A year after being forced to cancel “To Kill a Mockingbird” amid licensing disputes, the Grand Theatre will raise the curtain for the show next month.
The play, originally scheduled to grace the stage of the Grand Theatre during the 2018-19 season, returns to production after last year’s legal battle between the current stage play owner and the owner of the previous version, according to the Salt Lake Tribune. This year, the Grand Theatre has licensed the rights to Aaron Sorkin’s new knockout stage adaptation, currently running on Broadway.
The decision to cancel last year’s production was prompted by cease-and-desist letters from lawyers of the current stage play owner, Rudinplay, which threatened damages of $150,000 if the show went forward, the New York Times reports. Rudinplay’s lawyers claimed the performance of various community productions went against a clause in the original contract that stated productions of the play could not be staged “within 25 miles of cities that had a population of 150,000 or more in 1960 while a ‘first-class dramatic play’ based on the novel is playing in New York or on tour.”
At the time, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” written by Sorkin, was making its Broadway debut and was a smash hit.
Clauses like this are commonly used to protect the financial success of larger plays, states the New York Times, but the move by Rudinplay garnered bad press.
According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Rudinplay offered all theatres who had to cancel their previous productions the opportunity to stage the new version of the play – royalty-free – as a peace offering.
There are other reasons, however, why “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be a part of the Grand’s spring season.
“We didn’t want to pass up the chance to be the regional premiere of the production,” says Seth Miller, executive director of the Grand Theatre. “We also wanted to be able to bring this story to life on our stage. That’s why we wanted to do it in the first place.”
The new version of the play will feature many differences from the original, particularly through the main narrative. The original was cast with two actors – an adult and a child – playing Scout as a “memory piece of her reflecting on all the events that happened,” says Suni Gigliotti, marketing coordinator for The Grand.
“[In] the new production,” Gigliotti explains, “the actors who portray the kids are older actors who jump [from] 30 to 9 years old, so the same actor is playing … the two [ages].”
The Grand’s performance of “To Kill a Mockingbird” runs March 26-April 11. Single tickets are free for current Salt Lake Community College students with a OneCard and are discounted for faculty and staff. Tickets are available at the Grand Theatre Box Office at South City Campus.
Update: In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, The Grand Theatre announced an indefinite suspension of its upcoming production of “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The theatre will be issuing refunds to all customers who purchased tickets.