Inherit the Wind is loosely based on the Scopes Monkey Trial, which challenged a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in Tennessee. The playwrights wrote it as a statement against McCarthyism, which was in full force at the time. One of the playwrights, Jerome Lawrence, said this about all their plays and this one in particular. “Almost if not all of our plays share the theme of the dignity of every individual mind, and that mind’s life long battle against limitation and censorship.”
It is very easy for an audience in the Greater Boston area to watch a play about the Scopes Monkey Trial and feel removed from this piece of history geographically. The dialog doesn’t break the fourth wall and further encourages that feeling of distance. Add physical distance between the actors and the audience, and a person can very comfortably sit in judgment of the people in Tennessee.
Our actors don’t perform on a stage. The room is our stage. Actors move around the tables where our audience members sit and speak directly to them. It brings the audience into the action in ways that surprise us. During The Madwoman of Chaillot, the audience joined the cast to call out for a death sentence. At the end of The Rivals, they shouted at an actress to ask her to change the ending they knew was coming. Lines blur in our productions. We don’t break the fourth wall really; we simply don’t have any walls.
Verse and Vodka picks plays for the beauty of their words and the plays ability to thrive without elaborate sets. Inherit the Wind is designed for an elaborate set. It also contains spectacular speeches, humorously biting dialog, and poignant moments of emotional truth. Those words don’t need an elaborate set. It just took us a while to realize that. As we start rehearsals, we’re extremely excited to see how the lack of a set affects the performance and if it will allow us to draw our audience more deeply into a play again.