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Arlington actor bids farewell to ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ Broadway tour

(Updated 08/25/23) This week will be the audience’s last chance to see former local pandemic response volunteer and Broadway actor Joey Collins star in “To Kill a Mockingbird” at the Kennedy Center.

After 18 months on the road and nearly 600 performances, Collins said he plans to leave the production following the tour’s last performance in D.C. at the Kennedy Center on Sunday.

While the rest of the cast continues on the tour, he will cross the river into Arlington to be reunited with his family and the community he formed doing voter and Covid vaccine outreach.

“I just have to pull the plug,” he told ARLnow. “And it’s not because of the people. I love my cast, crew, and team. I’m going to miss them tremendously. But, obviously, I miss my family too.”

Collins portrays the main villain, Bob Ewell, in Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The play animates the book, which follows Scout Finch as she grows up in Alabama, observing her father, Atticus, defend a Black man who Ewell falsely accused of raping his daughter.

Collins described performing in the play as an “amazing” experience and a “privilege.” Still, he found it difficult to be away from his wife, two high school children, and their Maltese-Shih Tzu mix, Shakespeare — all of whom moved to Arlington from New York in 2019.

“I feel like I’ve missed so much by being on the road,” he said. “And so I really would love to, at least for the next four years, really strive to find work here. So, it’s more about the time and my family than it is about any other aspects of my acting career.”

Collins says he does not have any work lined up. If he returns to live, local theater, partial credit would go toward the type of vaccine outreach he did — which helped regional theaters reopen their doors during the pandemic.

Shortly after moving to Arlington, Collins said he felt a loss of “purpose.” He joined a volunteer effort to register people to vote ahead of the 2020 elections, an experience he noted that “filled my cup.”

“I didn’t really have a community here, and I love helping people,” he said. “I’ve loved volunteering my whole life, but this particular [experience] gave me something that I really needed because we were all isolated.”

Then, a colleague from the voter registration effort told him the county was looking for volunteers to help distribute vaccines in Arlington. He jumped at the chance, seeing it as a way to get theaters up and running again.

“Then I thought, ‘Okay, this is going to be the beginning of getting performative arts back to the public because once enough people are vaccinated, maybe they’ll open up the theatres,’” Collins said.

And open up, they did. Collins got word that the show he initially auditioned for in November 2019 was finally ready to hit the road.

When the tour came to the Kennedy Center last summer, Collins said several fellow vaccine workers came to one of his performances. On another occasion, a vaccine worker approached him after a show during his tour in the Midwest.

“It was a surreal experience, but it was also like a reminder of the impact one might be able to have on the world simply by donating some time,” he said.

While Collins said he is sad to be leaving the tour, he added he believes he will be ending on a fitting note. The actor has now completed a “trifecta” by performing on the Kennedy Center’s three most prominent stages: the Concert Hall, Opera House and Eisenhower Theater.

“I feel very lucky to have checked those boxes, and I hope I can go back through all of them at some point in my career,” he said.

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