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Book to stage, stage to book: Harper Lee and J.K. Rowling



For an 89-year-old who lives in a nursing home, does no interviews and hasn't written a book in decades, Harper Lee generates an astonishing amount of news.

The latest, announced Wednesday: a Broadway version of To Kill a Mockingbird, coming in 2017. Lee's beloved 1960 novel is in star-studded hands. Stage and screen superproducer and EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony winner) Scott Rudin acquired the rights to develop the play and hired Bartlett Sher (one Tony win, six nominations, most recently for South Pacific) as director and Oscar- and Emmy-winner Aaron Sorkin to write the play.

There is already a stage adapation of Mockingbird, produced every year in Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Ala., and in high schools around the country, but this will be a new play that, Sorkin told the New York Times, will likely feature new scenes and other changes.

No casting news yet, nor any word about what Lee thinks. (Don't hold your breath on the latter.)

Sorkin is an interesting choice as writer. Known for such works as A Few Good Men, The West Wing and The Newsroom, he has a very distinctive voice and style. So does Lee -- her voice is one of Mockingbird's greatest strengths -- and it's very different from Sorkin's, so it will be interesting to see how they mesh.

It's possible Sorkin might rescue Atticus Finch from the damage done to his image by the publication last year of Lee's early novel Go Set a Watchman. Sorkin has made a career, after all, of writing characters who specialize in mansplaining liberalism, though they don't always do it as charmingly as Atticus does. 

I just hope we don't end up with Atticus in a courtroom bellowing in Jack Nicholson style, "You can't handle the truth!"

In other beloved author news, there will be a new Harry Potter book this summer -- sort of.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II, the play about J.K. Rowling's boy wizard as a grownup that opens this summer in London, will be published by Scholastic in a "special rehearsal edition" on July 31, the day after the play's premiere.

The hardcover book will sell for $29.99 and, in fine Harry Potter tradition, will be released at 12:01 a.m. Expect lines at bookstores. An e-book will go on sale simultaneously at Pottermore, Rowling's website.

The play was written by Jack Thorne, based on an original story by Thorne, Rowling and director John Tiffany, who won a Tony for Once. Thorne wrote the stage adaptation of vampire tale Let the Right One In.

By all accounts, Rowling has been pretty hands-on in the play's development (when she wasn't busy being hands-on and writing the screenplay for Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the next Potterverse movie, due in November).

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Parts I & II will take Harry's story 19 years into the future from the end of the seventh novel, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, with the Boy Who Lived as a harried Ministry of Magic employee dealing with a crisis involving his son, Albus.

The story is so expansive that it ended up being two plays, designed to be seen either in one long day (a matinee plus an evening performance) or on two consecutive nights. For fans who can't score tickets -- the play is mostly sold out well into 2017 -- or make a trip to London, the publication of the script will give them a way to catch up on Harry's story. Until, of course, the play makes its way across the pond, or onto the movie screen.





[Last modified: Wednesday, February 10, 2016 12:51pm]


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