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Walt Willey Media > 'Inherit The Wind' will be WilleyWorld summer show

25 Jun 2016


'Inherit The Wind' will be WilleyWorld summer show

  • Updated

WilleyWorld Community Productions will present "Inherit The Wind" as its eighth annual summer show to kick off Riverfest, and for the first time, be an official part of Riverfest activities. The show will run Friday, July 29, through Sunday, July 31, and Friday, Aug. 5, and Saturday Aug. 6.

“Inherit The Wind; is the iconic courtroom drama, the 'granddaddy' of all courtroom dramas,” said Walt Willey, WWCP’s founder and artistic director. “If you like movies like '12 Angry Men' and 'The Verdict,' and television shows like 'Perry Mason' and 'Matlock,' then this play’s for you.”

Willey is perhaps best known for his portrayal of Jackson Montgomery on the long-running soap opera "All My Children," and for his portrayal of “Wild Bill” Hickok. He began producing theater in the Ottawa region in 2009.

"Inherit the Wind" was written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert E. Lee, who also wrote WilleyWorld’s 2014 production "Auntie Mame."

“People just raved about 'Auntie Mame.' 'Inherit The Wind' has that same sense of sprawling Americana, of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances. It’s funny, it’s dramatic and it’s based on an important moment in this country’s history,” said Mary Morgan, longtime WWCP company member and adviser.

“The backdrop of this play is the 'Scopes Monkey Trial' in 1925, but this is not a play about God and creationism versus science and evolution,” said Willey. “This play celebrates one of America’s greatest treasures: our inalienable right to think for ourselves and be heard. We felt this play was especially significant in an election year.”

"Inherit the Wind" was made into a 1960 film of the same name, starring Spencer Tracy, Fredric March, Gene Kelly and Dick York. The play was adapted for television in 1988 with Jason Robards and Kirk Douglas, and again in 1999 with Jack Lemmon and George C. Scott.

“It’s an enduring tale and we’re proud to present it for the first time in this area in ages,” said Willey.

This is the first of WilleyWorld’s summer shows to be presented in its new home in downtown Ottawa, the 807 Building Performance Space at 807 La Salle St., above Jeremiah Joe Coffee.

“The 807 Building Performance Space gives us an opportunity to do our shows in a very intimate, environmental way; to put the audience right in the action,” said Willey. “We did this with our first venture in this space, last year’s 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,' giving the audience the feeling they were ‘on the ward’ with the characters in the show. People just loved it.

“In 'Inherit The Wind,' you will be in the courtroom, at the rally. Cast members, many of whom will be seated in the audience, will interact with audience members, encouraging our guests to be part of the show. This is a very unique and fun experience.”

“It makes everything so immediate, so exciting,” agreed Jane Mills, six-time WWCP director. “I saw what Walt did with 'Cuckoo’s Nest' and couldn’t wait to approach 'Inherit The Wind' in the same way.” Mills is co-directing with Willey.

"Inherit the Wind" also will feature several student actors from Willey’s Starved Rock Country Children’s Learning Theatre.

“It’s wonderful to have these talented young people join us for this show and apply what they’ve learned in our sessions,” said Willey. “Hopefully, this will be the beginning of a fusion of these two companies.”

“We have assembled incredibly talented actors from the rosters of community theaters in Ottawa, Morris, Mendota, La Salle, Streator — all familiar and popular faces to local theatergoers. For many, it’s their first time working with this company. It’s very exciting,” Morgan said.

“We are so proud to have so many local actors on stage this year, as well as some from as far away as Bloomington. I think everybody will know somebody on stage.”

Featured in the large cast of local and regional talent are Willey, Morgan, Kelly Johnson, Randy Oltman, Joe Baima, William Gillespie, Leighton Williams, Sean Frey, Lloyd Chapman, Brian Rehor, Christopher Harkins, Darlene Halm, Marissa Hettel, Luis Aguilar, Tony Epperson, Brandon Miller, Carol McConville, Rachel Hettrick, Cheyenne MacBean, Terry Thompson, Adam Oldaker, Emma Gerkitz, Nolan Perry, Geri Perry, Kasey Dose, Bob Bradish, Pat Reihl, Mark Vickroy, Kelcey DeMoss, William Alexander and Alea Ogle.

"Inherit the Wind" curtain times will be 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sunday. Tickets, $20 in advance and $25 at the door, are on sale through the Ottawa Visitors Center at 815-434-2737 and pickusottawail.com. Tickets also are available at waltwilleyworld.com.