ELDERSBURG — As she was reading over plays last summer, one story in particular impressed drama and English teacher Cathy James.
"I liked what it was saying and the statement it was making," she said of "To Kill a Mockingbird."
Under her direction, Liberty's Drama Club will present the emotion-filled, thought-provoking play Thursday through Saturday in the high school auditorium.
James, who is directing her fourth play at Liberty, said she hopes to give audiences an "awareness experience," tomake them more aware of prejudice and bigotry.
"There's one bad guy in the show," she said, "and he's the bigot."
The 39-member cast will use a script by Christopher Sergel, adapted from the 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee. At the play's conclusion, theaudience, as jury, renders the verdict.
The familiar story, set in the Deep South town of Monroeville, Ala., is seen through the eyes of young Jean Louise Finch, nicknamed "Scout." Her father, attorney Atticus Finch, defends Tom Robinson, a black man, against charges thathe molested a white woman, Mayella Ewell.
Becky Rice portrays Scout as a child. She describes the young girl as a "tomboy with not toomany friends," other than her brother, Jem, who is played by Rob Jeffrey.
"I read the book. It made an impression. I can relate to herbecause I tend to see things on the surface," she said.
Scout grows and begins to "walk in other people's shoes," said the junior, who's acted in school, church and community productions. Rice said her acting is just a hobby.
"It's fun to live in another world for a while," she said.
D. J. Dague, as Atticus Finch, said he wanted to play the role because "he's a neat character with a lot of courage."
Looked up to by his children as a respected leader, Atticus gives his kids wisdom and morality.
"Atticus seems very dual," said Dague. "He's traditional and conservative in some ways and radical in others."
Dague, a senior, moved here from Illinois last year. He said he plans to study communications or psychology at Indiana University next year and to continue his involvement in theater.
Ben Schuman,a junior playing his seventh role, said his character, Bob Ewell, isthe "scum of the earth and a child-beater who lives off unemploymentchecks."
Schuman said he's having fun as the villain.
"It's a stretch to my personality," he said. Schuman plans to further his 12 years of piano study by majoring in music at the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Alvin Richardson portrays Tom Robinson, and Dani Haslam plays the older Scout.
Kyle Kaiser, who has acted in two plays, serves as student director. The senior said that when he asked James if he could direct the play, "I didn't know what I was getting into."
Kaiser said he's "taking notes, running errands, supervising lighting and training others in the sometimes frustrating job."
"I love the play. It's an excellent story for Carroll County," said Kaiser, who plans eventually to pursue a degree in English.
Drama and speech teacher Kathy Schnorr advises on technical aspects of the production, including sets and colors. She and James cooperate in all school productions.
James said students in the cast head committees for props, makeup, publicity and costumes.
Senior Steve Lyonsis in charge of the scenery. On a recent Saturday, he supervised 30 performers and advisers in building five houses to be used on stage.
Kelly Soltyziak and Kaiser manage the lights.
Drama Boosters, aparent group, is assisting with programs and snacks.
"To Kill A Mockingbird" will be presented at 7:30 p.m. Thursday through Saturday in the Liberty High School auditorium, Bartholow Road, Eldersburg. Tickets are $3 at the door. Information: 795-8100.