous area theatres. Roles include Mrs. Birling in An Inspector Calls at Rockville Little Theatre, Ruth in Collected Stories with Peace Mountain Players, Mollie in Mousetrap with Potomac Theatre Company, and at Silver Spring Stage she has played Lottie in Enchanted April, Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Henrietta in The Last Days of Judas Iscariot, and Joan in The Guys.
Why did you want to appear in this production of To Kill a Mockingbird?
This story is so important in American History, and is so well written. Not only is it important because it won a Pulitzer Prize, but because of it’s cultural truth, and relevance today amid the racial and judicial inequalities that still persist. (And now with the upcoming release of Harper Lee’s original book which takes place after this one, it makes the retelling of this story even more important)
Who do you play in the show and how do you personally relate to your character?
I play Miss Maudie, Attiucus’ neighbor and friend. She is a widow who is a motherly figure to his children. Miss Maudie sees the injustice going on in the town and is frustrated and angry about it. She sees people, no matter what color, as people, and likes or dislikes them because of how they behave and treat others. She believes and hopes for equality. I share these feelings and ideals. Miss Maudie also bakes wonderful cakes, and I do too.
What is To Kill a Mockingbird about from the point of view of your character?
The story is about the racial injustice and the very slow progress that our country has made in righting these wrongs. It’s about treating each other as human beings, regardless of the color of our skin, being truthful, and the importance of standing up for what is right, even when the odds are against you.
What scene or scenes were the most difficult to learn and why?
The scene where Miss Maudie is telling the children that even though she knew Atticus couldn’t win the case, that maybe the town was making some sort of progress in the right direction. This was difficult because she is struggling with her emotions and thoughts at the same time.
Which scene or scenes moves you the most? And why?
The scene that moves me the most is when Atticus finds Scout safe and sound after the attack. As a parent, not knowing where your child is, or if they are safe, is a terrible thing, and finding them safe is an overwhelming emotion of joy and relief.
Why is this show relevant for today’s theatregoers?
Because of all of the racial problems that this country is still dealing with – and the injustices occuring in the legal system. This story is an example of how far we have come, but also how far we have yet to go – and the need for people to stand up for what is right and not to give in to those who hate and are predjudice.
There is also the interest in the release of Harper Lee’s “new” book – which was supposedly written before this story.
What have you learned about yourself as a person and an actor while learning and rehearsing your role?
It has just confirmed to myself that I stand up for what is right – and I should continue to do so.
What was the best advice your director gave you on preparing and playing your character?
Find the “lightness” in Miss Maudie.
For those people who love the film, what is different about the stage version and why should they come see it live on the stage?
It’s different in that there is a narrator guiding the audience to the “behind the scenes insights” into what is happening – and she is the grown-up Scout. The power of the courtroom scene – and many of the scenes is much more palpable when seen live. The energy and emotion is much more accessible for the audience.
What do you want audiences to take with them after seeing you perform in To Kill a Mockingbird?
I would hope that audiences would discuss the issues raised in the play. Hopefully it will open up dialogue about racial and judicial issues in this country. I would also hope that they have a greater appreciation for stories told live on the stage and how powerful they can be. This cast is absolutely terrific!
To Kill a Mockingbird plays through May 3, 2015 at Rockville Little Theatre performing at F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre at The Rockville Civic Center- 603 Edmonston Drive, in Rockville MD. For tickets, call the box office at (240) 314-8690, or purchase them online.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 1: Nancy Lark.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 2: Kieran Duffy.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 3: Stuart Rick.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 4: Kevin Page.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 5: Sydney Lauricella-Reed.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 6: Liz Weber.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 7: Jill Goodrich.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 8: Grant Williams.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 9: Todd Mazzie.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 10: Matthew Wixed.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 11: Mark Steimer.
Meet the Cast of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ at Rockville Little Theatre: Part 12: Natalie McManus.