WHS students to reenact a classic courtroom battle in ‘Inherit the Wind’

Fighting for the freedom to think

Matthew Harrison Brady (Christian Edmonson) makes a point during the trial of a Tennessee teacher accused of teaching Evolution at school.

‘Inherit the Wind’

When: 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 10, 11, 17 and 18

Where: Washburn Performing Arts Center at Washougal High School, 1201 39th St.

How much: Tickets are $5 each, and $4 for students and senior citizens

Additional details: The WHS Grad Night Committee will host a silent auction, raffle and spaghetti feed in the commons from 5 to 8 p.m., Feb. 11. The cost is $5 per person or $20 for a family of five. Proceeds will benefit Grad Night, a drug and alcohol free party for seniors the night of graduation.

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Drummond (Nick Detering) questions Howard (Bret Wade) during the trial while bailiff (Brian Choi) and court reporter (Monica Wildox) listen.

The year was 1925 in the fictional town of Hillsboro, Tenn.Teacher Bert Cates is arrested for teaching Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. Famous lawyer Henry Drummond defends him, while fundamentalist politician Matthew Harrison Brady prosecutes.

This weekend, Washougal High School students will create the fictional courtroom drama when they perform “Inherit the Wind.”

Drama teacher Kelly Gregersen chose the play after fellow teachers strongly hinted that it would be a good one to consider.

“It’s loosely based on the Scopes Monkey Trial and also a slam on McCarthyism,” he said. “It was written in 1955, during the height of McCarthyism. It was too dangerous to say anything outright, so the authors wrote about famous times when people were persecuted for freedom of thought.”

The actual Scopes Monkey Trial took place in Dayton, Tenn in 1925. At issue was a state law banning the teaching of Evolution and a Dayton teacher’s knowing infringement of the law.

The term “McCarthyism” refers to the Second Red Scare, which reached its zenith in the late 1950s. It was characterized by heightened fears of communist influence on American institutions and espionage by Soviet agents. The term was originally coined to criticize the anti-communist pursuits of Republican U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy of Wisconsin.

During the McCarthy Era, thousands of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before government panels.

“It’s really a play about being free to think,” Gregersen said. “And directing a courtroom drama is really fun. The rhythm and energy of the courtroom battle is entertaining to watch, and the cast works together well. It’s also been enjoyable to look at some of the historical pieces of the play.”

The WHS sophomores, who study the play as a part of their English curriculum, will get the added advantage of seeing it in action.

“It’s an important piece of our 20th century history and important for the kids to see it,” Gregersen said.

Sophomore Christian Edmonson plays the role of prosecuting attorney Matthew Harrison Brady.

It is the first play he’s done and his first lead role as well.

“It was definitely a surprise that I got this,” he said, “I didn’t expect the biggest role in the play.”

The 6 foot, 5 inch Edmonson describes his character as “one of those people that belongs on stage.”

“He’s very sure of himself, almost too sure,” he said. “He likes to push the envelope and is also very smart and intelligent.

“I like the character because I’m a big guy and I like to project, and I’m allowed to do that as much as I want.”

Taylor Wilcox, a junior, plays the role of Rachel Brown, the preacher’s daughter who is engaged to Cates, the teacher on trial.

“She is kind of soft spoken and confused,” Brown said. “She feels pulled in two different directions. She has opinions but she learns to think for herself as the play continues.”

Wilcox said she appreciates her character’s is personality.

“She’s a dreamer,” she said. “But she grows throughout the play.”

Senior Tyler Walsh plays the role of the Rev. Jeremiah Brown, who is Rachel Brown’s father and the most influential man in town.

“He really takes over the community,” Walsh said. “He’s very spiritual and doesn’t hesitate to tell people what is right and wrong.”