Students to present scene from 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

LAWRENCEVILLE - Four decades after "To Kill a Mockingbird" was first printed, Harper Lee's novel of racial injustice in a small Southern town continues to resonate with readers.

Students at Phoenix High School will bring the novel to life next week with their re-enactment of the book's climactic courtroom scene. It will show the trial of a black man, Tom Robinson, who was convicted of raping a local white woman despite overwhelming evidence he was innocent.

"I think it will show just how far we've come," said Hal Jordan, the political systems teacher organizing the mock trial. "I can't say racism has been eradicated, or discrimination has been eradicated, but I think this scene brought home to students just how far we've come."

Every year, Jordan's students put on a mock trial to apply what they learn in class. They were contacted this year by the Gwinnett County Public Libraries, which has chosen "To Kill a Mockingbird" for its Gwinnett Reads 2006 Selection.

The scene's dialogue was adapted from the Academy Award-winning screenplay of the 1962 film, which the students watched repeatedly to help get into character.

The half-hour mock trial will feature a diverse cast, fitting for a racially charged scene. Of the six student actors, one is Iranian, two are Romanian, one is black and one is Asian.

A real county judge, Pam South, will oversee the mock trial. Organizers said her role is significant; when the novel took place in the 1930s, there were no female judges.

"The kids are going to present an incredibly powerful performance. They show how far we have come, and how far we have not," said Beth McIntyre, manager of the Five Forks branch of the library.

The audience will play the role of the jury in the mock trial. Unlike the novel and film, Jordan expects the jury will fairly consider the evidence and find Robinson innocent.

The cast includes Serge Strimbu as Atticus Finch, Roxy Gabor as May Ella Ewell, Dominique Rose as Tom Robinson, Tuan Chu as Sheriff Heck Tate, Erik Mosca as Prosecutor Gilmer and Shahab Ghayour as Robert E. Lee Ewell.

Gwinnett libraries will continue to celebrate with a visit from Mary Badham, who played Scout in the film adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird."

She will visit Gwinnett University Center on March 4 to talk about her experiences filming the movie. The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $7 and are available at all library branches.

For more information about other "To Kill a Mockingbird" events, visit www.gwinnett