Monroeville, Alabama, the birthplace of Harper Lee, is often seen as the inspiration for the fictional town of Maycomb. The town, and the historic courthouse, receive thousands of visitors each year and the play is often performed to sold out crowds. Some visitors are even given the opportunity to participate in this slice of history, as each performance chooses the twelve members of the jury from the audience itself.
But this year the Heritage Museum was at risk of losing its rights to perform the popular dramatic adaptation. Dramatic Publishing Company, which owns the rights to the play, had originally refused to extend the license for performance rights past 2015.
Harper Lee herself has previously been involved in legal disputes with the Museum, when they were found to be selling souvenirs in its store after her application for a trademark on the book’s title.
Thankfully this time, Lee has stepped in to save the day and end the dispute. In an effort to keep the play going, she has founded the Mockingbird Company, a nonprofit organization that will produce the play on behalf of the museum. The Mockingbird Company will take on production of the play starting in 2016, and will donate all profits to the local community.
The story was brought to Lee’s attention after a Facebook Group, “Save Monroeville’s To Kill a Mockingbird” was formed and gained over 4,000 supporters, including Oprah and J.K Rowling.
After the news was announced, Dramatic Publishing Company issued the following statement on their Facebook page:
“Dramatic Publishing is thrilled to announce that TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD will continue to be presented in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Ms. Lee has founded Mockingbird Company, a not-for-profit organization whose proceeds will benefit communities throughout all of Monroe County. Mockingbird Company will produce the play in Monroeville beginning in 2016.
We are also happy to announce that the play will be performed by Mockingbird Players, who have acted this American classic so well for so long. We believe that this is the best way (from the stage) to celebrate Ms. Lee’s masterpiece throughout the greater Monroeville area.”
With the dispute now ended, performances can continue worry free. Tickets for this month and next are already sold out.