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Players’ production of ‘Inherit the Wind’ opens Thursday

Photos submitted to Times Observer From left, Dale Petrush, John Shaugnesy, Kyle Corbin, Kaitlyn McCracken.

Creation or evolution? Faith or freedom of thought? These are the issues on trial in one of the greatest courtroom dramatizations of the 20th Century, and on the docket for the next Warren Players’ production.

“Inherit the Wind” takes the stage in the Mead Family Library Room of the Struthers Library Theatre on March 12, 13, and 14 at 7 p.m. and March 15 at 2 p.m.

Based on the famous Scopes Monkey Trials of 1925, the play pits two illustrious lawyers against each other as the state prosecutes a teacher for discussing Darwin’s theory of evolution in his classroom.

Surrounded by rich oak woodwork, stately iron columns and stack upon stack of antique books, the Library Room will transform into a unique, intimate performance space for the cast of 24. The up close and personal seating practically invites the audience to feel like they’re in the courtroom — and that’s exactly what Director Mark Davis wants when he puts some of them right into the show, as members of the jury.

Davis said his inspiration came from the authors themselves. In a 1996 interview, author Jerome Lawrence (who co-wrote with Robert E. Lee), explained that the drama’s purpose was not only to criticize the then-current state of McCarthyism, but it was also intended to defend intellectual freedom. Lawrence said, “We used the teaching of evolution as a parable, a metaphor for any kind of mind control. It’s not about science versus religion. It’s about the right to think.”

Photos submitted to Times Observer From left, J.D. Shaw, Nick Norrod, John Eggleston, Marty Meddock, Nicholas Abreu, Angela Abreu, Kaitlyn McCracken, Mark Davis, Dale Petrush, Joey Kraemer, Chalina Abreu, Katherine Bowley, Amanda Wolf, Kate Bowley.

The authors “wanted the town to be on trial as much as the defendant. They wanted this drama that is played out in front of the audience to hit into the heart of the issues,” Davis said. “My thought is that the audience is much like what the spectators were for the real trial. So, I decided that the 10 men who are already seated in the second scene should come from the audience. The jury members will be able to take their audience seat for scenes that are not in the courtroom. I wanted people to remember that juries are an important part of the legal system and are not volunteers. There is a duty to be done.”

While audience members could find themselves as part of the proceedings, Davis said they won’t have to worry about reading lines on cue. “They have nothing to say just as a real jury, they need only listen,” he said. However, during the trial, people will be able to share their reactions. “The cast knows when to speak out and the audience will catch on as to what they could do. The judge will call order when needed. The cast also sings some hymns and if the audience knows them they can sing along, too,” he said.

In these small ways, the audience will be able to take the drama to heart and give thought to the issues within the play. As the authors stated in their introduction to their work, the play takes place in a small, rural town, not too long ago. This production bridges time, using costuming and props from both modern and earlier times. This is by design, Davis said, “to help show that the issues within this drama have happened throughout time and can continue to happen in the future.”

Tickets for “Inherit the Wind” are $14 for adults or $12 for seniors and students.

Buy tickets online at strutherslibrarytheatre.org or call (814) 723-7231. Tickets are also available one hour prior to show time at the theatre’s box office. For more information, visit warrenplayers.com or facebook.com/warrenplayers.

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