Scott Rudin is no longer producing 'To Kill a Mockingbird' tour

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Ashley Lee
·4 min read
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Jeff Daniels and Gbenga Akinnagbe in Harper's Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" by Aaron Sorkin.
Jeff Daniels and Gbenga Akinnagbe in the Broadway production of Harper's Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird," adapted by Aaron Sorkin. (Julieta Cervantes )

Scott Rudin is no longer a producer of the touring production of Broadway hit "To Kill a Mockingbird," The Times confirmed Friday — the latest fallout from recent reports of Rudin's alleged abusive behavior toward his staff.

The theater, TV and film producer previously announced that he was "stepping back" from his various projects, but what exactly that means has remained largely an unanswered question. Also unclear: whether the loss of a producer title means that Rudin no longer has a financial stake in the "To Kill a Mockingbird" national tour, which is set to kick off in 2022.

Directed by Bartlett Sher, the tour was initially set to play at the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A., but due to scheduling changes from the COVID-19 shutdowns, it is no longer part of that theater's upcoming season. Center Theatre Group said Friday that the company is not in discussions to include the production in any future season.

The tour, which will stop at San Diego's Civic Theatre and San Francisco's Golden Gate Theatre (dates to be announced), may still get booked for the Hollywood Pantages Theatre or its sister operation at the Dolby Theatre, also in Hollywood. "Mockingbird" would be the first straight play to be presented by the Pantages since "War Horse" in 2013.

Adapted by Aaron Sorkin, the Broadway retelling notably shifts the emphasis of Harper Lee’s Pulitzer-winning novel to Atticus Finch, a Southern lawyer who agrees to defend a Black man accused of raping a poor white woman. The show’s push for these changes initially led to legal turmoil with Lee’s controlling estate regarding the faithfulness of the play to the original book, which is famously told from the perspective of Finch's young daughter, Scout.

"It’s a masculine take on one of the greatest novels of girlhood ever written," wrote Times theater critic Charles McNulty in his review. "What was once a bildungsroman about a rowdy, independent-minded tomboy whose moral education involves coming to terms with the hypocrisies and willful blindness of the adults around her in Depression-era Alabama is now the story of an idealistic attorney forced to confront the limitations of the law as an instrument of justice in a racist society."

Nevertheless, what McNulty called a "provocatively fresh" and "top-flight" production holds the record as the highest-grossing American play in Broadway history. It recouped its reported $7.5 million investment about four months after it opened in late 2018, and continued on to sell out the 1,435-seat capacity Shubert Theatre — a rarity for the recent Broadway landscape, where straight plays are usually limited to months-long runs and are regularly outlived by musicals.

"The Inheritance" in London
"The Inheritance" is set to make its West Coast debut at the Geffen Playhouse. (Marc Brenner)

Could the Rudin controversy affect other shows set to play in L.A. when theaters reopen? He produced the Broadway run of Matthew Lopez's epic gay drama "The Inheritance," which was scheduled to make its West Coast premiere at the Geffen Playhouse when the COVID-19 shutdowns took place. That staging is still in the works, a representative for the Geffen confirmed to The Times, adding, "Scott Rudin is not involved in our production, nor has he ever been."

Although Rudin originally produced "The Lehman Trilogy" on Broadway (where it played only one preview performance before the government-mandated shutdown hit), Center Theatre Group's run of the financial drama at the Ahmanson "is coming directly from the National Theatre and Neal Street Productions," said CTG Artistic Director Michael Ritchie. "Scott Rudin is not involved in the presentation of 'The Lehman Trilogy' in Los Angeles.

"We remain deeply committed to promoting an environment for our staff, artists, audiences and colleagues that actively works against racism, harassment and discrimination, with zero tolerance for it, and that goes for all touring productions at the Ahmanson," added Ritchie. "There should not be a place in our industry for any behavior that goes against these values."

This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.