Brickbats

Brickbat: To Kill a School Play

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'To Kill a Mockingbird'
'To Kill a Mockingbird,' Universal

Schools and community theaters across the country are canceling productions of To Kill a Mockingbird after getting letters from theatrical producer Scott Rudin threatening them with lawsuits. Rudin is the producer of the new Broadway production based on the novel by Harper Lee. It's an entirely new play, written by Aaron Sorkin, not the one that has been performed by theater groups for years. Rudin claims the agreement between Lee's estate and the publisher of the older play forbids that play from being performed in much of the country while a "first-class dramatic play" based on the novel is running on Broadway or on tour. The dispute between the publisher and the estate hasn't been resolved, so Rudin's lawyers started sending out letters to groups performing the earlier play.

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  2. “We hate to ask anybody to cancel any production of a play anywhere, but the productions in question as licensed by DPC infringe on rights licensed to us by Harper Lee directly,” Rudin said in a statement.

    It’s good for drama students to know what kind of people they would be dealing with in Broadway producers.

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  4. “….Rudin’s lawyers started sending out letters to groups performing the earlier play.”

    What a sleazy industry.

    STOP PRODUCTION NOW OR WE WILL SEND THE GOONS BECAUSE MUH EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS.

    /waves paper around with greasy grin.

  5. Because high school theater is in direct competition with Broadway productions.

    Though I understand that Sorkin has rewritten the story to make the Atticus Finch character less a man standing on principle.

    1. …and more a man standing on white privilege?

      1. More foolish from what I understand. It seems to be a more SJW friendly moral than the original play.

        1. Isn’t Sorkin the TV guy who did West Wing? Why does that qualify him to rewrite a classic? Why tamper with it at all?

          Does the new version feature an innocent Tom being convicted anyway because Maella’s story seemed credible?

          1. The original movie undermines the ‘believe women’ narrative, so it must be banned, and a revised PC version substituted. Just like old temperature data.

            “”Who controls the past controls the future: who controls the present controls the past,” repeated Winston obediently.

            “Who controls the present controls the past,” said O’Brien, nodding his head with slow approval. “Is it your opinion, Winston, that the past has real existence?” (3.2.39-40)

      2. No; just less a man,
        We can’t have high school kids finding out that there are principles in the real world.

  6. Anyone who goes to see his Broadway production is a dick.

  7. Well this should help sell tickets.

  8. The Kavinoky Theatre in Buffalo, N.Y., which had sold around 3,000 advance tickets, will replace Mockingbird with an adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984.

    Fahrenheit 451 might be more appropriate, but either way I hope more school and community theaters follow suit in choosing appropriate replacements for Mockingbird.

    In fact, somebody should write a play about a small-town community theater group planning to put on a production of a play only to be threatened with a lawsuit by an evil dick who may not even hold exclusive rights to the production but has the money to hire lawyers to issue bumptious threats. They could call it To Kill “To Kill A Mockingbird”.

    1. Scene 1: The Casting Call

      The director has actors reading for the part, in order of their centrality to the play, and in the course of explaining their motivations and setting the scene basically tells the story of Mockingbird.

      Scene 2 : Rehearsals

      We see the actors going through key scenes of the play, basically a 30-minute condensed version of the play, with the director occasionally interrupting to explain to the actors what they should be getting across in their performance – essentially a narrator reinforcing what the story is about and filling in the bits of the story that aren’t the key scenes.

      The scene ends with somebody rushing on stage waving a letter and saying the production must be shut down because they’re being threatened with a lawsuit.

      1. Scene 3 : What Would You Do?

        The production company is sitting around discussing what they should do. Some are in favor of carrying on with the play regardless of the lawsuit because it’s not right that this guy should be able to shut them down when it’s not even clear he has the right to do so, the more pragmatic ones argue that even if the guy has no legal or moral right to shut them down it would be prohibitively expensive to defend and therefore they should cave to his demands. Someone else points out that they’ve been wrongfully accused and what they need is an Atticus Finch to take the risk of defending them as a matter of principle and honor. This then devolves into a more general discussion of principles and what principles would you hold so dear that you would be willing to die – or to kill – for, reasoning that you wouldn’t want to live in a world that holds these principles so cheap, at what point would you be willing to say “Better to die on your feet than live on your knees”? The play ends without this question being resolved but with an acknowledgement that, while every man is entitled to have an opinion as to where to draw this line, people who would refuse to draw the line at all, that would claim there’s nothing worth dying – or killing – for, aren’t really worthy of being called a man. Which is of course why Mockingbird is a classic and why Atticus Finch is considered a heroic figure, it’s all about doing what’s right simply because it is right.

        1. BRILLIANT!!!

          And will never see the light of day, sadly.

    2. Brilliant!

  9. …forbids that play from being performed in much of the country while a “first-class dramatic play” based on the novel is running on Broadway or on tour.

    Get over yourself you self fellating little bitch. Your real tough standing behind your bitch ass lawyers. If push came to shove I’d put money on a high school drama student kicking your sorry ass.

    1. Of course, the obvious loophole is to point out that the Broadway production is hardly a ‘first-class’ play – – – – –

  10. Actually, this story is out of date. Sorkin has withdrawn his objections to productions that were already licensed, allowing them to continue. Of course it’s still arrogant and obnoxious and stupid, just not quite as arrogant as it first appeared.

    https://bit.ly/2XG6040

    https://bit.ly/2SLxCRz

    1. I don’t see how they could even claim a retroactive de-licensing of the story.

      Unless the original play had a “this license may be revoked or suspended in the future if we get a better offer” clause… which I somehow doubt exists.

    2. Aaron Sorkin was not involved in this legal controversy. It was Scott Rudin. Sorkin just wrote the play. Don’t lie about people.

  11. If it is in the contract/writing that came along with the original orders of the play, it’s one thing. (You may or may not know, when podunk high school puts on a showing of, say, the Beverly Hillbillies, they have to pay a per-performance fee to the writer/publisher in advance, and get n copies of the script to use in that performance. If the stated arrangement is not in the contract, the publisher has no standing to sue, regardless what the current writer has paper saying.

    If the contract includes that writing, then the schools/theaters involved probably are owed full refunds for being sold scripts/licenses that they were barred from using.

    [*If there was some sort of multi-use scripts that specified the play could not be run during a “first class dramatic play”, well, that’s the only way the story makes sense. But then they clients had it in writing for some time, and should have known better. I’ve never heard of that sort of script, though.]

    1. The problem is that the company that sold the rights to the old version didn’t have those rights–they just thought they did. And the theaters that bought the rights didn’t know it either. Harper Lee’s estate changed its arrangement to the Sorkin organization. So having it in writing isn’t worth anything, but nobody knew that until Sorkin went after the community theaters. Then he got caught with his hand in the cookie jar and is trying to make amends…

      1. But can they “change the arrangement”?

        I get that they can sell the rights to another writer. …. but did they have a revocable license? That sounds odd. I don’t know why you’d sign such an agreement.

      2. Scott Rudin, not Aaron Sorkin. Please don’t blame the wrong person just because you don’t like him or whatever problem you have that makes you change Rudin to Sorkin. It makes you sound like a liar.

  12. If they insist on trying to modernize and update classics, how about a revised version of The Producers where the deluded playwright behind “Springtime for Hitler” is an SJW?

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  14. This is why schools should only use the classics, with the definition of classic being: out of copyright.

    While many might think this confines school productions to Shakespeare and The Importance of being Earnest, might I suggest it also opens up School for Scandal and Mazeppa

    1. Titus Andronicus and Restoration dramas.

  15. I thought a theater was for watchin movies and heteronormative groping in the back row?

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