This is a post about our theater outing to go the already famous – uh, infamous? – Broadway premiere production of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD on Wednesday, January 9th. Adapted by Aaron Sorkin, produced by Scott Rudin, starring Jeff Daniels and directed by Bartlett Sher this version was the subject of a lawsuit by Harper Lee’s estate which was settled last May. But, by my reckoning, with a work like this and a production team like this – whoa, this is some high-wire act and grand experiment.
Yes, this is THAT Broadway production of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The one where there was a tussle between the estate of Harper Lee and the Broadway mega-producer Scott Rudin which was settled. This production is NOT related to several previous ones (not on Broadway; this is a first) and, rumor has it, takes a few liberties with the beloved character of Atticus Finch.
This was apparently the central issue in the lawsuit, and before it was settled, Sorkin said, ““He becomes Atticus Finch by the end of the play. And while he’s going along, he has a kind of running argument with Calpurnia, the housekeeper, which is a much bigger role in the play I just wrote. He is in denial about his neighbors and his friends and the world around him, that it is as racist as it is, that a Maycomb County jury could possibly put Tom Robinson in jail when it’s so obvious what happened here. He becomes an apologist for these people.” You recall Aaron Sorkin – the writer who manages to put a million words into the mouths of his fast-talking characters in West Wing, A Few Good Men, Newsroom…etc?
Anyway, the idea of shifting the moral center of Atticus Finch apparently got the goat of the executors of Harper Lee’s estate. But we won’t know what happened to ol’ Atticus until we see it! It’s worth remembering that the wonderful playwright Horton Foote famously adapted the book for the movie, starring Gregory Peck, and it is widely thought of as a pretty perfect adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning literary work of which there are 60 million copies in print. So, game on, Aaron Sorkin – you have some pretty big shoes to fill!
As previously reported in Playbill, according to adapter /playwright Sorkin, “There’s not much upside. The audience can hate you for ruining their childhood, or they can remember how great Harper Lee is, but that’s about it.” So why-oh-why would he take on the risk of messing around with a truly beloved, iconic, Pulitzer Prize-winning work? “I get to be in a theatre,” Sorkin enthuses, “and I get to be there with [director]Bart Sher…. There is no place I would rather be than in a rehearsal room, rehearsing a play with tape on the floor. There is no place I’d rather be than pacing the back of the orchestra of a theatre during previews.”
It might also be worth re-reading the book and checking out the movie again before then. This is an amazing, maybe even historic, combination of talent and material and we’re hugely fortunate to have a group going on an afternoon in this completely sold out run.