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Clarence Darrow Comes to Reston

Clarence Darrow, famous attorney who saved 102 men from the death penalty, is coming to Reston despite his own death in 1938.

In a one-man show, Gary Anderson plays the celebrated and hated attorney in "Clarence Darrow: The Search for Justice." "He spent his life campaigning against many of the very things we face today," said Anderson, who lives in Redding, Calif., but travels the country playing the attorney. Darrow championed civil liberties and civil rights, while also fighting against conspiracy laws. Since many of these same issues are hot topics today, Anderson’s performance challenges theatergoers to think and learn.

The play will be presented at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Reston on Friday evening, April 21 and a matinee and evening performance on April 22. Half of the net receipts will go to the Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

Anderson, who has a historian’s knowledge of Darrow’s life, talked about his background and playing Darrow.

How long have you been acting?

If my mother was still alive, she’d say I was acting all my life. We’re all actors, but I’ve been a professional actor for 25 years.

How did you get this role?

I first started playing Darrow 10 years ago. It was an acting exercise. I realized playing Darrow is almost like visiting another planet. If you are a seeker of truth and justice, then you have to visit planet Darrow.

What about the role do you enjoy?

At a point in my life when I was dissatisfied with about everything, call it a middle-aged morass or men’s menopause, it seemed I wanted to make a difference. I have no money or no great political power, so I thought this could be my contribution.

Darrow lost his wealth and he lost his friends at least two or three times in his lifetime. Despite all his human failings and flaws, he got back up. As he said, ‘I’m very human, too human.’

Tell us about the performance?

Darrow was like the Mark Twain of the courtroom. He used the courtroom as a classroom. He didn’t just fight for his clients, he fought for the hearts and minds of Americans. So, this is a theater piece. There are anecdotes and the humorous things. But it covers the whole spectrum.

What’s your favorite message?

There are so many. I would say for people to leave a legacy. Darrow always felt there’s no defeat in death and victory comes while defending what we know to be right. I think that gives us all hope.

How are you dressed during the play?

I look like the Columbo of the courtroom. Darrow was wrinkled from top to bottom. I wear these fire-engine red suspenders. He was known for his suspenders.

What would you like people to walk away with?

I would have to say love — to overcome hatred with love and to temper justice with mercy. And perhaps to feel motivated to get involved as Americans should in the social justice issues.

What’s it like doing a one-man show?

Well, I find it a hungry and curious experience. I’m hungry to hear and feel back from the audience and to hear and see their reaction. And I’m curious on how that will affect my presentation.