Director Don Hampton
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Performance dates March 21 - April 6
Friday & Saturday evenings and 2 Sunday afternoon matinees
PRODUCTION NOTES BY THE PLAYWRIGHTS
INHERIT THE WIND is not about the theory of evolution versus the literal interpretation of the Bible. It assaults those who would constrict any human being's right to think, to teach, to learn. Our major theme is "the digniry of the individual human mind." The play has been translated and produced in 34 languages. It is most effective when performed on two levels, with no pause except at the act-break, and with a near-cinematic flow between the town square and the courtroom. Humanity is on trial. Anyone who would limit thought is on trial.
These must be utterly believable people, shorn of any trace of caricature. Avoid the use of Southern accents; they tend to make the play seem sectional rather than universal. Your program should read:
The Place: A small town.
The Time: Not too long ago.
MATTHEW HARRISON BRADY begins as a giant, filled with charisma and confidence, beloved of the people. Then, as in a Greek tragedy, we watch him faU, topple from his pedestal. He must not be a "paper-tiger," his vulnerability telegraphed in advance. But he should be a dynamic figure of power and substance, three times nearly President. For his warm and sunlit entrance, pound that drum, sound that trumpet. In contrast, the tinkling of the hurdy-gurdy will give an effective entrance for the maverick HENRY DRUMMOND, the loner, making his unheralded arrival into the almost-empty town square, a looming solo shadow projected by the hot red sunset.
RACHEL BROWN charts the parabola of the playas her mind travels the difficult journey from innocent compliance to a more-embracing capacity to receive new thoughts, new ideas. She relives the terror of her childhood as if it were happening then and now. Later, an unwilling witness, she becomes mute, trapped as her emotions battle between genuine love of Bert Cates and duty to her Father. When she explains her growing enlightenment in the final scene, she gropes for self-understanding, mystified, bewildered by what seems to be going on inside her, like a mother sensing the first heart-beat of her unborn child.
BERT CATES, in his confrontation with Rachel in the opening scene, re-drarnatizes the moment he was impelled, as a responsible school-teacher to open the book and read it to his class. Bert longs to rush into his girl's arms, but his inquiring spirit is at war with her still-closed mind. He is no martyr; Bert Cates is an intellectual explorer, who vividly relives the moments when his imagination traveled beyond the dark-side of the moon. His statement after sentencing is eloquent, spoken with modest and unaffected simpliciry.
REV. JEREMIAH BROWN will be more frightening when he calls down hell-fire on Cates if he appears to be a benevolent pastor in the opening sequences. There is logic and warmth in his approach to his people, but his prayer meeting nearly gets out of hand in its dedicated passion.
E.K. HORNBECK is not a Greek chorus, nor the voice of the playwrights. But he loves to "dance with words," relishing his own turn-of-phrase and sometimes outrageous alliteration. His lines were written originally in blank verse, to match his delight at the rhythm and poetry of language, to illustrate his impudent Pan-like cry at human follies and his feeling that mere prose is simply flat. He uses his folded-newspaper-copy-paper to jot down his own witticisms to print later in his newspaper column, such as his designation of Hillsboro as "the buckle on the Bible Belt" or his observation that the local Courthouse is "A combination of Moorish and Methodist; it must have been designed by a congressman." His boater straw-hat is an inspired prop; he tips it impertinently, uses it to wave away his disdain for the "unplumbed and plumbingless depths" or to point with derision at a new-found target. He brandishes his boater with the panache of a cynical Cyrano. Whereas DRUMMOND takes the high road at play's end to start up a mountain peak of respect-even-for-one's-enemies, HORNBECK keeps traveling the lower road of denigration.
A live monkey and a real hurdy-gurdy will add enormously to the color and excitement, and will heighten HORNBECK'S initial humor. There is much laughter in this play, particularly in the puncturing of inflexibiliry and pomposity, in the agile thrust-and-parry of DRUMMOND's incisive mind. Be sure DRUMMOND refers to actual passages in the Bible, as he leafs through it during the scene with BRADY on the witness stand.
An alternative method of production would move the judge's bench, jury-box, tables and spectators' chairs on two wagons which could join from either side as the action blends from exterior to interior, without pause. Make certain that the town is always visible, part of the play, part of the trial. (However, your production will be far more effective and fluid if the scenery has no moving parts.)
Arena stage producers will be interested to know that the play had its initial production in theatre-in-the-round at the Margo Jones Theatre in Dallas. The Jury became part of the audience, seating themselves on the arena steps. The prayer-meeting, conducted from dead center, was especially effective in terms of audience involvement, since the celebrants seemed to emerge from all sides, as if from the audience itself. A later arena production (George Keathley directing Luther Adler and Larry Gates at Philadelphia's Playhouse-in-rhe-Park) placed the witness-chair on a swivel, with DRUMMOND, like an intellectual tiger, circling his prey ready to pOllnce. The increasingly bated BRADY whirls to find his accuser confronting him from every angle.
Be certain BRADY pounds the air with double fists, rhyrhmically incanting the names of the books of the Old Testament. The most eloquent line in the play is unspoken: DRUMMOND's weighing of the books at the end. He should be holding them in his upturned palms, balancing them like the scales of Lady Justice. then SLAPPING them together - SIDE BY SIDE. Don't put either Darwin or the Bible on top. Origin of the Species should be a distinctive bright orange or green and the book Rachel brings in during the' final scene should be idcntical to the one used by Drummond throughout the trial.
Every pcrformance of this play should feel like an opening night, happening NOW, on your stage for the first time, pertinent to this hour and this day. Each juror, each spectator should have his or her own occupation, distinctive personality, convictions, passions, prejudices, open or closed mind, rate of enlightenment or resistance to change. All are swept into the maelstrom of thought and feeling, of momentous moments as-they-are-happening.
Robert E. Lee