Inherit the Wind Q & A with the Director
October 21, 2015
For its fall production, the Arapahoe theater troupe will be performing, “Inherit the Wind” from Oct. 22-24. Directed by drama instructor, Ian Ahern, this play is particularly significant as it was his first production as a drama teacher and marks his tenth year working in the theater department. In addition to this, Ahern participated in his own high school’s showing of “Inherit the Wind.” In this interview, the Herald caught up with him as he geared up for round three of his involvement with this play.
Paulsen: From what the Herald has heard, you and this play have a history. What role did you have in your first production of Inherit the Wind?
Ahern: I played Jesse H. Dunlap. He gets called up on the stand as a juror but then gets denied by the jury because he is too biased. I only had a couple lines in the show, but I took my role seriously. My dedication to the production helped me get leading roles in the future.
P: What memories do you have from your early experiences with this play?
A: When I was in high school it was super inspiring. It made me want to be a drama teacher just with the camaraderie of the story and the idea of how thinking is so valuable. I think I was a real linear thinker going into this, [believing] everything was one way, but a show like this really changed my whole mindset about life, basically. [It taught me to] question everything.
P: How has your perspective changed after experiencing the play from the position of both a performer and a teacher?
A: As a performer you often think about your role and how it contributes to the show as a whole. As a director I need to look at all aspects of the production. As a teacher I need to make sure students understand their jobs and the importance of each one. I did this play when I was in high school and then when I first became a drama teacher at Cherokee Trail High School, so this was the first show I did. That was ten years ago, so this is the third time I have done it. It has changed a lot since I was in it to when I directed it. Now, doing it again it is almost like it is a completely different play from the way we stage things, the way the composition on stage looks and the stage pictures that we have. So it isn’t just cast and crew. It is still the same story but [presented] differently.
P: Being that you have both performed and taught this play in the past, what significance does this reproduction have for you?
A: It holds a lot of significance. It was the first high school play I was ever in. When I first became a high school drama teacher, this was the first play I ever directed. That was ten years ago. This is now my tenth year of teaching high school drama, so sort of as an anniversary present to myself, I chose to do this play. It is pretty central to my whole career.
P: What do you hope to accomplish with this production?
A: I guess it is the same for any production. We want to put on a good show and entertain the audience, but we hope we learn something from it. That is a big thing with this one [as we address] the state of education and how important it is. There are goals that I have and goals that every actor has, and they are all something different. We are just telling a story.
P: How will it differ from past versions of the play?
A: The biggest change in this is that there are two leading male roles and we made one of them female, but it’s different now in today’s society. There is gender fluidity and all that kind of stuff so male and female isn’t such a stark line anymore. The play is still the play, the script is still the script and it is all the same story. We are just telling it in a different way, I suppose. This [current production] will be different from any other version you can see of Inherit the Wind, but you can almost say that about any play which is what makes theater so cool. You can go see the play anywhere and it’s the same story, but it will be completely different from past versions based on the space, the design and the actors you have involved.
P: How do you hope the audience will respond to these changes?
A: Well of course we hope they like it. I hope they are entertained and take something from it. That’s just it. Whenever I direct any show, no matter what the audience takes from it, you can only hope they take away certain things. They may take away something completely different, but if they take leave with something, you’ve done your job. I think for a lot of kids, they haven’t seen the play before. Sure they’ve read it, but [with this production] they can come see it and watch the story come to life.