Guild’s “Inherit the Wind” explores the freedom to think

Photo by Sue Suchyta


James Mayne (left) of Redford as the organ grinder, ensemble member Val Sisto of Taylor and Kirk Haas of Inkster as journalist E.K. Hornbeck join other cast members rehearsing an opening scene of the Players Guild of Dearborn’s “Inherit the Wind” Thursday. The play will run for three weekends, March 11 to 27. For more information, call (313) 561-TKTS, or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

By Sue Suchyta
The Players Guild of Dearborn will continue its 2010-11 season this weekend with the Lawrence and Lee drama “Inherit the Wind.”

The play will run weekends March 11 to 27, with 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday shows and 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinees. Tickets are $15, with student and group discounts available. The theater is handicap accessible.

The Players Guild of Dearborn is located at 21730 Madison southeast of the intersection of Monroe and Outer Drive.

Set in 1925, the play fictionalizes the Scopes “Monkey” Trial in which a Tennessee teacher was convicted for teaching evolution to his high school science class.

However, when the show debuted in 1955 the authors used it to draw attention to the anti-communist hysteria and McCarthy “witch hunts” of the era that threatened America’s intellectual freedom.

Playwright Jerome Lawrence said the play was not so much about evolution but about any kind of mind control. “It’s not about science versus religion,” he said. “It’s about the right to think.”

Director Debbie Pletzer encourages people to see the timeless show because “it’s a play about the right that we all have to think and have our own opinions. It’s almost like stepping back in history and seeing what actually took place.”

Assistant director and producer Valerie Haas notes that the evolution vs. creationism debate is “still going on in our courtrooms, our classrooms and our homes even.”

“It’s very well defined in this play,” said Valerie Haas. “Each side is very clear to the point where people of either side could question a little of bit of what their stance is and maybe have a little conversation – and conversation is good about topics that are controversial in nature.”

She says her husband, Kirk Haas’, set design is very “representational,” incorporating elements of both the town and the courtroom, using the town in the backdrop as another character that “watches” over the townspeople.

She explained that most of the townspeople’s scenes take place on the elevated ramp behind the courtroom.

“At the beginning the courtroom is dark and it’s all about the street,” Valerie Haas said. “Then the light shifts, and the town becomes a watcher, like an observer and the courtroom then takes over.”

Haas added that the show is a “community effort,” with more than 30 cast members, ranging in age from 9 to in their 70s, and that it has attracted new members as well as longtime members who haven’t been on the stage for a while.

“A lot of people who normally do sets and things like that, they finally get to be on stage a little bit… there’s a nice small town kind of feel to it.”

Pletzer added that they have a mix of acting veterans and newcomers.

“It’s kind of nice to have that mix and we have people interacting and learning from each other,” Pletzer said. “It’s awesome and it’s the largest cast I’ve ever worked with.”

The large cast includes Tom Varitek of Dearborn as teacher Bertram Cates; Kori Bielaniec of Livonia as his love interest, Rachel Brown; and Bill Spurlin of Garden City as the Rev. Jeremiah Brown, Rachel’s father.

Donte Verrill-Huffman of Detroit is featured as Howard Blair, a young boy who inadvertently triggers the town’s controversy when he teases young Melinda Lewis, played by Emily Pletzer of Canton, about once being a worm.

The powerhouse attorneys are portrayed by Sean Greimel of Dearborn Heights as defense lawyer Henry Drummond and Chris Chavez of Allen Park as prosecutor Matthew Brady.

Morris Goodman of Dearborn, who plays the judge, is the only actual lawyer in the cast. He notes, however, that the timeline of things is off.

“There are all sorts of things that happen in two hours that would take 20 days,” said Goodman. “It’s interesting how few witnesses there are. We’re actually in court less than an hour. But there are some great, great things that happen that wouldn’t happen in any other courtroom in less than 10, 15 days.”

His wife Sally Hart Goodman of Dearborn plays Sarah Brady, the prosecutor’s wife.

Kirk Haas of Inkster portrays journalist E.K. Hornbeck and Tom Sparrow of Allen Park is the fictional town’s mayor.

For more information, call (313) 561-TKTS or go to www.playersguildofdearborn.org.

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