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​From ‘Judgment’ to ‘Jail’

Theatre | March 11th, 2015

Karla Underdahl / Photo by G. Michael Jahnl

Tin Roof Theatre continues season of justice in Henry David Thoreau telling

Justice will always prevail, and for Tin Roof Theatre’s 10th season, justice is the prevalent theme.

Coming off of “Judgment at Nuremberg,” the courtroom drama detailing the post-WWII Nazi war crimes trials, Tin Roof explores similar themes with its season closer “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail.” Chronicling the night that writer/philosopher Henry David Thoreau spent in a Concord, Mass., jail for refusing to pay a poll tax, this two-act drama unfolds with action, realism and even a little romance.

With “Judgment at Nuremberg” well behind them, the folks of Tin Roof have started to see comparisons between the two plays, particularly in how social and political injustices were as relevant in the 1840s as they were in the 1940s.

“Now we come to Thoreau … who actually speaks out against the injustices in our world,” director Karla Underdahl said, “and actually tells everyone to not go along and actually speak out against what they feel is wrong with our government.”

While famous for his Walden Pond sojourn and the resultant book, Thoreau’s life is examined deeper in this story via glimpses into his past life. His family life, his relationship with mentor Ralph Waldo Emerson, his blossoming love with a young woman and his beliefs are all explored onstage.

Presenting this play are 14 cast members with a pretty remarkable age range, from age 9 to more “mature” actors, as Reid Strand, who portrays Thoreau’s cellmate, said.

Familiar faces from Tin Roof like Strand, Karla Pederson and Christopher Damlo are here, along with some newcomers to the company but not the stage, like Taylor Schatz and Bill Dablow.

“It’s a close group,” Underdahl said. “Everyone is working really hard and doing a really great job even with the smaller roles that are in the show.”

Written by Jerome Lawrence and Robert Edwin Lee, the same pair behind “Inherit the Wind,” another justice telling, “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” features some wit that’s not to be missed and even some action scenes that weren’t available in Tin Roof’s fall play.

“The playwrights have such a good, sardonic wit that’s really apparent,” Strand said. “A lot of wisecracks, a lot of moxie stuff.”

Strand, who has grown a beard for his character Bailey, said Thoreau’s cellmate represents a certain American spirit that overrides his lack of culture and education.

Running at two hours, “The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail” brings audiences members together for a night in the seats to see and understand the life of one of America’s foremost thinkers.

“Henry is such a unique character and he’s such an individualist,” Underdahl said. “Today … everyone is talking about being their own individual … and Henry Thoreau in the 1840s was the first one to make it cool.”

IF YOU GO

“The Night Thoreau Spent in Jail”

7:30 p.m. March 13-14, 19-21; 2 p.m. March 15 & 22

The Stage at Island Park, 333 Fourth St. S.

701-235-6778 

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