Pulitzer Prize winning novel

Contract

To Kill Mockingbird, by Harper Lee… we’ve all most likely read this novel during our high school days. Now this 1960’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel has become the center of a dispute.

In March of this year, the estate of Harper Lee filed a lawsuit against play producer Scott Rudin for his the much-anticipated Broadway play adaptation of the novel.

The estate claims that the script is too different from the book with regards to race relations during the 1930’s in a small Alabama town. They further claimed that the play wrongly alters the protagonist Atticus Finch, as well as some of the other characters based in the novel.

The contract between both parties provided that the play could not “derogate or depart in any manner from the spirit of the Novel, nor alter its characters.” Yet the contact also stated that the estate of Harper Lee would need to meet with the producers should they have any concerns over the play.

In April, Scott Rudin’s production company, Rudinplay, counter-sued saying that the lawsuits threatened to shut down the production.

“I can’t and won’t present a play that feels like it was written in the year the book was written in terms of its racial politics: it wouldn’t be of interest,” Mr Ruden was quoted saying.

Terms of contact

The US District Judge William H. Steele in Mobile, Alabama transferred the lawsuit to a NY federal court, and mentioned that it appeared Rudinplay had ‘followed the terms of a 2015 contract in giving the estate a chance to meet with producers about its complaints.’

The judge went on to state that the Harper Lee attorney, Tonja Carter, “spurned this good-faith invitation to meet and discuss her concerns with Rudinplay. Instead, she rushed to court and precipitously filed the instant complaint just four days later, on March 13, 2018, in what certainly appears to be an attempt to shirk contractual duties and beat Rudinplay to the punch.”

Three days before the June 4trial date in New York, both parties settled out of court.  Lawyers for both parties declined to elaborate on the settlement.

The Broadway production of “To Kill a Mockingbird” plans to begin previews starting November 1 at the Shubert Theater in NYC.

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