Over six decades since the rise to popularity of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, its story still endures and remains relevant in a world with overwhelming disparities. This timeless classic tale about race, class and morality is retold on stage by Academy Award Winning Aaron Sorkin. The show, known as “the most successful play in Broadway history” according to 60 Minutes, adapts Harper Lee’s story for the modern times while still maintaining its authenticity. This summer, this masterpiece of a show will be performed at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia.
“A ‘Mockingbird’ for our moment. Beautiful, elegiac, satisfying, even exhilarating.” – Jesse Green, The New York Times
“Majestic and incandescent, this ‘Mockingbird’ is filled with breath and nuance and soul. This is a phenomenon.” – Sara Holdren, New York Magazine
To Kill a Mocking Bird was published in 1960. It is the first among two novels published by Harper Lee in her career. The novel was written to honor and pay homage to her father, as well as a reflection on the life of the southern part of America in the 1930s. It instantly succeeded in winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961, and it didn’t take long for it to be adapted into a film the year after. Since then, its unprecedented fame continued as it became a school reading preference, even picked higher than the Bible as a book that “every adult should read before they die.” “Between its subject matter, good writing, and new inexpensive, widely available format, its place as a cultural icon was all but assured,” says Reader’s Digest.
Creating a play from this sensational novel with a modern audience, who surely knows the story at heart, was a heavy responsibility for Aaron Sorkin. He asserted that the adaptation “should reflect an increased awareness of racism then and now.” To achieve this, he extensively tinkered with the characters and plot. He gave Black characters their rightful voices by exploring their depth and reformed Atticus into a flawed character, his naivety blinding him from understanding the extent of the prejudice of his time. “This was no longer an exercise in nostalgia. This wasn’t a field trip to a museum. It wasn’t a homage to one of America’s favorite books. It was something new,” says Sorkin in an interview with PBS News Hour.
The show’s adaptation still follows Scout’s narration, the 6-year-old daughter of lawyer Atticus Finch. The plot’s brilliant restructuring comes a fascinating, unique look to the story. Highlights are the fiery and convincing courtroom and emotional scenes. Furthermore, well-executed scenes contrast each other, allowing an easy understanding of the complex narrative. Giving color to the play is the vast medley of emotional experiences throughout, from humorous to sad moments. Adding to the play’s excellence is the set design that is cleverly created as if you time-traveled back to 1930s Alabama. Overall, this play provides a new depth to the classic but still captures the original work, especially Scout’s eye-opening experiences in realizing the harsh world.
“Aaron Sorkin’s adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” masterfully delivers a new look on a classic tale. There is never a dull moment in the show and every scene and every character is an integral part of the narrative. The story artfully tackles serious, relevant questions, and the cast delivers brilliantly, making this run of the show a must-watch.”Jennifer Gao, The Harvard Crimson
This compelling play is coming to the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, this July 16 until July 24. A brilliant cast will immerse you in this story, including Emmy Award-winning actor Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch, Melanie Moore as Scout Finch, Jacqueline Williams as Calpurnia, Justin Mark as Jem Finch, Yaegel T. Welch as Tom Robinson, and many more. Now is the time to reserve your tickets!