Local theatre takes on the Bible

Anton Solomon is worried the set will melt. Sitting in Wood Street Annex surrounded by cardboard and sawdust, Inherit the Wind’s director eyed…

Anton Solomon is worried the set will melt.

Sitting in Wood Street Annex surrounded by cardboard and sawdust, Inherit the Wind’s director eyed up the shaky paper set wall on Monday afternoon.

With window and door cutouts, the structure was beginning to represent the fictional Bible-thumping town of Hillborough, where the play takes place.

It’ll look better once it’s painted, said Solomon.

“If it doesn’t melt in the process.”

With all the paint and glue the set might get soggy, he said.

“We might get chunks falling off.”

Oh, and the audience can’t lean on it.

Normally this wouldn’t be a problem.

The set is usually on stage, and the audience sits safely behind its fourth wall, in the theatre.

Not this time.

Solomon wants his audience moving with the action, and he’s setting up Wood Street’s gym accordingly.

“Most plays where the audience moves are written as environment pieces,” he said, perched on a chair in the beginnings of the courtroom.

“But Inherit the Wind wasn’t.”

Set in a nebulous time when cars are still new and the radio has just been invented, the play revolves around a trial.

On the stand is a disenfranchised Hillsborough teacher who dared to teach his class about evolution.

Creationists are prosecuting.

Historically this was the trial of the century, said Solomon.

And it’s still relevant.

“Anytime an individual sees the world differently than society and runs in a different direction, they run into problems,” he said, citing Gandhi.

“It’s the right-to-advance versus the right-to-stay-the-same debate.”

Although it revolves around a 1920s dispute, Inherit the Wind is still timely, said Solomon.

“It’s relevant anytime the Bible contradicts the social situation we find ourselves in.”

Today, it’s same-sex marriage, he said.

However, at the office, Solomon still finds himself arguing for evolution with a co-worker who believes in intelligent design.

“This kind of thing doesn’t stop with one challenge,” he said.

Although Inherit the Wind revolves around the trial, the village scenes are equally significant, said Solomon.

“The most important character is the town.

“If it doesn’t happen to the town, then it’s just a private argument between two people.”

To watch the town scenes, the audience will have to leave the courtroom and mill about beside the cardboard houses.

But they can’t touch them.

“The façade looks good, but it can’t bear weight,” said Solomon, who plans to have actors running interference.

If all goes as planned, the play will start as soon as the audience walks through the door.

But it’s hard to tell from rehearsals if this is going to work.

“We won’t know if we’re doing it right until we have an audience in the room,” said Solomon.

“If it doesn’t work the worst thing is, we’ll have a lot of cardboard to recycle,” he added with a grin.

Inherit the Wind is a departure for Solomon’s Moving Parts Theatre company.

The last few productions have been larger than life, with big gestures and stylized acting.

Now, Solomon wants subtlety.

“In this production, you’re doing enough just by taking a breath or raising an eyebrow and looking at someone,” he said.

Inherit the Wind opens April 18th at the Wood Street Annex.

Performances start at 8 p.m. and run Wednesday to Saturday the first week and Tuesday to Saturday the second.

Tickets are $14 and can be picked up at Well-Read Books or at the door.

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