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In Mockingbird, a Gay Actor Helps Bring a Story of Otherness to Life

In 'Mockingbird,' a Gay Actor Helps Bring a Story of Otherness to Life

Above, from left: Jeff Daniels (in background) as Atticus Finch, Will Pullen as Jem Finch, and Gideon Glick as Dill Harris in To Kill a Mockingbird.

To Kill a Mockingbird is, at its heart, a story about otherness — the otherness of being Black in a world ruled by whites, of course, but also the otherness of “a young butch girl and her friend who is this queer boy,” as actor Gideon Glick puts it.

Glick, who is gay, is playing that queer boy, Dill Harris, in the new Broadway version of Mockingbird, adapted by Aaron Sorkin from Harper Lee’s beloved novel, directed by Bartlett Sher, and starring Jeff Daniels as lawyer Atticus Finch, who’s defending Tom Robinson (Gbenga Akinnagbe), a Black man wrongly accused of rape.

The play has the child characters — Atticus’s son and daughter, Jem and Scout, and their neighbor and playmate, Dill Harris — all portrayed by adults. The effect is that they’re seen both as children experiencing the events of one tumultuous summer in the 1930s and as grown-ups looking back on those events. “The three adult kids are kind of sleuths coming back to this moment,” Glick says.

Also, while Scout is the sole narrator of the novel and the 1962 film version, Sorkin’s play splits the narration among the three young people and makes some other changes, including a bigger role for Dill, based on the great author Truman Capote, a longtime friend of Lee’s.

“We’ve expanded Dill in a really exciting way,” Glick says. Dill is a neglected child, dumped by his parents for the summer at his aunt’s house in Maycomb, Ala., where he leads Scout and Jem on adventures, such as seeking out reclusive neighbor Boo Radley (Danny Wolohan), and regales them with tall tales.

“Dill is using optimism and grandiose storytelling to mask his deep loneliness and fractured family,” Glick says. But this portrayal, more than others, shows the pain that he’s hiding, the actor notes.

And in the depiction of Scout, that “butch girl,” and queer boy Dill as outsiders, this version underlines the story’s theme of the need to empathize with others. “I think this adaptation has really brought that to life,” Glick says. Scout is played by Celia Keenan-Bolger and Jem by Will Pullen in this production.

Glick was first cast as Dill when the play was workshopped and then offered the part for its Broadway run. To develop his portrayal, he immersed himself in all things Mockingbird and Capote.

“I tried to absorb as much as possible,” he says. He reread the novel, watched the 1962 movie, read several Capote biographies, and visited Monroeville, Ala., the basis for Maycomb. He also read Capote’s first novel, Other Voices, Other Rooms, which centers on a young gay boy in the Deep South. There’s a lot of Capote in his version of Dill, he says.

Of course, the type of otherness on which Mockingbird focuses most has to do with race, and the story remains an important one in an era when race and racism are still major issues in American life. “It’s still 100 percent relevant,” Glick says.

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The experience of telling this story and working with Mockingbird’s cast and crew has been rewarding, he says. “Everyone is bringing their A game,” the actor notes.

The Philadelphia-born Glick, at 30, already has a considerable Broadway resume, having appeared in Spring Awakening, Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, and others. He knew he wanted to be an actor at a very early age, he says.

He also came out at an early age, starting the process in seventh grade. “I have Queer as Folk to thank,” he says. His mother, a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, was best friends with a fellow professor, communications specialist Larry Gross, who taped every episode of QAF, both the British and American versions. Glick told his mother he needed to watch the show because he was gay.

Glick notes that his family was liberal and accepting, and from an early age he was around many out, happy, well-adjusted LGBTQ people. “I’m pretty fortunate,” he says.

He’s also happy to be in a Broadway hit and to be recently engaged to physician Perry Dubin, who had been a schoolmate, but they connected as adults. They haven’t set a wedding date, but they are in the process of buying an apartment.

Looking at a long run in Mockingbird, Glick isn’t sure what his next career move will be. But he’s content. “Things are settled,” he says, “which is nice.”

 

To Kill a Mockingbird is in an open-ended run at the Shubert Theatre in New York City. Find more information at ToKillAMockingbirdBroadway.com.

Tags: Theater

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