Tuesday, March 03, 2020


Last week in New York at Madison Square Garden, 18,000 high school kids saw a free performance of the new Aaron Sorkin adaptation of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. The ovation when it was over was thunderous.

As it should be.

I saw the play the next night in the normally cavernous (but compared to Madison Square Garden —intimate) Shubert Theatre. It was fabulous. Aaron Sorkin did an absolute masterful job of adapting both a beloved book and movie and managed to keep the essence and integrity of both while still giving it a fresh spin.

It should have won a bunch of Tony’s last year but the Academy pretty much shut it out (having an issue with producer Scott Rudin). Meanwhile, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD continues to play to sold out crowds while none of the five nominated Best Plays are still running. I know he’s got Emmys and Oscars and probably Heisman Trophies, but Sorkin was robbed. Expect this version to play around the country (and maybe the world) for years.
MOCKINGBIRD takes on even more relevance now… unfortunately. The trial in the play might as well have been the impeachment trial. The same jury of ignorant, racist, crackers who ignored the facts to return a shameful verdict and a horrible miscarriage of justice occurred just this year in the U.S. Senate. Mitch McConnell was Robert Ewell, and Adam Schiff was Atticus Finch.

I know it makes little sense to review a play that most people won’t have the opportunity to immediately see, but 18,000 future voters saw it last week. 18,000 more people were exposed to the ugliness of bigotry and the tragedy that arises out of lawlessness, self-interest above all else, and ignorance.

Something to think about here on "Super Tuesday."  


iain said...

They just announced it last night for next season at Playhouse Square in Cleveland. I can't wait to see it!

scottmc said...

I will be seeing The German Play on Thursday night. When I saw your short play at the same venue two years ago my wife,my daughter and I saw it on a Saturday night. I remember the place was packed. Many in the audience were friends of cast members. It will be interesting if it is different on Thursday. I noticed that your play is being directed by one of the actors. You see writer/director a lot in movies, you also see actor/director. You don't see either of those that much in the theatre. Edward Albee would sometimes direct his plays and I saw George C.Scott appear in a couple of plays which he directed.

Lisa said...

Can plays / movies / books / songs adapted from something original be considered great ?

It was the original creator who had the idea. But later when someone adapts it and improves it in the future, the original creator's work is seen with disdain.

The current generation (internet generation) celebrates all new works and ridicules old ones.

Ex: John Wayne and the older True Grit movie is a point of ridicule for trolls who keep praising the Coen Brothers version and Jeff Bridges.

Richard said...

Trouble with this show is that Scott Rudin royally screwed the UK theatre industry by claiming he owned all the stage rights to the book - even though the rights had already been taken by other UK productions a few years ago. It's not clear whether he does hold such rights but he threatened to sue various UK theatres meaning that another production - which was already in rehearsals and wasn't planning to go into the west end - was cancelled, putting a load of people out of work and meaning a load of venues lost income. It isn't at all clear whether he had the right to do this, however he has the money to make it very difficult for anyone to risk challenging him.

For this reason I can't in any way support him or the play - however good it is.


PolyWogg said...

Weird, the whole time you were talking about TKAM, I swear my brain thought you were talking about Inherit the Wind. Mind totally futzed on the two contents and was thinking of Scopes monkey trial, not racism. And yet your whole post relatively holds up the same until you mention the racism. I mean, I thought It was weird that Sorkin had done a "new" play when it already was a play (ItW, I mean).

Sigh. I swear my brain is not working today. Someone posted last night about writing something and measuring something by how many times she`s cycled through Hamilton, and my thought was, "I didn't know she was a cyclist". Good lord.

Thanks for the unintended humour :)


Anonymous said...

I will always like this story -TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.
It has respect, courage and leadership.
And all the people who worked on this play are amazing.
It's a great time to appreaciate great talent and positive work and chasing our dreams.
And dealing and revisiting great work of humanity.

Anne said...

Instead of promoting egomaniac Scott Rudin's play, why not promote smaller productions Ken?

That man can do without your promotion.

Michael said...

About Lisa's question, I recall that when Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks did The Taming of the Shrew, the credits said something like, "additional dialogue by Sam Taylor," who was the director. I thought, Shakespeare needs additional dialogue? But at our wedding, we wanted to use the Cole Porter song "So In Love With You Am I" from "Kiss Me, Kate," which we had seen together, and there's a line about the love ending, and I rewrote it. So ... I rewrote Cole Porter. Not quite Shakespeare, but ....

Mike Bloodworth said...

I know you and many others are in love with Aaron Sorkin, Even so, I would have to see the play for myself.

I Googled the Scott Rudin situation. It reminded me of your blog from last year about the "greedy bastards" running the NEIL SIMON Festival. Even though they could doesn't mean they should. Although, from what I understand Rudin has taken steps to reach a compromise with the theatres that were trying to produce the other version of the "Mockingbird" play.

How ironic that that you would use the impeachment analogy. Because in "Mockingbird" the defendant was falsely accused. And everyone wanted to see him convicted just because of who he was.

I'm done. Gotta go vote.

MikeN said...

Answer the question on everyone's mind- Is there a Danny?

mike schlesinger said...

For the record, it earned nine Tony nominations and won Featured Actress for the magnificent Celia Keenan-Bolger, who was born to play Scout. (She also won Drama Desk and Outer Circle awards.) Sorkin was not nominated because the American Theatre Wing--not an "Academy"--couldn't decide if it was a new play or a revival, as there had been a previous adaptation. It was a strong year for plays, what with the likes of THE FERRYMAN, NETWORK, INK, GARY and THE BOYS IN THE BAND in contention, so it may have been felt that the huge box office was reward enough. God knows Rudin already has plenty of Tonys on his mantle--17, to be exact.

Chester said...

I saw the play in NYC and agree that it's fabulous.

I also agree that the parallels with the recent Senate debacle are uncanny... Even if they saw the play, I doubt the Republicans in the Senate (with the exception of Mitt), would be able to recognize the similarities because their heads are so far up their asses. Sad state of affairs indeed.

Dixon Steele said...

I also thought Sorkin's work was superb.

But come on. The story and all the characters were created by Harper Lee. Why should NEW plays, like the excellent FERRYMAN, have to compete with a classic, no matter how strong the adaptation?