Already weeks into rehearsing, the Grand Theatre’s production of Harper Lee’s classic American novel “To Kill A Mockingbird” has officially been cancelled.
“I’ve been doing theatre for 23 years and I’ve never heard of anything like this ever happening,” says Seth Miller, artistic and executive director of the Grand Theatre.
Even after licensing the rights from Lee’s estate and the publisher, Dramatic Publishing, the Grand Theatre received notice from theatre mogul Scott Rudin’s company, Rudinplay, to cease production of the play.
“Dramatic Publishing’s right to license the play is being contested by Rudinplay who holds the rights to the revised version of the play,” according to a statement released by the Grand Foundation.
Concurrently, Aaron Sorkin’s rendition of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” produced by Rudinplay, appears on Broadway at the Shubert Theater.
“The set plans were done, the light plot was done, and the production team started working in November,” says Miller.
Regardless of the work that’s already been done, productions on Broadway maintain “first-class” rights, allowing producers to veto the simultaneous production of a play by the same name anywhere in the country.
Despite applying for and receiving the rights according to protocol, Miller says the Grand Theatre Foundation has no means of standing up to a behemoth like Rudinplay, particularly under the threat of substantial legal action.
Meanwhile, in Buffalo, New York, the same version of the play that was set to run at the Grand Theatre remains untouched by any legal action, though they were not able to comment on the issue.
“[In our case], we don’t have time to produce another show on such short notice, but we’re looking into partnering with local theatre companies to do a one-act festival and some workshops,” says Miller.
The Grand Foundation has applied to extend the run of “First Date” for a few more weeks.