After multiple theatre companies around the country had been driven to cancel their planned productions of To Kill a Mockingbird due to exclusive rights held by Scott Rudin for the new Broadway adaptation from Aaron Sorkin, the producer has proposed a solution that will allow certain companies to still bring Harper Lee’s story to their stages.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Rudin will grant the stage rights of the Sorkin-penned version to certain amateur theatres around the country in a rare move that will allow them to present a work currently on Broadway in their own communities.
This decision arrives after Rudin’s legal team sent cease-and-desists to theatre companies that were planning to stage (some already rehearsing) Christopher Sergel’s earlier stage adaptation of the story, citing a contract between Lee and Dramatic Publishing Company (which licenses the Sergel play) that prohibits productions within 25 miles of large cities while a major production plays New York or tours. A U.K. tour of the Sergel play was also recently canceled following similar claims.
The offer to stage the Sorkin adaptation will only be extended to theatres that have had to cancel their productions of the Sergel-penned version. Among those companies are the Grand Theatre in Utah, Massachusetts, Mumford Street Players and Curtan Call Theatre, the Kavinoky Theatre in upstate New York, and Ohio’s Dayton Playhouse.
“We have been hard at work creating what I hope might be a solution for those theatre companies that have been affected by this unfortunate set of circumstances, in which rights that were not available to them were licensed to them by a third party who did not have the right to do so,” said Rudin in a statement.
He added, "I think it's a good save from something that was, honestly, not the fault of the people who licensed it and not the fault of the people who owned the rights — which people are us — but I think ultimately for those who still can do it, it's a good solution," said Rudin. "Everything that they licensed, we'll stand behind with ours."
The Sorkin-penned adaptation, directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Jeff Daniels and Celia Keenan-Bolger, opened at Broadway’s Shubert Theatre December 13 last year.