CONDUCTOR plans performance after book removed from high school

Friday, August 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MUSKOGEE, Okla. (AP) _ Students won't be reading ``To Kill a Mockingbird'' at school this year, but they might be able to see a musical based on the classic Harper Lee novel.

A Kansas musical conductor who heard the Pulitzer Prize-winning book was taken off the reading list at Muskogee High School wants to bring a special performance of the story to Muskogee.

Gary Gackstatter, of Arkansas City, Kan., wants to bring his ``Scout Remembers Mockingbird'' to Muskogee's Roxy Theater this year. The production would feature the musical score and some of the actors who appeared in the 1962 movie based on the novel.

Muskogee library and arts leaders hope the performance will make up for some of the negative publicity the town received nationwide after school administrators removed the novel from the freshmen required reading list.

``Maybe this would help people see we are interested in something besides complaining and withdrawing,'' Muskogee Public Library Director Jan Bryant said Thursday.

School administrators removed the book from the reading list because several students and community members objected to its use of a racial epithet.

Bryant and library officials have raised about $5,000 of the $7,000 or so needed to bring the production to Muskogee. She is hoping to raise the necessary finances in time for a possible November showing.

``Scout Remembers Mockingbird'' would feature Gackstatter conducting Elmer Bernstein's score from the film, as well as spoken word performances from film actors Mary Badham, Philip Alford and Brock Peters.

Badham played young Scout, the little girl who watched her father, Atticus Finch _ played by Gregory Peck _ defend a black man from rape charges.

Alford played Scout's brother, Jem, while Peters was the wrongly accused Tom Robinson.

In the play, the trio recite narratives from ``Mockingbird,'' as well as recall memories of making the movie.

Gackstatter put the show together last year for a premiere performance in Wichita. He called Bryant last week after National Public Radio ran a piece about the Muskogee school decision and asked what the arts community was doing in response.

``I said, `We're doing the movie, a book review and discussion,''' Bryant said. ``He said, 'How would you like to do this?'''