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In early spring of 2014, Mockingbird premiered as a workshop production at Weber State University and was such a success that WSU professor Tracy Callahan has been asked to direct the play at the Kennedy Center in Washington.
Based on a book of the same title by Kathryn Erskine and adapted into a screenplay by local playwright, Julie Jensen, Mockingbird became one of many plays Weber State presented last season during their “original” theme.
Callahan directed the play, which is about a 12-year-old girl who has autism and is dealing with the death of her brother.
Callahan said the book was bought by the Kennedy Center. She was looking for a play to do in WSU’s new play season and told Jensen she was interested in it. Although Callahan could not do the world premiere of Mockingbird, as those rights are owned by the Kennedy Center, WSU was allowed to do workshop.
“They (the Kennedy Center) did send some people down to see it and they liked it and me as a director, so Julie and I went as a team and we auditioned it,” said Callahan.
This is Callahan’s third time to be honored at The Kennedy Center.
“The first show I did was a play . . . years ago, when I first got here called The Serpent by Jean-Claude van Itallie that went on to be performed at the Kennedy Center through The American College Theatre Festival,” said Callahan, adding she also had her version of Macbeth performed when the Kennedy Center did all Shakespeare plays.
“This is going to be at the Center for Young Audiences, so it’s primarily going to be geared toward a younger audience and they’re going to travel with the productions,” said Christie Denniston, director of marketing for the theater arts department.
The play will be performed by the youth theater program and has already been cast by Actors’ Equity in Washington, but Shawnee K. Johnson said, “It’s cool to know that we were the original cast.”
“It really allowed our students to work on something from scratch,” said Dennison. “They really got to develop the roles of the characters, because we were the first one to do it.”
Callahan said she is excited to do another production at The Kennedy Center, and although she would love to go to Broadway, she is privileged to be back in Washington, adding that they bring in playwrights of all ages, and create wonderful concerts, theaters pieces, dances and they are generous in giving the arts to the community.
“I love Washington. They’re really educationally minded,” said Callahan. “D.C. and the Kennedy Center especially, work hard to educate young artists. Almost every day they have something going on. They are really affiliated with the American College Theater Festival which is about training young theatre artists.”