Offstage Drama Divides Community Over Annual Alabama Production of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD
Though it's been presented annually for the past 27 years, the late novelist Harper Lee, who passed on this past February, never attended one of her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama's performances of the stage adaptation of her Pulitzer Prize winning novel TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
Published in 1960, Lee's story of Alabama lawyer Atticus Finch, assigned by a judge to defend a black man accused of raping a white woman, is widely regarded as one of the greatest works in American literary history.
Producer Scott Rudin has announced plans to bring a new stage adaptation, written by Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin and directed by Tony Award winner Bartlett Sher, to Broadway for the 2017-2018 season.
The adaptation used in Monroeville is by Christopher Sergel, whose grandson, Christopher Sergel III, is president of Dramatic Publishing, the company the licenses its performances. While this past Friday night's performance went on mostly as usual, there has been controversy boiling since the novelist's death.
As reported in the New York Times, this is the first year the play will benefit the non-profit Harper Lee created, and not the Monroe Country Heritage Museum, which had always relied on it for revenue.
Some of the volunteer actors, who have been performing in the play for years, have quit because of the change.
The Monroe County Heritage Museum maintains and operates six historic sites in Monroe County that collectively interpret the area's rich history, ranging from the prehistoric fossil deposits at Claiborne Bluff, Native American culture, pioneer life, politics and the literary legacy of Truman Capote and Harper Lee.