A lot of folks would argue the Great American Novel was published 50 years ago in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, and bore the title "To Kill a Mockingbird." Available Light Theatre leads the Central Ohio celebration of that golden anniversary with a production of Christopher Sergel's acclaimed dramatization of Harper Lee's only novel.

A lot of folks would argue the Great American Novel was published 50 years ago in 1960, won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961, and bore the title "To Kill a Mockingbird." Available Light Theatre leads the Central Ohio celebration of that golden anniversary with a production of Christopher Sergel's acclaimed dramatization of Harper Lee's only novel.

Available Light specializes in theater that glorifies the power of words. This play, said artistic director Matt Slaybaugh, is largely about how we speak the world into existence.

"[It's about] how words have the power to hurt us, and to change our perceptions, and especially to shape the ways we view others, for better or for worse," he said. "The ethics of speech is a subject very close to our hearts around here, and there are few stories with better lessons on the subject."

Artie Isaac, a local teacher, speaker and actor who plays father-lawyer-hero Atticus Finch, concurred.

" 'Mockingbird' is all about words: the lawyer's precision and logic, the sheriff's plainspoken common sense, the children's ids and developing egos, the passion of the unfairly condemned," he said. "As these words combine, they make us more human, by focusing us on the differences among us, and how to see things from another's perspective."

Isaac will be a more vulnerable Finch than Gregory Peck portrayed in the Oscar-winning 1962 film, one who truly could lose everything.

"It feels more like a book than a play," Isaac said, "with all the advantages of the stage: brevity, living actors, stagecraft the communal response of the audience. That is a beautiful difference, further implanting the most important messages in all of us."