Letter from the Director

Welcome to our classroom.  It is the place where our story begins but it is not where it ends.  It is the place where a teacher breaks the law by teaching the evolutionary theories of Charles Darwin; the place where our actors and technicians spend most of their days–where they learn about math, science, and history, where they sometimes make music or craft great pieces of art; and it is the place that in recent years has been transformed into a warzone both figuratively and literally.  

Our story begins with a real-life event–the Scopes Monkey Trial, in which John Scopes, a teacher and football coach, is tried in the hot summer of 1925 in Dayton, Tennessee for violating a recently passed state law that forbids the teaching of evolution in public schools.  Scopes is recruited by local politicians who believe a big trial might be helpful to their floundering economy and by the newly formed American Civil Liberties Union which took out ads looking for a teacher who would help them test the constitutionality of the new law.  The trial quickly takes on a life of its own when William Jennings Bryan, a charismatic fundamentalist orator and three-time presidential nominee, volunteers to join the prosecution to fight against famed lawyer Clarence Darrow, known for winning unwinnable cases, who steps up to defend Scopes on behalf of the ACLU.  

This circus, which some referred to as the “Trial of the Century”, uses the classroom as a political pawn–a move that is all too familiar to us today.  In doing so it ignores the children of the community–the very people at the center of the place where our story begins.  Inherit the Wind dramatizes this circus, equally marginalizing its young characters (we only see two of them) in order to wrestle with bigger questions–the playwrights Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee sought to take on McCarthyism with their writing.  They glide over a moment where the characters deal with the collective trauma of the drowning of an eleven-year-old boy in order to focus instead on the spiritual leader of the community’s actions in damning the boy for not being baptized.  The issues that the play seeks to address and the fights that parents are having today are important, but they are leaving our children out of the conversation. 

In producing this play with young people we seek to reclaim their story and give them the agency to infuse their voices into the discussion.  The classroom is a place, like the theater, where we gather to participate in democracy–where we debate big ideas and negotiate how to live with people who are different than us; where our children examine the world we have built for them and delineate the path they wish to forge to finish the work of repairing it.  

In our classroom today, we ask the question: How do we engage with love in the hopeful battle that we can make a place for all of us?  This classroom will be where we start to build this place, but it will not be where we finish.  The stage directions of our play set the time as “Not too long ago,” and our playwrights instruct, “It might have been yesterday.  It could be tomorrow.”  I ask you now, can we step out of the way of our children and follow them to the future they wish to build? 

Thank you for supporting the arts here at North Shore.  It is our honor to have you.  Enjoy the show!

Aaron Brateman