Following the release of Go Set A Watchman in 2015, To Kill A Mockingbird is now headed for Broadway with some big names attached.
Last year, a long-lost prequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchman, made what may be the biggest literary news of our lifetime. Watchman showed us a grown-up Scout and a controversial version of Atticus that still has fans up in arms, but it also called into question author Harper Lee’s mental state and her ability to make decisions about her work.
Now, she’s in the headlines again, authorizing Mockingbird for Broadway and selling the stage adaptation rights to producer Scott Rudin, best known for TV series “Silicon Valley,” Wes Anderson film “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and “Captain Phillips.” Rudin also worked with writer Aaron Sorkin on HBO’s “The Newsroom” and has tapped him to adapt the beloved story.
Love him or hate him, Sorkin is known for writing dialogue that cuts to the bone, a skill that could be useful for Mockingbird. He told The New York Times that he feels an “enormous responsibility” with Lee’s story but does plan to take liberties with her work. His version is reported to open differently than the novel and include new dialogue.
Directing will be Bartlett Sher, who most recently did “Fiddler on the Roof” and “The King and I.” No theater or cast have been announced yet, but the show is expected to open in the 2017-18 season.
As for Atticus Finch, Rudin says his version will be the hero from Mockingbird, not the more racist depiction from Watchman. The Times reported Rudin began seeking the rights two years ago and finally acquired them after months of negotiations. Rudin also owns the rights to stage the play in regional professional theaters, along with the first-class production rights in London and national and global touring rights.
While Mockingbird has been staged annually for years in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, this new era of the story is just one more way the classic novel will outlive its author and many of its original fans. Let’s hope Rudin and Sorkin do it justice.