Hartford, Connecticut, UNITED STATES – Andrew Shipman, one of the youngest actors in the cast of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” now playing at Hartford Stage, took some time backstage to reveal how he plays the wonderfully erratic Dill Harris.
Shipman said he likes his role because Dill “has high energy.”
Though he’s younger than many of the actors, he easily gets along with and learns from the others in the cast, he said.
“You learn so much,” Shipman said, from the other actors.
Shipman said it helps to be on stage with Henry Hodges, who plays Jem Finch.
“Playing off of him (Jem) really helps,” said Shipman.
Shipman, an eleven-year-old fifth grader at Nayaug Elementary School in Glastonbury Connecticut, said he is not the youngest in the cast.
Children as young as seven are part of the show, he said.
Shipman’s start on stage wasn’t as a dramatic actor.
“I’ve always liked singing,” Shipman said. “I’ve always loved singing. I’ve sang around the house since I could talk.”
Shipman said he loves being in plays and musicals.
“My first show was when I was six,” he said.
Though he said acting takes up most of his time, Shipman said he also plays basketball and tennis and spends time with his dog.
Shipman has been in six shows at Hartford Stage and loves it.
“Hartford Stage puts on great productions,” Shipman said. He said “Our Town” and “To Kill a Mockingbird” are his favorites, Shipman said.
“It’s so fun being in this play,” he said.
He also loves taking part in “A Christmas Carol” at Hartford Stage every year, he said. Playing Tiny Tim was his first role at the theater, he said.
Putting out all the energy required to play Dill is hard enough, but “To Kill a Mockingbird” doesn’t get Shipman out of school.
Shipman still has to put an equal amount of energy into his school work. He says that he is provided with a tutor to keep up with fifth grade.
“I can go to the tutor if I miss a lot of school,” said Shipman, who added that missing some school in fifth grade doesn’t pose as big a problem as it would if he were older.
“It’s not as hard as high school,” Shipman said, “It’s been challenging and kind of fun.”
One thing that Shipman did not have to learn from a tutor is the importance of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird and the message of tolerance it sends.
“I think the title doesn’t have a lot to do with the plot. It’s a symbol,” said Shipman, “a symbol for our community.”
Wesley Saxena is a Senior Reporter and Kiernan Majerus-Collins is a Reporter, both for Youth Journalism International.