Play at high school in Murray features themes like autism, loss and acceptance

Posted at 10:06 PM, Mar 26, 2016
and last updated 2016-03-27 00:06:45-04

MURRAY, Utah – A play previously only performed at the professional level premiered at Cottonwood High School this past week, and the show examines themes including autism, loss and acceptance.

“Mockingbird” was written by award-winning playwright Julie Jensen. The play follows Caitlin, an 11-year-old girl who has autism and struggles to understand the world around her.

“It deals with heavy, heavy subject matter, not only just the idea of kids with autism around them, I mean Utah itself has the highest rates of autism in the country,” said Adam Wilkins, a teacher at Cottonwood High School and the director of the play. “But then it deals with school shootings, right? It deals with loss in the family and the integrating of all those things.”

Jensen, the playwright, made it out to Utah to see its high school premiere.

“Having the fortune of having the playwright, that is a rare opportunity when the playwright can come in and talk with the kids,” Wilkins said. “The kids can ask questions of them as well and just really get to the heart.”

Julia Attridge plays the role of Caitlin in the play.

“It does focus on a lot of serious themes, like the loss of her brother and things, but Caitlin is a child and she makes, like there are quite a few jokes in the show, and so while it is sad, we try and bring the hope and the funny little moments into the show,” she said.

The students spent hours together rehearsing and working on the set.

“The set was a very collaborative effort,” said movement director Madison Howell. “We decided on the purple because Caitlin says it’s her favorite color and we really wanted it to be Caitlin’s world.”

All of that work is part of an effort to bring awareness to the community.

“Multiple people have come up to me, specifically just family members and things, they said that they have a greater understanding of people that we know, and the show itself, it brings empathy and is meant to just raise awareness,” Attridge said.