Residents of Braintree, Massachusetts can no longer see the upcoming community theater production of To Kill A Mockingbird after Broadway producers threatened to sue.
The Curtain Call Theatre, which seats 70 guests, was scheduled to bring a production of Harper Lee’s classic novel to the stage in an adaptation by Christopher Sergel, set to be directed by Jo d’Angelo. However, according to The Boston Globe, the theatre received a cease and desist letter from a Broadway producer staging the play in New York, threatening a major lawsuit with $150,000 in damages if the theatre follows through with the production.
The letter reportedly cited a 50-year-old contract that limits smaller adaptations of the novel while an approved large Broadway or touring production is already in place. Since Scott Rudin’s Broadway version of the novel, written by Aaron Sorkin, is currently playing in New York City, the Braintree venue can not hold their adaptation of the play.
In a post on CCT’s Facebook page, the organization said due to the “substantial financial impact defending such an action would have on our small theatre group,” they had no choice but to comply with the producer and cancel their upcoming performance.
“The decision to cancel To Kill A Mockingbird has been arduous, and we are truly broken-hearted over the inconvenience and the heartfelt disappointment this cancelation causes our actors, designers, director and loyal patrons, all of whom we value so dearly,” the theater said.
“Again, CCT has made every effort to overcome these challenges and present our production as scheduled, but under the threat of substantial legal action from Mr. Rudin’s companies, we have been forced to cancel our show. As you know, being a small community theatre, CCT is not in a financial position to fight what is sure to be a long, exhausting legal battle.”
Theaters across the country and abroad are facing the same legal issues as the CCT and have been forced to cancel their upcoming performances.
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After the post, the theater received feedback from local theater-goers, many who said they would boycott Sorkin and Rudin’s Broadway version of the show. The organization took to Facebook again, noting that while they appreciate the love and support from their community, “at the other end of any boycott there are innocent people – many of them struggling artists – who are just trying to make a living.” Instead of boycotting, they suggest the community to do their part in supporting the local arts.
“Our entire world is so full of negative energy already and perhaps we, as artists and/or supporters of the arts, should not contribute to that toxicity,” the theater said. “This week I’ve often thought of the words of our revered former first lady, Michelle Obama: ‘When they go low, we go high.’ I want to go high.”
CCT has replaced To Kill A Mockingbird with John Guare’s The House of Blue Leaves and will be holding auditions. For more information about CCT, visit their website.