Reaction is already rolling in to producer Scott Rudin's announcement Wednesday that he is bringing Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” to Broadway for the 2017-18 season with none other than Aaron Sorkin adapting the 1960 novel.
Bartlett Sher, who won a 2008 Tony for “South Pacific,” is set to direct. The play is far from Rudin and Sorkin’s first collaboration, with the former producing and the latter scripting “The Social Network” and “Steve Jobs.”
On Twitter, plenty of Sorkin supporters are eagerly awaiting what the adaptation will yield, though some are more skeptical than others.
Sorkin has had mixed success in theater. Before 1992’s “A Few Good Men” made him a Hollywood player, the project began its life as a play in 1989, starring Tom Hulce. The show ran for nearly 500 performances and closed in January 1991.
Sorkin also wrote “The Farnsworth Invention,” based on the life of Philo Farnsworth, inventor of the television. The production debuted in December 2007 and closed just 104 shows later.
Even with Sorkin’s stage history, questions plague the adaptation.
Lee’s novel, set in Alabama during the Great Depression, is told from the point of view of a girl named Scout. When her father, Atticus, serves as the defense attorney for an innocent man in a race-driven rape trial, he uses the hard lessons within to show his children the value of humanity and justice.
Rudin assured the New York Times that the Atticus featured in the play would be the Atticus audiences knew from “Mockingbird,” not the book’s sequel, “Go Set a Watchman,” in which the beloved character so admired for his social activism has devolved into an unapologetic racist.
Other concerns center around notoriously private Harper Lee. The 89-year-old has long been protective of adaptations of her work, and controversy swirled around last year’s release of “Watchman.” However, Lee’s literary agent, Andrew Nurnberg, told the New York Times that this adaptation was precisely what Lee wanted.
“While [Lee] had always had misgivings about anyone who might want to bring ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ to Broadway -- and there have been many approaches over the years -- she finally decided that Scott would be the right person to embrace this,” Nurnberg said.