Theater presents non-traditional Inherit the Wind

They understand the theories of evolution, seven-day creation and intelligent design.

They understand that circuses and zoos became popular at the same time as evolution, putting the human-animal connection on a warm and fuzzy level.

They understand that their characters have parallels with John Stewart, Rush Limbaugh and Pat Robinson.

The cast of Inherit the Wind, this fall’s theatre production, has been doing their homework. They are preparing themselves to present the controversial story based on the Scopes “monkey trials” of 1925 to the Eastern community.

“We’re seeing all sides, cause we’ve definitely looked into all sides,” says junior Abby Hess.

In the Scopes trials, high school teacher John Scopes was tried for teaching evolution, which violated Tennessee’s Butler Act, signed into law just six weeks before. Scopes was found legally guilty, but as expressed by Professor Mark Hallen, director and head of the theatre department, “He won in the court of public opinion.”

The story was made into a play in 1955 and a Hollywood motion picture in 1960, and has been remade several times.

Not everyone is happy about the production. “People have been calling and emailing, saying, ‘I can’t believe you are doing an evolution play at Eastern.'”

However, the version that will be presented at Eastern has been slightly altered in an attempt to avoid taking sides.

“I’m not pro-evolution,” says Hallen. “I’m not pro-creation. But I am pro-letting the ideas be born, letting the ideas come out.”

In order to facilitate this process, Hallen will bring the audience into the play in a non-traditional way. As with the 2003 production of The Glass Menagerie, the audience will be seated onstage in the midst of the action. The hope is that rather than feeling like a detached performance, the production will instead resemble a town meeting.

Inherit the Wind was crafted as a social commentary. Playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee drew a parallel between the persecution of free thought in the Scopes trial and the anti-Communist agenda in 1950’s America. Hallen remarks that the parallel also extends to the United States’ post-9/11 attitude. “I just think it’s the American infinity symbol. We continue to repeat the same lesson in different dressing,” he said.

“We’re not telling you to accept what’s out there,” says Hess. “Just to be open to it.”

As Rachel, a character within the play who learns this lesson, says: “A thought is like a child inside your body; it has to be born. If it dies inside you, part of you dies too.”

There is another layer of meaning embedded in Inherit the Wind.

“I think the play is about the human condition,” says senior Natalie Cisternas. “During the play, both sides of the spectrum kind of sway in their beliefs. The hate has to fade away in order for people to grow.”

Nov. 14-17, 8 p.m.Nov. 18, 3 p.m.McInnis Auditorium$10 general admission$8 children/seniors$5 Eastern students

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