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To Kill A Mockingbird !!! now written by… Aaron Sorkin?

January 11, 2019

Last month Broadway opened  a new stage version of  To Kill A Mockingbird with a script written by Hollywood writer Aaron Sorkin (famous for stuff like The West WingThe Social Network, and much more).

I originally thought a Sorkin-Broadway production of To Kill a Mockingbird would be a bad idea.  If I were an actor, the one role I wouldn’t want to play would be Atticus Finch, because I wouldn’t want to be compared to Gregory Peck.  And if I were a script writer, the one novel I wouldn’t want to touch would be To Kill a Mockingbird, because I wouldn’t want to be compared to Truman Capote.

Right now, Hollywood actor Jeff Daniels is Atticus Finch, and I can see that working alright on stage.  Daniels has a lot of charisma, but he can come across as really pompous in The Newsroom, and a pompous Atticus Finch might backfire.  After Jeff Daniels, I don’t know who else could do it.  Who would want to be compared to both Gregory Peck and Jeff Daniels?

It’s kind of ironic that Aaron Sorkin is the author to rewrite To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most universally loved novels in the United States (according to a PBS poll ), and Aaron Sorkin’s writing can be a bit polarizing.

Sorkin has a reputation for writing great dialogue, but some critics claim that he writes clever dialogue.  The dialogue isn’t necessarily great, detractors say, because most of his characters talk the same way, with speed, wit, and lots of self-importance.

I understand that.  To me, it sometimes feels like Sorkin is showing off with his dialogue rather than writing characters.  Nobody I know talks like a Sorkin character.  In fact, where I work, people who talk like Aaron Sorkin characters would get fired.

Sorkin dialogue is easy to spot because he has certain tendencies.  I don’t need to chronicle them.  Others have done a much better job (like here in this Sorkinisms video) than I could ever do.

I don’t blame Sorkin for wanting to write a Broadway screenplay.  But why To Kill a Mockingbird?  I mean, I like the book and the movie was okay, but I never heard of a demand for a new To Kill a Mockingbird, even one with an Aaron Sorkin screenplay. It seems really unoriginal.

The only thing I know about Broadway in the last few years is Hamilton.  I have a teenage daughter who is into theater, and all I heard about for two years was Hamilton, Hamilton, and more Hamilton. I’m not a huge fan of Hamilton (especially after hearing the soundtrack nonstop for several months), but at least it was original.

My daughter knows about To Kill A Mockingbird, but she has no interest in it.  From her point of view, it’s already old.   Maybe this new version is pretty good.  Maybe it’s even great.  I know attendance for To Kill a Mockingbird has been pretty good (I think even record-breaking), but I wonder how long that will last.  We’ll know more in a few months/years.

As a writer, I appreciate how Broadway audiences are often aware of who wrote the plays.  Movie audiences hardly ever know who wrote the movie, and music lovers often don’t know who really wrote the songs.  But this Broadway version of To Kill a Mockingbird?  Everybody knows that Aaron Sorkin wrote it.  That has to be a great feeling for a writer (unless the play is a dud).

Maybe Sorkin could write another script from another American classic, one that hasn’t already been turned into an iconic movie, like The Catcher in the Rye.  That book needs a damn lot of improvement.  In fact, The Catcher in the Rye needs to be improved like hell.  Too much damn whining in that damn book.  Too much damn whining like hell.

*****

What do you think?  What other beloved classic novels would you like to see performed on stage?  Does Aaron Sorkin write great dialogue, clever dialogue, or both?

3 Comments
  1. Couldn’t say, but my cousin just saw TKaM on Broadway and said Jeff Daniels was “mesmerizing.” Just one man’s opinion.

  2. I’m always afraid to see beloved classics in a play.

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