Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Verdict's In: Courtroom Is Perfect Venue for This Play

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Verdict's In: Courtroom Is Perfect Venue for This Play

Article excerpt

COMBINE a history-making play with a historic setting, and high drama is practically guaranteed. The play is "Inherit the Wind," and the stage is a real courtroom in the grand old Gasconade County Courthouse in Hermann.

Thirty-plus Hermann-area residents signed on for the opportunity to sacrifice many evenings, memorize unfamiliar dialogue, wear strange clothes and surrender their egos, all for the cause of community theater.

"Community theater distinguishes a small town from all the rest," says Steve Meyer, landscaper/country sage/theatrical impresario. Once a year, Steve selects and directs, produces and promotes a Broadway play for Hermann's Showboat Community Theatre. In previous years, he presented "Bus Stop," "Arsenic and Old Lace" and "Plaza Suite." He's also acted in numerous productions in Hermann and Macon. For Steve, a self-taught director with an easy-going style, putting on the annual play has become a rewarding hobby. "It's a real kick making something out of nothing," he says. Says a cast member: "He takes his role seriously but tries to make the experience fun for the cast. He has to since we're all volunteers." Ordinary people become performers for a variety of reasons. Some see being in a play as a way to get out of the house. Others hope to meet new friends. "It helped get me off the Internet," says Clyde Gill, who plays Bert Cates, the teacher on trial for reading Darwin to his class. Then there's the play itself. First produced in 1955, "Inherit the Wind" by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee is based on the Scopes "Monkey Trial," which debated the teaching of evolution vs. creationism - still a hot topic in some locales. "It's a great script," says Clyde. "I wouldn't be here for `Fiddler on the Roof.' " Many of the cast members also appreciate the chance to perform a famous courtroom drama in an actual courtroom, in the historic circa-1898 Gasconade County Courthouse. No stage set could capture the authority of the room, with its polished woodwork, imposing portraits and old Regulator clock. "By doing the play here we gain the reality of the courtroom, which itself is like a theatre," Steve says. …

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