Mindy Lucas

'Inherit the Wind' brings stellar cast, rare production of iconic play to Hilton Head

A top-notch production and stellar cast are what the audience can look forward to when the American classic "Inherit the Wind" opens at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina on Hilton Head Island this week, those closest to the production say.

In fact, many visitors to the center may not realize its roughly 349-seat theater often brings in "equity" actors and directors -- those who are members of the Actors' Equity Association -- vice president of marketing for the center Andrea Gannon said. Similar to the Screen Actors Guild, she explained, the AEA represents more than 50,000 actors and stage managers.

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So what people get when they come here is a Broadway-caliber cast," she said.

Written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee in the mid 1950s as a response to the McCarthy hearings, "Inherit the Wind" is considered one of the most iconic plays of its time.

It is also the fictionalized version of the 1925 Scopes "Monkey" Trial.

The play tells the story of Tennessee schoolteacher Bertram Cates who is put on trial for violating state law and teaching evolution instead of creationism.

The characters of Matthew Harrison Brady, Henry Drummond, Bertram Cates and E. K. Hornbeck are based on the historical figures of William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow, John Scopes and H. L. Mencken who were involved in the trial.

The playwrights state in the play's opening that "Inherit the Wind" is not meant to be a historical account. Since it was written, historians and critics alike have noted the differences in the play and the actual events surrounding the trial -- all of which are endlessly documented online.

But setting those discussions aside, the opening of "Inherit the Wind" on Hilton Head is interesting in and of itself in that it doesn't get performed very often, said director, Russell Treyz.

"And it happens to be relevant to today," Treyz said.

Treyz said the audience will particularly enjoy the play's two leads.

The role of prosecutor, statesman and Biblical scholar Matthew Brady is played by Warren Kelley while the role of his shrewd legal adversary Henry Drummond is played by Kurt Rhoads, both New York-based, "equity" actors.

"They are fantastic," Treyz said. "People who have seen them really know how wonderful they are."

Those attending also may have a lot to talk about afterward.

"I think ultimately it affirms the individual and his right to believe and his right to think," Treyz said of the play's overarching themes. "This battle of minds that they have in the courtroom is riveting and it is fun and it's also touching."

Follow reporter Mindy Lucas at twitter.com/MindyatIPBG.

IF YOU GO

"Inherit the Wind" opens at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 6, at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina, 14 Shelter Cove Lane, Hilton Head Island. The play runs through Oct. 25. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Tuesdays though Saturdays, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays.

Tickets for preview performances Oct. 6-8 are $36 for adults and $25 for children ages 4-15.

Tickets Oct. 9-25 are $46 for adults and $33 for children.

For details, call 843-842-2787 or visit www.artshhi.com.

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