by MIKE CHAIKEN
Did humans evolve from apes or are did they descended from The Bible’s Adam and Eve?
This was the central argument in what became known as The 1925 Scopes “Monkey Trial.” This moment in history later became the basis of a play and a movie in 1960, “Inherit the Wind.”
A Playbill for the 2007 production of the play—which starred Brian Denehy and Christopher Plummer– explained, “This courtroom drama is based on the 1925 Scopes ‘Monkey Trial,’ in which a Tennessee teacher was charged with teaching that man evolved from apes, instead of state-mandated Creationism. The drama contains a powerful confrontation between a character based on William Jennings Bryan, who believes only what he reads in the Bible, and another based on Clarence Darrow, who defends science and open intellectual inquiry.”
Bristol Central High School’s Footlights will be performing the play at the high school starting tomorrow night.
Andrew Ewart plays the character of Matthew Harrison Brady–the fictionalized version of William Jennings Bryan. He spoke about the difficulties of putting himself in the frame of mind of his character.
“Characterization and movement are the biggest issues with becoming an older character,” said Andrew in an email.
“Relating to the 1920s is sometimes difficult because people then seem to have spoken more intelligently, for example, their vocabulary — and my character, is exceptionally knowledgable.”
“The tough thing about playing (Brady), though, is he has very different opinions than mine,” said Andrew. “In some ways, I feel that I am an agnostic or someone who isn’t quite sure about religion in general at my age– but this character is so extremely committed to his conservative beliefs that it takes over his whole life. That’s been hard for me to put into the lines because it’s not the way I feel.”
However, said Andrew, “It’s interesting and it’s been an amazing experience.”
TyShaun Rodriguez plays Bertram Cates, who is based on the school teacher at the center of the Scopes “Monkey Trial.” He said the play—even though it takes place in the 1920s—still has relevance in 2015.
“Right now, as a nation, we have so much going on regarding people being able to think and do they think is right,” said TyShaun. “It seems like no matter when, it’s always people not accepting someone else.””
Molly Watstein, who is a member of the ensemble, also spoke about the continued relevance of “Inherit the Wind.”
“The religious aspect of the play is very important with recent (and ongoing) issues — for example, the mentality that all Muslims are terrorists when obviously that’s not true. Bigotry and prejudice in general are always part of society.”
“In the play,” said Molly, “everyone assumes that Darwinists are wrong or creationists are wrong– when really it’s just a big misunderstanding between the two groups.”
BCHS Footlights performs “Inherit the Wind” on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. at Bristol Central High School, Wolcott Street, Bristol. Tickets are $5 for students, and $8 for adults.