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Marblehead Theater Cancels 'To Kill A Mockingbird' Over Copyright Battle

MARBLEHEAD (CBS) - The script is ready, the actors are cast, but right now the stage inside Marblehead's Little Theatre is empty. And the Mugford Street Players' production of "To Kill A Mockingbird" will have to find another theater.

"I got an email on Wednesday morning it said 'emergency email read this and be sure to open the letter,'" said Mugford Street Players President John Fogle.

Fogle tells WBZ-TV the letter was sent by lawyers representing the New York City production of the Harper Lee classic. And it ordered the amateur acting troop to cancel its three-week run. Attorneys argued stage rights for the Broadway version of the novel had been acquired in 2015.

Marblehead theater
John Fogle and Greg Mancusi-Ungaro at Marblehead's Little Theatre (WBZ-TV)

"[It said] that we had to cancel by today or they would sue us in the amount of $150,000 for copyright infringement," Fogle told WBZ-TV Tuesday.

The Marblehead Little Theatre is currently hosting 14 productions. Opening night for "To Kill A Mockingbird" was set for this Friday, March 1st. At least 200 tickets had been sold.

"We're not alone, theaters all over the country who are mounting productions of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' are in the same situation," said the productions producer Greg Mancusi-Ungaro.

To Kill A Mockingbird
To Kill A Mockingbird (WBZ-TV)

The situation boils down to the show's right. "There's a provision that allows them to suppress the performances of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' in any theater that's within 25 miles of a major metropolitan area. Marblehead unfortunately is within 25 miles of Boston," Mancusi-Ungaro said.

The troupe is now issuing refunds and scrambling to find another theater outside city limits.

"We're ready to go now and we'd like to go now," said Mancusi-Ungaro.

Until then, they'll hope the production they've worked so hard on, sees the light of the stage.

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