Picks and Pans Review: Cast Party with Harper Lee

updated 02/05/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/05/2007 AT 01:00 AM EST

>It wasn't the first high school production of To Kill a Mockingbird, but for Harper Lee, 80, it was "awfully special." When a diverse cast from two very different schools near Birmingham, Ala.—the predominantly white Mountain Brook High and mostly African-American Fairfield High Preparatory—staged the play in Montgomery, Ala., on Jan. 10, the reclusive author met the actors at an afterparty at Troy University. "I didn't need much prodding," Lee told PEOPLE. The author (who divides her time between New York City and Monroeville, Ala.) dazzled her audience. "It was like, Wow," says Regan Stevens (left, with Lee), who played the young Scout, "but also scary because of the fear I wouldn't live up to her expectations." But Lee was full of compliments, telling Roman Gladney, who played Tom Robinson, that he should "go into the theater." Says David Bolus, who was Atticus: "She said it was such a blessing for this to happen in her lifetime." As for the kids, says Grace Tillman, who played Mayella Ewell, "we're already planning the reunions."

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