Herndon High School drama teacher John Whapham said he had many reasons for picking this year's fall play, "Inherit the Wind," but he said the major reason was to showcase his outstanding male actors.
"I picked the play because it's a drama," said Whapham, adding it was a plus with multiple male roles. " And I had some guys I really wanted to highlight."
The play, "Inherit the Wind," is a drama based loosely on the Scopes "Monkey Trial" that happened in 1925 in Dayton, Tenn.
The Scopes "Monkey Trial", or Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes, was focused on the issue of state law banning the teaching of evolution and a Dayton school teacher's knowledge of the law, but still teaching his class the theory of evolution.
"It was written 30-years later as an allegory," said Whapham about the play. "In the foreground it seems like it's about religion versus creation, but really it's about freedom to think and freedom to have an opinion."
Whapham said this play was a nice change from previous plays which have been musicals and comedies, adding that after last year's success with 10 Cappie nominations, he wanted a play that would challenge his students.
"I HAVE EXPECTATIONS and want for them to have consistency in their expectations," said Whapham of what he hopes to do this year with his students. "I don't want them to settle for where they're at."
Whapham said one thing he tries to stress with students is that he wants them to be competitive, but he also wants them to be humble.
This year he chose a male-dominated cast so that the males could be in the spotlight, something he has not been able to do in the past because the talent in numbers has not been there.
"We've always had good male actors, but they haven't really been motivated," said senior Adam Spalletta.
Spalletta, who plays the defense attorney in the play, was nominated last year for a Cappie for best lead actor in a musical for his role in "Into the Woods."
"I wasn't into drama at first, I was a choir guy," said Spalletta, who said his first involvement freshman year with the spring musical "Guys and Dolls" changed his mind about drama. "It was amazing, I didn't know that it could be that great."
Spalletta said his first year was great, but it wasn't until Whapham took over the drama department his sophomore year that he really got hooked on drama.
"Whapham brings so much fun into everything," he said, adding because of Whapham he thinks the student actors got more serious about their acting, which is a reason for their multiple Cappie nominations last year.
"We had 10 nominations last year," he said. "You don't get those without being a part of a great drama department."
FOR SENIOR John Daniel, who plays Spalletta's rival in the play, the prosecuting attorney, he said it's not the awards that keep him in drama.
"I like seeing people laugh," said Daniel, adding this role is a challenge for him because it's not a comical character. "It's always good to see someone who had a bad day sit down ... and walk out with a smile on their face."
Daniel, who's been involved with drama since he was in middle school, said this year's class is very close, almost like family, which is something he'll miss once he graduates.
"I'll miss a lot of the school, but the drama department is what I'll miss most," said Daniel. "In drama you're trying to be one of the family, and you're being accepted for who you are."
Daniel agreed with Spalletta that Whapham has turned the drama department around, adding he did not participate in the school's program until he was a sophomore — the year Whapham took over.
"He's definitely in control of his world," he said, adding since he's been at the school Whapham has ordered new sound equipment and been able to turn around most of the department's materials.
"It's so nice to have somewhere where you can go and fit in and chill," said Daniel about the group of drama students.
Whapham said that is one thing he thinks has helped his students excel — this sense of family.
"I TRY TO concentrate on building a community within the department," said Whapham, adding this year he's split the plays to limit competition. "This offers kids the wealth of opportunity to perform."
Whapham explained because this first play is primarily geared toward male actors they have chosen "Go Ask Alice" as the spring play, which is a female-dominated production.
As for the females in the class, although some say it's hard to be humble after playing lead roles in the previous plays, they agree it's important to showcase the male actors.
"It's very neat, I have no problem going from a big role to a smaller role," said senior Tina Boosanda, who was nominated for a Cappie last year as lead actress in a musical. "We have a lot of boys in our department that needed to be spotlighted."
Zain Afzal, a senior who plays the judge in "Inherit the Wind", said ending on a high note last year made him anxious to start up again this fall.
"This year, this is a thinking escape as opposed to a play," said Afzal, adding they knew at the end of last year this would be their fall production. "We have so many males so with this play, I can see it now, why he chose [it]."
The cast has recently changed their rehearsal schedule so that they are now rehearsing not only during their advanced drama class during school but also every night after school.
Whapham said last year's Cappie nominations showed the students what hard work and consistency could help them achieve.
This year he said he already sees that dedication in his students, adding he learns with them.
"I think success comes from a willingness to learn and grow with the kids," said Whapham about his role. "These kids have until 2:30 p.m. to show up [to rehearsal], and they're already here — they're here because they want to spend time together."
Afzal admitted as a senior he's realized how important this time is to spend with his cast mates, adding he thinks this year's fall play will have an impact on the audience.
"This play, I think, is going to be really interesting," he said. "It's going to make the audience think — especially the way we're doing it."