‘Inherit the Wind’ dramatizes Scopes Monkey Trial
Special to the Post Independent
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Debate over evolutionary theory still relevant more than 85 years after trial
You’ve been there. After a couple hours spent watching a live stage play, the curtain falls, followed by a steady flow of applause. On your way out, you turn to your fellow theater-goer to verbally dissect the play, but neither of you has much to say. The play wrapped it all up for you, in a neat little package.
“Well, that was nice,” one of you might say.
“Inherit the Wind” is – without question – not that kind of play.
Led by director Wendy Moore and featuring Colorado Mountain College (CMC) Theatre director Gary Ketzenbarger, longtime valley thespian Bob Moore, and a cast of professional and student actors, set designers and production staff, CMC Theatre is opening its season this evening with “Inherit the Wind.”
The play is inspired by the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial when a small Tennessee town served as the court case’s host. School teacher John Scopes was accused of violating a Tennessee law against teaching Darwinian evolution in the public schools.
Although the play is based on a real case, director Wendy Moore said not to expect the play to be a verbatim description of the proceedings.
“It’s like ‘The Miracle Worker,'” she said of the equally famous story of Helen Keller and her teacher Annie Sullivan. “This is not a documentary. It’s a fictionalized account.”
The discussion surrounding creationism and evolution goes back as far as when Darwin’s “Origin of Species” was published in 1859. After the 1925 trial, playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee published their play in 1955.
The play ran on Broadway in the ’50s, followed by a 1960 film. “Inherit the Wind,” and it continues to be staged and screened around the world. So, why is this courtroom drama still so popular – and relevant – more than 85 years after the trial that gave rise to it?
For one, the debate isn’t dying. Nationally and locally, creationism and evolution continue to be hot topics. Just a few weeks ago, a Post Independent columnist wrote about the irrationality of accepting evolution as fact, and was countered by an elder in the Presbyterian Church who believes in both evolution and biblical truths.
For Wendy Moore, the play addresses a range of issues, one of which is the way we as a society disagree.
“We say, ‘This is my point of view, and it’s the only way,'” she said. “A lot of the world operates this way, and it gets us into all kinds of trouble.”
The play also combines Moore’s lifelong dedication to education and the dramatic arts.
“I’ve spent 33 years of my career in the schools, encouraging kids to think,” said this former teacher and principal who has split her time between schools and theaters for most of her adult life.
Gary Ketzenbarger, who plays defense attorney Henry Drummond, said that more than the debate about who is right or wrong is the play’s focus on allowing the open transfer of ideas.
“This play isn’t about religion versus science,” Ketzenbarger said. “It’s about the right to think. What is at stake here is why Cates [the schoolteacher] felt that the stuff in ‘Hunter’s Civic Biology’ ought to be seen by the kids in his classroom. That stuff shouldn’t just be eliminated. The kids need to have the opportunity to think on both sides of an issue, and then make an informed decision.”
The prosecutor Matthew Harrison Brady is played by actor Bob Moore, who is director Wendy Moore’s husband.
“I just came off a production playing Picasso, who’s got to be the exact opposite of Brady,” Bob Moore said. “I love the challenge of rich characters.”
John Goss, who plays E.K. Hornbeck, a cynical big-city newspaperman, said even though his own personal mindset might be far from his character’s, he actually enjoys disliking Hornbeck’s “sarcastic arrogance.”
“It’s part of the job,” Goss said. “If I met this character, I probably wouldn’t like him. So it’s fun for me to go in different directions.”
China Clancy, CMC Theatre managing director, said the cast is filled with a talented combination of experienced actors and relatively young CMC students.
“This kind of production allows our students to learn from these actors while immediately getting on stage and filling age-appropriate roles,” she said.
Clancy said the rest of CMC Theatre’s season is offering up a range of comedy, drama, a period piece and a contemporary musical.
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