‘Mockingbird’ Producer Reconsiders, Letting Local Plays Go Forward

Theater

But his theater’s production will have to be delayed so the cast can learn new lines and movements, and some actors have already taken other roles, he said.

Mr. Rudin defended his actions in a brief statement, saying, “As stewards of the performance rights of Aaron Sorkin’s play, it is our responsibility to enforce the agreement we made with the Harper Lee estate and to make sure that we protect the extraordinary collaborators who made this production.”

But he also blamed the situation on the Dramatic Publishing Company, which is run by Christopher Sergel III, Mr. Sergel’s grandson, saying it had erred in issuing licenses to present the play to theaters that should not have received them. Mr. Rudin has argued that a 1969 agreement between Ms. Lee, the author of the novel, and Dramatic Publishing bars productions by theaters within 25 miles of a city that in 1960 had a population of more than 150,000 people, as well as productions using professional actors, when a “first-class” production is running on Broadway or on tour.

“We have been hard at work creating what I hope might be a solution for those theater companies that have been affected by this unfortunate set of circumstances, in which rights that were not available to them were licensed to them by a third party who did not have the right to do so,” Mr. Rudin said. “In an effort to ameliorate the hurt caused here, we are offering each of these companies the right to perform our version of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Aaron Sorkin’s play currently running on Broadway.”

Mr. Sergel declined to comment.

It was an unusually conciliatory gesture for Mr. Rudin, who has a reputation in the theater industry for being strong-willed and litigious. Before the Broadway adaptation opened, he was locked in a legal battle with the Lee estate, which argued that the play departed too much from the novel; the dispute was eventually settled.

It is also rare for a hit Broadway show to grant licenses to local theaters, particularly when a national tour is anticipated. Mr. Rudin’s “Mockingbird” has grossed $24 million since opening in December.

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