Inherit the Wind opens to enthusiastic crowds

“I . . . shall . . . make . . . me . . . a MAN!” So says Reverend Brown during a fiery sermon in this year’s fall play, Inherit the Wind, which opens tonight. Inherit the Wind is a dramatization of the famous Scopes Monkey Trial, when the Tennessee teacher John Scopes was put on trial for violating a state law against teaching evolution. The play was originally intended to criticize McCarthyism by using the setting of the Scopes trial, as it champions freedom of thought and belief. Inherit the Wind has faced serious opposition from some Evangelical groups in the past due to the controversial way it portrays the events of the Scopes trial and its emphasis on a battle between science and religion. “You’ll always have that fear of backlash,” said Brian Parrish, the play’s director. “All plays have conflict. A play without some kind of conflict is dull, boring, and performed in elementary schools.” However, despite this play’s controversial nature, no opposition has surfaced to its upcoming performance at Ames High. “I have not heard one complaint,” said Parrish. “Every single person who I’ve told about the play has said, ‘Oh, yeah – I’ve heard of that. That will be good.’ Including my Baptist pastor.” Inherit the Wind is fairly well-known in America, thanks partly to its controversy, but mostly due to the historical subject of the play. “One of the reasons I really wanted to do this play was that it covers something you’ve learned about in school – it’s based on actual history, history you know.” It’s important to remember, however, that Inherit the Wind was written not as a documentary but as a drama. Several events were changed from the actual trial in order to frame it entirely as a battle between two enemies. The playwrights even encouraged performers not to use Southern accents for the townspeople so that the play would have a universal, not specific, theme. However, it is not the mere controversy but the writing of Inherit the Wind that sets it apart. “When I first saw the book at Border’s, I picked it up and read a couple pages – and just then I knew we had to do it. I just loved the concentration, the intelligence, the language itself. The eloquence of Drummond’s speeches, the crossfire between him and Brady – it really spoke to me.” Parrish has directed several plays at the high school, but this is one of the first to connect with him as a director. “This is the first play I’ve actually picked out – the others that we’ve done were all suggested to me. I think this is really a step in the right direction for the drama department – the first play I did here, John Lennon and Me, was nothing spectacular in terms of writing.” However, a play on the scale of Inherit the Wind poses its own challenges – such as a cast of thirty and a set including a town square on a stage-wide raised platform. “We’ve had a lot of difficulty getting all the people we need. And getting the set built has been an enormous problem. The scale and scope of it were just too much for our resources, and we had some serious misuse of space – but it’s going to be interesting.” Inherit the Wind will be performed tonight and Saturday night at 7:30. Tickets are $6, or free with an activity pass.