Like so many others, of all ages, I was hit hard by the death of Harper Lee. A Santa Monica tomboy, I dreamed of being Scout and in fact, donned overalls for my school's "Come As You Wish You Were Day." (How could I forget? The date was November 22, 1963) I even became a pen pal of Mary Badham's, who portrayed the literary world's most lovable daughter so vividly on screen.
Now, Mary Badham and I have gone our separate ways and I continue to use my pen (so to speak) covering the New York theatre scene. Coincidentally, days before Lee's death, I had reported on the news that "To Kill A Mockingbird" would be adapted for the Broadway stage by Oscar and Emmy-winner Aaron Sorkin. While I greatly admire Sorkin's dazzling chatter, it seems the oddest matchup since Martin Scorsese took on Edith Wharton.
Having seen Newsroom, A Few Good Men, West Wing, Social Network, Steve Jobs, Moneyball and all the others, I can't help but wonder if Sorkin can swap his speed- dialed urban PC voice for that of Lee's small-town lilting one. And how to avoid trying to make it resonate with audiences today? In my worst dreams, I envision:
Atticus (think Jeff Daniels) is walking briskly down the courtroom hallway. A man follows.
Man: (Huffing and puffing) Atticus. Atticus! Will you slow down a minute? I have a huge fa...
Atticus: Walk quicker, would you?
Man: I can't even breathe that fast. Okay, here goes. I need you to represent Tom Robinson. He's accused of raping Mayella Ewell. I think she's lying and Tom is clearly innocent - hey, he's being played by Morgan Freeman-- but he hasn't a prayer.
Atticus: Why me?
Man: You're the only person in town who has enough integrity and not an ounce of prejudice. At least until that sequel comes out.
Atticus: My kids will be bullied, I'll be shot at, he may be lynched, but I'll do it. As long as you promise never to turn this into a musical.
Lights come up on two young boys and a girl. (The latter played by the kid in "Room")
Scout: Are you the new boy in town, at least for the summer, you are so puny, I am Scout and this is my brother Jem, and over there lives a really creepy guy named Boo Radley and yes, I talk exactly like my father. Everyone here talks alike.
Dill: You mean in Maycomb County?
Jem: No, in Sorkin County.
Dill: Well, I'm little but I'm old. And one day I am going to be a famous writer too, after I change my name and move to New York and tattle on all my friends.
Lights up on corner of stage where Atticus is sitting outside jail.
Man: Atticus, move aside. Tom Robinson is no good and your MVP chances will be destroyed once all the stats come out.
Scout: Hey Mr. Cunningham, I said Hey Mr. Cunningham. I know your son, I know Walter, we go to school together, he's a nice boy even though he's been caught sexting lately.
Atticus: Scout! Jem! Truman--or Dill, whatever your name is! Go home at once. Calpurnia, our African American cook, must be worried sick.
Lights up on courtroom.
Mayella: That's the man there! He raped me, he beat me, he threw me against a wall.
Atticus: Are you sure it was him? Weren't you also dating the school halfback?
Mayella: Fullback. No, I am sure it was that guy there.
Atticus: You can't handle the truth!
Confused silence in the courtroom
Atticus: Hey, it worked last time. To the members of the jury, which I see is all white, including three gays and two transgenders. I only ask that you ponder the facts carefully.
Head Juror: We don't want to waste time deliberating. We'll just be talking over each other anyway. He's guilty, of course!
Cheers while the crowd starts to exit.
Calpurnia: Hurry and stand up children, your father is passing...whoops, you missed him.
Halloween a few days later.
Jem: Atticus, someone saved us from a scary person, I mean he seemed scary but he may just be misunderstood and a victim of social injustice.
Scout: He's behind that door, I think. Hey Boo! Boo!
Atticus: Wait, Jean Marie, even I know this is the big moment...you can't rush it.
Scout: Why not?
Atticus: Because we are only fifteen minutes into Act One.