Oregon City High School drama director Karlyn Love has wanted to direct “To Kill a Mockingbird” for years and is finally getting her chance.

by: PHOTO BY: KARMIN TOMLINSON - Atticus Finch (Mark Schwahn) comforts Scout (Jenika Flynn), left, as Jem (Danny Nelson) looks on.The classic story “about a noble lawyer named Atticus Finch, his precocious kids Jem and Scout, a small town facing a big challenge, and a man named Tom Robinson fighting for his life,” will be presented at 7:30 p.m. May 21, 22, 23 and 24 in the OCHS Auditorium.

“Oregon City High School has come a long way in terms of tolerance, acceptance and diversity, but we still have a long way to go. This story teaches tolerance and it is told through the eyes of a child. I think the message is easier to hear from Scout’s perspective,” Love said.

“It is also about learning to see past our differences as humans and look for what makes us all the same. Coupled with that important message is the fact that so many of our students read the book in English class. I thought it might draw a large audience,” she said.

Her biggest challenge has been finding African-American students to be in the cast who were able to commit to the show’s rehearsal schedule.

“It was not a lack of interest on anyone’s part, it was an inability to commit, a lack of experience in acting, stage fright, or schedules too packed with other activities,” Love said.

Student/faculty production

Every two years Love does a student/faculty production, and this one has 60 people in the cast; 15 of them are faculty members, many of whom have returned time after time to be in one of her shows.

“It is a unique chance to come together as equals for the student and faculty actors and stand in each other’s shoes for a time. The experience builds community between students and staff, and in our big school, that is so important,” she said.

This year is extra special for Love, since her husband, Mark Schwahn, is playing the lead role of Finch.

Schwahn, a professional actor and the theater production manager at OCHS, “has inspired most all of the cast to be better actors, especially in their scenes directly with him. It has been rewarding for me to see them relate to him in a new way and for them to get to see how really talented and wonderful he is,” she said.

This is her first time directing her husband, and she said he has been “so fabulous to work with. He has so much experience, he brings so much confidence and so many ideas into rehearsal, and he is so passionate about this story and playing Atticus that he infects us all with his enthusiasm.”

Love added, “I hope audiences will like the sense of community the play reveals. I hope they will be touched and inspired by the theme of don’t judge a person until you have stood in their shoes first, and I hope they will let the experience of the play bring back all of the good memories of reading the book in the first place, or if they did not like the book at first, that after seeing our play they are inspired to read it again and give it a second chance.”

Iconic characters

Probably the two most memorable characters in the book and the play are Finch and his 8-year-old daughter, Scout.

Schwahn said the biggest challenge has been to create his own version of Atticus and not just do an imitation of Gregory Peck, who played the role in the movie.

“Anytime you play a role that has been captured so iconically on film, the temptation is to study the movie and give people what they’re expecting or what they’re used to. I’m trying to find the parts of Atticus that are similar to me and bring those aspects out so that I can create my own original version of the character,” he said.

“The part of me that I’m trying the most to bring to Atticus is my sense of humor. It’s such a serious story, so dramatic, and I’m trying very hard to find some lighter moments and to show that Atticus can have a fun side — especially with his kids.”

The most enjoyable part of the show, so far, has been getting to work with his students as a peer rather than a teacher.

“At rehearsals we are both just actors working together, not student and teacher, and it’s allowed me to get to know some of my students on a more personal level that has been really fun and rewarding,” Schwahn said.

He also said he is enjoying being directed by his wife, who has “a terrific eye for staging pictures, has a great sense of how to tell the story, can talk to her actors about character and motivation, and is really good at communicating — all the things I look for in a director.”

Jenika Flynn, a junior, said the biggest challenge for her in playing Scout is having to revert back to being an 8-year-old girl.

“The part of myself I bring to this role is the listening. Scout is always listening and thinking through what other people say,” she said.

What has been the most fun for her is getting to work with so many actors and being on stage with some of the school’s teachers, getting to see a side of them she doesn’t always get to see.

Racial issues

Flynn said people should see the play “because it shows the effects of racism and shows how horrible it is. I think the play reminds us that there are still acts of racism done, and that we should stand up for what is right.”

Schwahn agrees, adding, the play deals with a story that still needs to be told.

“We are still struggling with racial issues, and we need to be reminded that we still have things to talk about, and that there is still improvement that needs to be made. However, this story helps us look at the issue in a simpler way, through the eyes of the kids, and so I think it can spur new ways of looking at it and, hopefully, new ways to talk about it,” he said.

The play also is an opportunity for audiences to see students and teachers working together as equals to tell an important story.

“It blurs the traditional lines of education, and that can be a really fun thing to experience,” Schwahn said.

What will audiences like best about “To Kill a Mockingbird”?

“The same things they love about the book and the movie: the relationships between Scout, Jem and Atticus, the characters’ struggle to find justice for Tom Robinson, the mystery of Boo Radley, seeing a difficult subject dealt with through the eyes of Scout and Jem, and the new way it can make you look at our world,” Schwahn said.

Who is Boo Radley?

What: Oregon City High School Theatre Arts Department presents Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

When: 7:30 p.m. May 21, 22, 23 and 24. Box office opens at 6:45 p.m.

Where: Oregon City High School Auditorium, 19761 S. Beavercreek Road.

Cost: $8 general admission. There are no advance ticket sales. Recommended for ages 13 and older.

More: Call 503-785-8980, or visit or

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