Delaware County native Greg Wood talks about his role in Aaron Sorkin’s To Kill a Mockingbird

-Brenda Hillegas

On July 12th, the Tony-nominated To Kill a Mockingbird arrives at the Kimmel Cultural Campus’ Academy of Music. The play, from Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin and directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, is based on Harper Lee’s classic novel. Catch it in Philadelphia through July 24th as part of the multi-year national tour across North America. Below, I spoke with cast member Greg Wood, a Philadelphia area native from Aston, PA (Delaware County). Read about his role in the show, how the book opened his eyes to racial issues in America, and what he hopes audiences take away from the performance.

Q: You’re from the Philly area and have performed in theatres such as Walnut, Arden, Hedgerow (in Media). What or who inspired you to become an actor? And what was your first local role?
A: I had no idea that a career in theatre would ever be in my future. I graduated university with a degree in Finance & Economics. I wound up taking an acting class at Hedgerow Theatre as a public speaking course to get over my horrible stage fright. While at Hedgerow, I found I loved theatre and acting, and decided to make it my career. Because Philly is such a great theatre town, I was fortunate to be able to make a living here as an actor. 

Q: When did you first read To Kill a Mockingbird? What lessons or moments from the book have stuck with you all this time?
A: This is embarrassing. I didn’t actually read To Kill A Mockingbird until I was an adult. Much to my shame, I wasn’t an avid reader when I was younger. However, I saw the movie when I was 9 or 10. And it changed my world. As a child, I had no idea there was a black/white issue. Racism? What was that? Sheltered is how I would describe my early childhood. The movie and the story it tells literally opened my eyes. I identified with Scout so strongly. One moment specifically struck me, and it still does. At one point a mob comes to lynch a black man, Tom Robinson. One man, Atticus, stands between all that hate and a man’s life. It’s clear they will go through Atticus to get to Tom if they have to. At that moment the children run in and refuse to leave Atticus alone. Scout recognizes one of the mob as the father of a classmate of hers. She, innocently, says hi to him and asks him to say hi to his boy. In that moment she puts a name and a face to all that hate and in doing so restores their humanity. Just beautiful.

Q: Tell me a bit about your role in the stage version’s ensemble. How do you help move the story along?
A: As part of the Ensemble, one of my jobs is to move furniture on and off stage. So I, literally, help move the story along! My actual role is Dr. Reynolds. He comes in at the end to examine Jem when he’s been hurt after being attacked. My place in the piece is to give a sense of close knit community to Maycomb County. 

Q: Were you able to see the play on Broadway prior to joining the touring cast?
A: Unfortunately no. I was planning on seeing it the night I went to New York for my costume fitting. But I learned the show had been cancelled due to covid.

Q: To Kill a Mockingbird is set in 1930s Alabama and addresses social issues that still exist today. What do you hope audiences take away from this play?
A: I hope people recognize that America still has deep racial issues that have to be addressed. Not ignored. Not rewritten. Not “whitewashed”. As painful as it is, and will be, we have to put a name and a face to our mob mentality in order to restore our common humanity.

Q: The play will be making stops all through the US this summer. Are there any cities or sites you’re looking forward to seeing?
A: In a word, Yes! I’ve never been to a number of these cities. And may never have gone if it weren’t for this tour. The great thing is, we’re in these cities for at least a week and in some cases 5 weeks! So we’re able to really get to know these places. I’m excited to see the Pacific Northwest. I’ve never been to Portland or Seattle which I hear are beautiful. I’ve never been to New Mexico. So I’m looking forward to Albuquerque and maybe taking a day trip to Santa Fe. This is a once in a lifetime gift. Even the cities I have been to, because of the tour, I’m able to live in them for awhile. So they become brand new as well. Can’t wait!

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