How Richard Thomas aims to redefine Atticus as ‘Mockingbird’ comes to L.A.
By Michael Brantley
June 15, 2012 – 7:00 AM |
Richard Thomas waits to speak on stage during the L.A. premiere of “An Officer and a Gentleman,” a play about the life of Atticus Finch. (Clay Howry)
LOS ANGELES — Richard Thomas, the playwright who’s written dozens of acclaimed works about Atticus Finch as an African-American judge in the south, was at an open mic at Union Station in L.A. Friday night, performing with the help of a wheelchair.
Thomas is at Los Angeles to represent himself at the world premiere of “An Officer and a Gentleman,” a play about the life of the legendary black judge who was one of the most important civil rights activists in America. “The play really is like the life of Atticus Finch,” Thomas said, as he prepared to talk to the crowd.
Thomas has written a number of other plays that he says are autobiographies of black life. He’s written four other books, like his forthcoming “Nigger: A Honkbook of Racial Humor.” His latest book is the book of African American humor, “All in the Family: The Autobiography of an African-American Judge.”
Thomas has a long history behind him, having written his first play in high school in the early 1940s. Thomas wrote more than 100 plays, but he said they’re no longer running. Thomas’ plays are usually based in the South or his own experiences.
On Friday night, he was on “The Red Carpet” stage of Union Station, where he wrote the play. The other actors — James McNair and Brian Pfeffer — appeared on stage to help Thomas navigate. The production was directed by Anthony Anderson.
Thomas said he had been a police officer with the Los Angeles police department for 11 years, and that was the main reason he wrote “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
“The play is about a black police officer who works for a white police