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MOCKINGBIRD has wings, returns to Utah

Standard Examiner, by Nancy Van Valkenburg

A play that first came to life at Weber State University is back on a Utah stage with its original director and lead.

“Mockingbird,” a 2014 Julie Jensen play about a girl, Caitlin, struggling with the loss of a loved one and with autism, opens April 16 at the Wagner Center.

Weber State University theater professor Tracy Callahan directs, and WSU student Camery Bagley, who originated the role of Caitlin, reprises it for the Pgymalion Theatre production.

But it’s Callahan’s third time directing the show. She also worked with an East Coast cast for a production at the Kennedy Center, in Washington, D.C., which commissioned the work.

 “It got excellent reviews,” Callahan said, of the D.C. production. “They bused in hundreds of students from all over the area, and that went on three shows a day. A lot of kids were moved by it. And I got to work with great actors and designers, and the author was there, too.”

The Kennedy Center production had a set that was a little more high tech, Callahan said, and rehearsals were intense over a short time period, the opposite of university rehearsals which last a few hours daily over a longer time period. A scene or two was cut for time, since the student audiences had to get back to their schools.

The Pygmalion Theatre production is in a black box space at the Wagner Center, and has a different set of staging limitations. Callahan said she feels good about the show’s flexibility.

“It can be done on many different levels,” she said. “It can be done at high schools and in community halls. If we really want to get the message out and the play out, it’s good that you can do it on many different levels and still tell the story.”

 The play is told largely from Caitlin’s point of view, capturing her battle to fit in and interact with others despite the fact that her autism makes the world seem loud and chaotic. The play is especially significant to Callahan, who has a high-functioning autistic son, and who believes education and understanding would be helpful to those with autism and those without.

Pygmalion Theatre arranged to do the show after seeing the Weber State production, and Bagley auditioned for and won the role of Caitlin. Salt Lake City actor Robert Scott Smith plays Caitlin’s father. Former WSU students Tyson Baker and Austin Archer, who were not in the university’s production, also play roles in the upcoming run.

“It’s fun to work with some of my older students,” Callahan said.

It’s rare for Callahan to direct a show more than once, she said, because there are so many shows she would like to experience.

“But this one is very important to me,” she said. “This one has a unique way to talk about its topic. I’m devoted to being part of it as long as I can. I want to see it get done right. You find of feel like that when you’re the first one. But I hope it gets done by other directors all over the country.”

Contact reporter Nancy Van Valkenburg at 801-625-4275 or nvan@standard.net. Follow her on Twitter at @SE_NancyVanV; on Facebook at facebook.com/SE_NancyVanV.

PREVIEW

  • WHAT: ‘Mockingbird’
  • WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday-Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays, April 16-May 2
  • WHERE: Wagner Center, 138 W. 300 South, Salt Lake City
  • TICKETS: $20, www.arttix.org or 801-355-ARTS

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