Hagerstown creative event reflects characters from 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

October 22, 2007|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN - Jim Hawbaker watched the movie "To Kill a Mockingbird" about 10 years ago. Little did he know that a decade later, he would be cast as Atticus Finch.

Hawbaker's take on the lawyer and a main character in Harper Lee's novel was one of many photographs on display Sunday at Valley Mall. The portraits, taken by Washington County Technical High School students, were part of the finale of The Big Read in Washington County.

"They read the book and identified people in the community and in their lives who would fit the characters of the book," said Kristy Smith, program assistant for the Community Foundation of Washington County Inc., which coordinated The Big Read locally with the Washington County Free Library and the Washington County Board of Education.

The month-long initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts is designed to entice adults to read. Activities included book discussions and other special events to generate interest in the book and reading, she said.


Sunday's event included the photo display, skits and improvisational acting, all focused on "To Kill a Mockingbird."

After Hawbaker, of Greencastle, Pa., was approached about posing as Atticus, he said he watched the movie again, and read the book.

Ashley McCallister's model for a photo of Scout had so many of the girl's characteristics that re-creating the energy of one of "To Kill a Mockingbird's" main characters was easy.

"I came up with three different poses," Ashley said. "She was on a tire swing, sitting by a tree and hanging on a tree."

The one selected for Sunday's display showed "Scout" swinging from a tree branch.

"I liked this one the best," Ashley said. "It showed how active she was."

Dara Gamby, also a Washington County Technical High School senior, said she read "To Kill a Mockingbird" the year before, but reread it when she learned about the photo project she would be completing. Dara's portrait of Tom Robinson was displayed at Valley Mall Sunday.

Dara said that character stuck with her after she read the book for the first time. When she heard about the photo project, Dara said she knew she wanted to re-create Robinson's character, who was wrongly accused of rape in "To Kill a Mockingbird."

"For me, just the idea that he was actually put in jail in the book and he didn't do anything wrong," Dara said. "I envisioned him against a brick wall, and the shadows look like bars across his face."

When she read the book the second time, Dara said she was looking for details that would help her create a convincing photograph.

Smith said including students at the technical high school who are studying construction, art and digital communications in The Big Read was a way to reach out to students who might not have participated otherwise.

"We're looking for people who aren't big readers," she said. "No pun intended. These kids ... unless you make them read a book, they're not going to read 'To Kill a Mockingbird.'"

Like Dara, Smith said many students were saying that when they read the book for the first or second time, they were thinking of ways to apply it to something they had an interest in, like set design or photography.

"It's more than words on a page," Smith said.

She said the success of this month's Big Read has led to discussions of what the next book will be and when the next campaign will kick off.

"You'll definitely see The Big Read in Washington County again," Smith said.

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