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The Western Stage to openInherit the Wind
The Western Stage continues its 2006 season October 27th
with Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee’s classic courtroom drama Inherit
the Wind.Based on the infamous 1925
Scopes “Monkey” Trial, this dramatization of the courtroom debate over whether
evolution should be taught in public school is still as topical today as it was
during its 1955 Broadway premiere. Inherit the Wind plays through
November 19th in the Studio Theater, Hartnell College Performing
Arts Building. Performances are Fri and Sat at and Sun at Tickets are $20 General Admission and
$16 Sr/Jr/Mil and can be purchased through the TWS box office at 375-2111 or by
visiting westernstage.com. (110 Word PSA)
Salinas, CA—October 17, 2006
Since its 1955
Broadway premiere, Inherit the Wind has proved as controversial as the
historic courtroom drama it purports to recount. Great efforts were taken by
playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee to clarify that what they were
presenting was not intended as history but rather a critique of McCarthyism
similar to Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.Despite these efforts Inherit the Wind was attacked for its
liberal distortion of historic events, antagonism towards Christians, and bias
in favor of teaching evolution in public schools. Even today, fifty-one years
after its premiere and eighty-one years after the heated courtroom trial that
inspired the play, Inherit the Wind still remains one of the most
controversial and relevant plays in American theatre.
investigate the controversy themselves in The Western Stage’s Studio Theater
beginning October 27th when the lights rise on the fictional town of
Hillsboro, Tennessee where the fiery courtroom debate over
whether Darwin’s theory of evolution should be taught
in public schools takes place.
people have learned about the Scopes “Monkey” trial through the play and its
1960 film adaptation, many have argued that Inherit the Wind has
inadvertently skewed the historical record of the trial. That there was a trial
in Dayton, Tennessee in which a teacher named John Scopes was
prosecuted for teaching evolution in a public school is not in question. What
is in question, however, are the details. Not only did Lawrence and Lee change
the names of the characters and setting of the story, but they also freely
altered events for both dramatic and political purposes. As the playwrights
clearly state in the preface of the play, “Inherit the Wind does not
pretend to be Journalism. It is theatre. It is not 1925.” Their intention was
thus not to write an historical account of the Scopes “Monkey” Trial, but
rather to use it as a vehicle to explore the then more contemporary issue of
McCarthyism. It is a play about fear and political oppression just as much as
it is about Creationism versus evolution.
Wind opens with the
arrest of Bertram T. Cates (Bumper Metcalfe), a school teacher modeled on
mild-mannered John Scopes. Immediately the townspeople swarm around him as he is
being marched to jail, condemning him for polluting their children’s minds by
teaching Darwin’s theory of evolution. Even his
girlfriend, Rachael (Aaron Lichtanski), is in disbelief, and is suddenly torn
between her affection for Cates and her loyalty to her father, Reverend Brown
(Terry Durney). From the opening scene on, it is clear the play is just as
interested in creating a parable about the Communist scare as it is commenting
on the debate over evolution. Scopes is a man being prosecuted for exploring
ideas, not committing a crime.
order, two of the most famous lawyers in America arrive in Hillsboro amid much fanfare to lend their legal
expertise and oration skills in what is sure to be “The Trial of the Century”.
On the Prosecution side of the aisle is Senator Mathew Harrison Brady (Ken
Cusson), a three time Democratic Presidential nominee and staunch
anti-evolutionist, who is greeted by the townspeople with exceeding enthusiasm.
On the Defense side is Henry Drummond, a Chicago attorney and free thinking agnostic with
a reputation for exonerating high-profile defendants. He is greeted by a little
girl who calls him “The Devil”.
Lawrence and Lee draw on Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan in their
depiction of Drummond and Brady, they purposely exaggerate Senator Brady’s
intolerance to make him appear more like Senator Joseph McCarthy. Much, in
fact, has been made of their attempts to reduce him to a simpleton who had not
even read Darwin’s Origin of Species.Bryan, unlike his fictional counterpart, had
actually read Darwin’s texts and even quoted from them during the trial. The
play additionally paints him as rabid for Cates prosecution. In truth, Bryan actually requested that that Scopes not
be fined upon prosecution. (For more about the truth of the Scopes “Monkey”
trial, see supplemental article)
Yet, as the
decades have passed, it has ironically become the debate between Creationism
and evolution that carries the greatest contemporary relevance. With the rise
of the Intelligent Design movement out of the Seattle based Discovery Institute, the overt
conflict at the center of the play is once again in public and legal
debate—with a twist. Today the issue is not whether evolution should be taught
in schools, but rather should Intelligent Design (a repackaged and
quasi-scientifically updated version of Creationism) be taught in science class
as an alternative to evolution. In this respect, Inherit the Wind is a
play that bridges three distinct periods in American history: the Scopes
“Monkey” Trial, the 1950’s Red Scare, and the current debate about Intelligent
Wind is directed by Jim
McLean whose previous TWS directorial credits include Hello, Dolly!,
Anything Goes, and Pride’s Crossing.
Fridays and Saturdays at and Sundays at in the Studio Theater, Hartnell College
Performing Arts Building, October 27th - November 19th.
Tickets are $20 General Admission and $16 Sr/Jr/Mil and can be purchased
through the TWS box office at 375-2111 or online at westernstage.com.
miss TWS’ final show of the 2006 season, Oliver!, on the Main Stage Dec 1-17.