Though set within the framework of the famous 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial, Inherit the Wind isn't strictly about the battle over Darwinian ideas and the theory of evolution, according to those directing an upcoming production of the play in Aiken.
"This is drama, not history," said director Bob Franklin. The play's message is about thinking for oneself and forming one's own opinions.
Written in the 1950s, at the height of McCarthyism and the communist scare, the play could have used any other framework of conflict to present its message, Mr. Franklin said.
"It could have used the civil rights movement, the Japanese-American internment during World War II, the women's suffragists," he said.
Assistant director Peg Tribert believes the play focuses on another theme.
"To me, this play is about the source of authority," said Ms. Tribert, a lawyer.
Though the Bible has been used as the authority behind many laws, Ms. Tribert said, she thinks Inherit the Wind explores "the relation of natural law, the relation of man's ability to analyze the Scriptures, and man's ability to adapt them to contemporary reality."
The play is based on the trial of a Tennessee schoolteacher jailed for teaching evolution in violation of state law. Former Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan was the prosecuting attorney, and renowned lawyer Clarence Darrow served for the defense.
In Inherit the Wind, however, the names of the principal players in the trial have been changed.
Ms. Tribert said the goal of the Aiken Community Playhouse production is not to sway people for or against the issue.
"The last thing we are trying to do is give it a spin. We don't have the authority to do that. It would be easy to exaggerate these characters and make a good guy and a bad guy," she said. "There is no winner and no loser in this debate."
The play features a cast of more than 40 people and includes a lot of music, which is surprising for a nonmusical, said Mr. Franklin.
Inherit the Wind will be staged at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and Jan. 23, 24, 30 and 31 and at 3 p.m. Jan. 25 at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts.
Tickets are $17 for adults, $15 for ages 60 and older, $12 for students and $6 for ages 12 and younger.
For more information, call (803) 648-1438 or visit www.aikencommunityplayhouse.com.