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Arena Stage to announce world premiere of play based on John Grisham thriller

March 10, 2010 |  9:01 pm

Grisham Arena Stage will present the world premiere of a play based on John Grisham's earliest novel, "A Time to Kill," as part of its 2010-2011 season, which will be its first at its new home, the Mead Center for American Theater in Washington, D.C.

Artistic director Molly Smith on Thursday will announce that Rupert Holmes' adaptation of the legal thriller will debut in May 2011. Arena will present the production by special arrangement with producer Daryl Roth, who plans to take the show to Broadway.

Grisham, the king of the legal suspense novel, was a small-town Southern lawyer when "A Time to Kill" was published in 1988. It tells the story of a father in fictional Clanton, Miss., who takes the law into his own hands after his daughter is brutally assaulted. The father is black, most of Clanton is white. After he is arrested, a young defense attorney battles to save his life.

The book was made into a 1996 movie directed by Joel Schumacher and starring Samuel L. Jackson, Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Kevin Spacey, and Donald and Kiefer Sutherland.

Holmes is a playwright, composer and recording artist who wrote the Tony-winning 1985 musical "The Mystery of Edwin Drood." He received two Tony nominations and a Drama Desk award for his work on the 2007 Kander and Ebb show "Curtains" and a 2003 Tony nomination for "Say Goodnight, Gracie."

Besides "A Time to Kill," Arena will add one other play to the 2010-2011 season: "Let Me Down Easy," Anna Deavere Smith's multi-character solo piece about life, death and the human body.

The rest of the lineup includes the world premiere of Marcus Gardley's "Every Tongue Confess," Lynn Nottage's 2009 Pulitzer winner "Ruined," Mary Zimmerman's "The Arabian Nights," a new play festival and an Edward Albee Festival featuring all 30 of the playwright's works, anchored by "At Home at the Zoo" and the Steppenwolf Theatre Company production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," starring Tracy Letts and Amy Morton.

-- Karen Wada

Photo: John Grisham. Credit: Charles Sykes / Associated Press