A Passion for Justice: An Encounter With Clarence Darrow at Olney Theatre Center
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The last date listed for A Passion for Justice: An Encounter With Clarence Darrow was Sunday September 13, 2009 / 2:00pm.
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One of the city's favorites, Helen Hayes Award-nominated actress Katie McManus, returns to the… More
Olney favorite Paul Morella disappears into the real-life character of legendary trial lawyer Clarence Darrow in his one-man show, A Passion for Justice: An Encounter with Clarence Darrow.
Jack Marshall, artistic director of American Century Theater, and Morella developed the play in 2000. They have created an unflinching look at the defense attorney who became one of the most famous lawyers of all time. The play was crafted primarily from Darrow’s own words, and uses the audience as the jury, thereby changing from performance to performance based on the response. It includes many of the dramatic courtroom arguments that he’s known for today, such as the Scopes “Monkey Trial,” Leopold-Loeb, and the landmark 1925 civil rights trial of Ossian Sweet.
“He was the kind of advocate who thought criminals were made,” Morella explains. “‘I may hate the sin, but never the sinner’ was his famous saying, and Darrow’s gift is this innate empathy he had for his fellow man.”
However, he had his weaknesses as well. A Passion for Justice also explores Darrow’s darker side, and examines the McNamara trial in which the attorney was accused of bribery and jury tampering. Darrow’s labor law career was derailed as a result of the trial, and as a result he turned to criminal law, quite successfully. The performance features Darrow’s most emotional and explosive summations, his passionate pleas for mercy, and the famous showdown with William Jennings Bryan on the teaching of evolution.
“People would come for miles to hear his summations,” Morella says. “And to think he delivered them extemporaneously!” He adds, “Darrow had one foot in the present and one in the future. He knew he was setting a precedent, shaping the future of the law.”
Morella has inhabited this character for nine years. He has taken the show all over the country, from a beach club in Santa Monica for Tom Girardi (the lawyer with whom Erin Brockovich worked), to a hunting club in Texas for the Joe Tonahill (Jack Ruby’s lawyer) Society, to a resort in Mexico, on the same bill with James Carville, Heidi Fleiss, and Tony Bennett. The show continues to evolve, and it’s never the same twice.
“Paul’s performance has been honed and shaped into a wonderful piece of theater,” says Artistic Director Jim Petosa. “The Olney production provides Paul with an opportunity to develop this piece another step, and provides thoughtful design elements that support his work and an audience that will participate in shaping the journey further during this special four week run. This is a vibrant kind of theater in which the audience and the actor are truly partnered – that relationship is the engine of the play itself.”
Paul Morella is currently appearing at Olney as The Doctor in The Millionairess. His other Olney productions include Rabbit Hole, The Mousetrap, Brooklyn Boy, Sight Unseen, Private Lives, Coffee With Richelieu, The Laramie Project, The Rivals, Becket, Broken Glass, M. Butterfly, and The Time of Your Life. Re gional appearances include leading roles at Folger Theatre, Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Are na Stage, Signature Theatre, Shakespeare Theatre Company, The Studio Theatre, Round House Theatre, Potomac Theatre Project, Theater J, Everyman Theatre, Rep Stage, and The Kennedy Center. He also can be heard as George in All My Sons (with Julie Harris and James Farentino) and Joe Cantwell in The Best Man (with Fred Thomp son and Marsha Mason) for LA Theatre Works.
Morella comes to the topics of law and public policy with a strong pedigree: his father is a lawyer and retired law professor; his mother is former Maryland congresswoman Connie Morella; and Morella himself teaches the Art of Persuasion as part of the Stephen S. Weinstein Trial Advocacy Program at American University’s Washington College of Law. His knowledge and passion for the subject matter uniquely qualifies him to portray one of the most brilliant and dynamic personalities of the 20th century.