A couple of years ago, I was in a production of “Inherit the Wind” at Villagers Theatre.
The play is a theater staple, portraying a fictitious account of the Scopes Monkey Trial. In the play the science teacher charged with violating the ban on teaching evolution is one Bertram Cates. A media circus soon follows as all the politicial interests get riled up, and the locals themselves take sides over the trial.
There’s a scene in the play where the Rev. Jeremiah Brown delivers a fire-and-brimstone sermon inveighing against the ungodliness of evolution, and warning that any who follow Cates’ teachings tempt the wrath of God for forsaking biblical teaching. It’s oldtime Pentecostal religion at its oldtimest.
I was cast to fill out the townsfolk scenes, but as a former Pentecostal, this was one scene where I was really able to whoop it up. I echoed Brown’s words back at him, I shouted “amen” and “hallelujah” whenever it seemed appropriate, and a few times in performance, I started rhythmic clapping. (“The spirit led me, ” I quipped when the director asked where that had come from.)
Some of the other actors complained that I was upstaging them with my antics. I asked the director once or twice if I should tone it down, and his response was always no. “Everyone else needs to step it up. You’re making it real.”
One of the trustees at the theater remarked after each performance that she could tell I had the background.
It wasn’t until tonight, as I was watching “Blessed are the Damned,” that I realized the fatal flaw in my performance.
I should have asked for a couple rattlesnakes.