Live Mint | The Story of an Idea

– Pavitra Jayaraman

Written in the 1950s, and based on the “Monkey trial” that took place in 1925, Inherit the Wind, a play written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, continues to be relevant today.

The play, first staged in 1955, is the story of a schoolteacher, John Scopes, who is indicted for teaching Darwin’s theory. It is not a historical account of the trial in which William Jennings Bryan, three times US presidential candidate and ardent Christian, argued for the prosecution.

Inherit the Wind is a dramatic, tense, human and touching play. It will be of engaging interest to an audience from the fields of education, law, sociology, science and the informed layman,” says director Jagdish Raja.

Raja’s association with the play goes back to 1979, when he was part of the Bangalore Little Theatre (BLT). “It is my favourite play and talks about ignorance and bigotry. It’s the standard clash between single-minded religiousness and the thinking mind,” says Raja who, along with wife Arundhati Raja, set up the Artistes’ Repertory Theatre (ART) company in 1982.

ART became Jagriti when the Rajas started the Jagriti theatre in 2011. ART performed the play in 2000, and it is being revived this year. “It is very relevant to the current day because we still live in a world where a thinking man cannot voice his opinion without having mobs throw stones at him. It’s still the same story,” says Raja.

This current production began when the BLT included the play in its History of Ideas programme. The programme produces plays based on the lives of great personalities or historical events that have contributed significantly to human thought in a demanding social context. Other readings and productions in the programme are The Prophet And the Poet, an original script by the BLT’s Academy of Theatre Arts, Partition by Ira Hauptman, Tiger! Tiger! by Dina Mehta and Einstein’s Dreams by Alan Lightman. The objective was simply to combine education with entertainment in a series of stimulating bio-historical plays. When Raja heard that the play was going to be revived, he suggested that the BLT and Jagriti come together for the project. The cast includes Raja, Koshy Varghese, Sanjay Iyer, Janardhan Roy, Shankar Subramanian, Noel Manasseh, Pooja Shankar and Ranvijay Pratap Singh.

“I wouldn’t like to adapt a play. When a story is well told, it will be heard across time without any changes,” says Raja.

Read as it appeared in Live Mint here.