Wind portrays relevant social battle

Andrew Lafrance

Andrew Lafrance

Chilee Nleya is hoping the intensity of Inherit the Wind, SDSU’s most recent theater production, will be carried off the stage and into the audience when the show debuts on Wednesday evening.

Nleya, a junior English education major, said she is very excited for “such a fantastic play.” She is betting that the audience will get very involved while watching the performances.

J.D. Ackman, the director of Inherit the Wind, agrees.

“It is a marvelous play,” Ackman said. “It offers some particularly good performances.”

The show is a dramatization of the Scopes Monkey Trial that took place in Tennessee in 1925. The trial was held after John Scopes, a high school science teacher, defied the newly passed Butler Act, which prohibited anything but creation being taught in the public school system.

“The theme is really a part of our past but also a part of our future,” Ackman said. “How we deal with the issue of involving religion in the classroom is still debated today.”

Ackman, who resides in Brookings, said he hopes the play will help viewers realize they need to be accepting of other persons’ viewpoints.

“I want people that see this show to take away how important it is to treat different points of view with respect,” he said. “This play does not take sides. It merely dramatizes the trial and raises some interesting questions.”

Annamarie Trevvett, a junior theatre major, worked on costumes for the production, but will be performing as well. Inherit the Wind is the Colton, S.D., native’s third performance onstage at SDSU.

“I just love working with J.D. Ackman,” Trevvett said. “It is always such a great opportunity.”

Trevvett said her favorite thing about working on Inherit the Wind was how each student, no matter how big or small a role, got to create their own character.

Nleya said she enjoyed the creative opportunity, as well.

“I am a townsperson,” Nleya said. “Since we could choose our own character backgrounds, I’ve named myself Jean Grey and am a conservative town gossip.”

The theater program at SDSU, Ackman said, is “sort of like athletic coaches teaching their athletes. The third- and fourth-year students provide leadership for the younger ones. Teaching and training in our program is very progressive.”

Beau McGregor, who is onstage for the first time at SDSU, said he thinks that college theater is more serious than high school.

“Students here take it more like a job,” the freshman sociology major said. “I like that better, though, because it’s more professional.”

McGregor said he has made many new friends after bonding with the other cast members.

“I’m very excited for the premiere of Inherit the Wind,” he said. “I think the audience will have a sense of enlightenment. The play explains how you can take the Bible and The Origin of Species and learn equally from both of them.”

Ackman said he chose to perform Inherit the Wind because the Theatre Department at SDSU tries to pick a show season that offers opportunities for students of all kinds.

“For Inherit the Wind, we had many, many student designers,” Ackman said. “Designers are in charge of the set, costumes, props and lights.”

Ackman said being a student designer is not easy.

“For instance, a costume designer for this show had to design and create appropriate clothing for 40 cast members. The costumes had to be authentic to 1925. Many of the designers are also in the show,” he said. “They had to be at rehearsals as well. Many of them are very invested in this department.”

Trevvett said she thinks the cast is doing well.

“Everyone is doing a phenomenal job,” Trevvett said. “This show is going to be a success.”

Nleya, who like Trevvett is a costume designer, said she loves spending time with the cast.

“Inherit the Wind is such a huge cast,” Nleya said. “We all have so much fun together and getting to go to the theater and spend the night with them every day makes the commitment much easier.”

Ackman said that to make the show a success, he not only must direct the students but teach them, as well.

“While directing shows, I am helping students to achieve their potential as performers. People involved in theater love what they’re doing,” he said.

“Each play is a new experience,” Ackman said. “This show is important because it addresses issues that are still relevant in our schools and how we will deal with these issues.”

Inherit the Wind opens on Wed., Dec. 2 at 7:30 p.m. in Doner Auditorium. Student tickets are free with ID. They are available at the Performing Arts Center box office, which is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., or at the Doner Auditorium box office each night at 6 p.m. before the show begins.