Broadway Blog editor Matthew Wexler chats with Broadway Producer Eva Price about A Time to Kill, a new Broadway play adapted from the novel by John Grisham.
A Time to Kill, the popular courtroom drama, tells the emotionally charged, now-iconic story of a young, idealistic lawyer, Jake Brigance, defending a black man, Carl Lee Hailey, for taking the law into his own hands following an unspeakable crime committed against his young daughter. Their small Mississippi town is thrown into upheaval, and Jake finds himself arguing against the formidable district attorney, Rufus Buckley, and under attack from both sides of a racially divided city. This drama is a thrilling courtroom battle where the true nature of what is right and what is moral are called into question.
“For almost a quarter of a century, A Time to Kill has captivated readers with its raw exploration of race, retribution and justice,” says author John Grisham. “It was my first book and the first that I have allowed to be adapted for the theatre. Rupert Holmes did an excellent job of translating it from the page to the stage, and I am happy that not only my loyal readers, but a whole new audience will be able to experience this story in live theater.”
Eva Price, along with Tony Award-winner Daryl Roth, are the co-producers behind A Time to Kill. The Broadway Blog offers these exclusive insights from Price, who has been most recently represented on Broadway by Peter and the Starcatcher, which won five Tony Awards during its celebrated run. Other producing credits include Annie (2013 Tony nomination for Best Revival of a Musical), Kathy Griffin Wants A Tony, The Addams Family, among others. Price was recently named to Crain’s New York “40 Under Forty” Rising Stars in Business.
What inspired you to become a producer on A Time to Kill?
There is nothing more important to me than great storytelling. A Time to Kill is a classic American story that has twists, turns, thrilling drama and an important and wonderful resolution that keeps you on the edge of your seat. I feel blessed to be able to produce for the theater, and when my plays and musicals can have an unforgettable story at their core… then I feel truly blessed.
I can think of three successful courtroom dramas: Twelve Angry Men, Inherit the Wind, and A Few Good Men. How do you think A Time to Kill follows that lineage and/or redefines the genre?
I think A Time to Kill follows those classic courtroom dramas very well. It is also a story about something important: a social and human issue. Like those dramas, A Time to Kill follows a protagonist and his struggle for finding justice under the law. And also like those dramas, A Time to Kill follows richly drawn and deeply emotional characters who are on a journey to resolve their core issues by the close of the play.
Was John Grisham involved in the adaptation or did he turn over the reigns to playwright Rupert Holmes?
John has been kept apprised of all the show’s developments and has been a great cheerleader of the process and a terrific resource to the creative team. Rupert definitely had autonomy to find the story and to tell it in the best way possible, and John has approved of its growth and direction throughout the process.
What do you think is key to successfully adapt a work of fiction into a piece of live theater? What translates and what doesn’t?
Keeping characters real and authentic is important when adapting fiction into theater. Finding the characters’ inner and outer voice is vital to making sure the adaptation “sings.” Dramas also need to be infused with equal parts humor and heart.
You now have an overflowing handful of Broadway and off Broadway plays and musicals under your belt. What has been unique about producing this particular project compared to your other endeavors?
A Time to Kill is such a beloved property. Millions read the book and so many people have their own impression of what the story is really about and how they think and feel about the characters that they remember. We are able to re-imagine and reinvent these characters for the stage. There is timeliness and relevance to this story because of what is going on nowadays and the continued issues with race in America, so we are also able to infuse an undercurrent of social issues along with the drama. It’s pretty powerful stuff.
A Time to Kill
252 West 45th Street