(Julia Jacobs’s article appeared in The New York Times, 2/26; via Pam Green; Photo: Todd Heisler/The New York Times.)

Madison Square Garden opened its doors for the first time to a Broadway play, as well as to thousands of students from across the city. There were a few logistical hurdles.

When the cast of “To Kill a Mockingbird” filed into the arena on Wednesday, wearing suits and dresses reminiscent of Alabama in the 1930s, the crowd erupted as if the actors were Knicks coming out of the locker room.

When Atticus Finch asked a barrage of tough questions of Mayella Ewell, the white teenager who had accused a black man of rape, they burst into applause, as if the tide had turned in the game. And when Scout Finch, one of the play’s central narrators, called out the man behind a white Ku Klux Klan hood, the crowd oohed as if their team had stolen back the ball.

For the first time, Madison Square Garden opened its doors to Broadway, and with it came 18,000 New York City public school students and chaperones to watch a play that has only ever been performed on the Shubert Theater stage.

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