MONROEVILLE, Ala., April 19, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- The annual spring production of "To Kill a Mockingbird" will open this evening in a new outdoor amphitheater sponsored by Georgia-Pacific. Patrons attending the play, based on Monroeville native Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, will now enjoy a completely new venue on the enhanced landscaped lawn on the downtown courthouse square.
Georgia-Pacific's donation to the Monroe County Heritage Museum, which sponsors the play, represents an investment of $175,000. The amphitheater is located on the west lawn of the historic Old Monroe County Courthouse and Museum, which serves as a permanent location for the play. The Mockingbird Players, an amateur theater group, annually perform the play on weekends from mid-April to mid-May to sold-out audiences who have the unique opportunity to see a local cast perform in the very courtroom where Harper Lee's father practiced law.
"I have been overwhelmed by Georgia-Pacific's generosity to sponsor such an improvement on our square, not only for the museum and our yearly theatrical production, but also for community events that can now be hosted in our beautiful downtown," said Stephanie Rogers, executive director of the Monroe County Heritage Museum. "GP's donation establishes the opening performance of the 22nd season of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' as an historic event, and ushers in an exciting future for the museum, cast and production staff of our play - and we are most grateful."
Georgia-Pacific's Alabama River Cellulose facility is the largest manufacturer in Monroe County and employs approximately 425 people. Since acquiring the pulp facility in July 2010, Georgia-Pacific has worked to identify a community investment project that would be meaningful to the entire community, fill a recognized need and demonstrate its long-term commitment to and support of the community. A local steering committee determined that an amphitheater would add the greatest value to improve the community's infrastructure, support tourism efforts and enhance the cultural, fine arts and literary heritage that has become a significant trademark of Monroeville.
The Monroeville amphitheater project is the latest addition to more than $2 million in community investments made in Alabama during the past five years by Georgia-Pacific and other companies owned by Koch Industries. Nationally, Koch companies contribute tens of millions of dollars annually through in-kind giving and direct contributions to causes and organizations focusing on economic education and educational programs, arts and culture, health and human services, community and civic causes, disaster relief and environmental projects.
"In addition to providing products people need and value in the home, on the road and in the workplace, Georgia-Pacific provides good jobs for thousands of Americans in communities like Monroeville," said Peggy Jaye, public affairs manager for Alabama River Cellulose. "Georgia-Pacific supports thousands of initiatives and projects that strengthen communities where we have facilities, and our support in Monroe County is truly making a difference. We are proud to partner with the museum to support the play and to help contribute to Monroe County's legacy as the state's Literary Capital."
The amphitheater design and construction was led by a team consisting of The Architects Group (TAG), CSA Group Inc., and JubileeScape, all of Mobile. The team was chosen by the steering committee based on a preliminary design. The project was announced by Georgia-Pacific at the 2011 opening of the play, and construction began soon after the season ended so that the amphitheater would be finished for outdoor rehearsals and for the dedication at the season's opening performance.
The amphitheater will be dedicated and named in honor of Otha Lee Biggs, who retired in 2007 after serving 36 years as Monroe County probate judge and county commission chairman. Biggs was instrumental in establishing the local production of the play 22 years ago and helped to arrange for performances in Chicago, Washington D.C., Israel and England.
Headquartered at Atlanta, Georgia-Pacific is one of the world's leading manufacturers and marketers of building products, tissue, packaging, paper, cellulose and related chemicals. The company employs 40,000 people at 300 locations in North America, South America and Europe. Georgia-Pacific is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Koch Industries, LLC, a privately-owned company headquartered in Wichita, Kan. Koch companies and subsidiaries employ more than 67,000 people worldwide.