Watching ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ with 18,000 teenagers was one of the most profound theater experiences of my career

The arts are vital to our lives as humans.

And if one entered the cavernous arena suspecting that 18,000 teenagers might view this as class-trip goof-around time, those suspicions evaporated with the extinguishing of the house lights. The students from Queens and Brooklyn, Manhattan, the Bronx and Staten Island laughed with the actors playing the young narrators: Nina Grollman as Scout, Nick Robinson as Jem, Taylor Trensch as Dill. There were gasps and rumbling murmurs at the racist rants of Neal Huff’s villainous Bob Ewell and Eliza Scanlen’s Mayella, the purported victim. Supportive applause erupted at the dignified protestations of Kyle Scatliffe’s Tom Robinson, the innocent defendant. And, wow — the deafening roar near the matinee’s end, when Harris got Huff around the neck, poised to pummel him. A cacophonous response at a volume I have never heard in a theater. —Washington Post