The 2012 Big Bear Summer Theater Festival will open with “Clarence Darrow,” an in-depth look at the life and time of America’s most famous lawyer, at 7 p.m. on Thursday, July 12. The show is both a dramatic and humorous whirlwind tour through Americana that cannot be missed no matter what age.
In the play Darrow reminisces of the early influences that helped shape the course of his life. Beginning with his father, a renowned abolitionist, and his mother, an avowed suffragist, who spoke out for women’s rights as early as 1840.
Darrow shares the inspirations that lead him to join the bar. He talks about his early loves and wives.
Then, the audience shares recreations of the massive legal campaigns Darrow orchestrated throughout his long and illustrious career.
First, Darrow talks of the Illinois state persecution of the Haymarket Anarchists. A group of eight innocent men mistakenly vilified for the bombing of a protest meeting that killed seven police and wounded 60 more. Four of the eight were hanged before the governor pardoned the final three.
Next, Darrow walks away from a lucrative career as general attorney for a railroad to defend Eugene V. Debs in the aftermath of the Pullman Strike, a strike that halted railway travel across the nation. With production dropping, George Pullman, the sleeping car man, cut costs and his workers are starving to death.
“If there are still any citizens interested in human rights, let them study the conspiracy laws of the United States, which have grown, until today, no one’s liberty is safe.” A chord that strikes true today with the ever-expanding governmental power under the Patriot Act.
From there he takes on the cause of getting the worker the eight-hour work day. He single-handedly goes up against the powerful coal mine owners in Pennsylvania to win the laborers the right to a decent life at a decent wage.
The first act ends with the McNamara Brothers defense in the Los Angeles Times bombing case. Twenty men are killed when union members blow up a non-union shop. They’re guilty and Darrow must save them from hanging.
The show really blasts off as the curtain opens for the second act.
Darrow, himself, is put on trial for jury bribing. He proves his innocence, but the trial almost costs him his career.
His shows his wit and humor when reliving his days on the Chautauqua circuit where he spent years lecturing and debating. This is audience participation, and he asks questions such as, “Should the United States have prohibition?” He chats directly with the audience on this and other provocative questions.
John Phane plays the title role. Phane has more than a 100 stage roles to his credit. He has worked in radio, television, the movies and as a journalist.
Friday, July 12 will see the opening of the original melodrama, “Belle, the first baby of Big Bear.” Come sigh with the heroine, cheer the hero, boo the villain and enjoy great family entertainment.
The show is based on the actual history of the Big Bear area.
A short drive north of Big Bear Lake is Holcomb Valley and what little remains of the historic ghost town of Belleville. During the 1860s, Holcomb Valley was a rich gold mining area supporting some 10,000 residents. Belleville, the largest town in Holcomb Valley, almost overtook San Bernardino to become the county seat.
On a fourth of July celebration, Mrs. Jed Van Dusen made a flag out of her petticoats. To honor her for her patriotism, the town was named after her daughter Belle, the first child to be born in the camp.
However, in this story, a fantasy, hard times come to Belle, Her father is a dipsomaniac and forgets where his gold mine is, and finally passes away. Belle is destitute.
She may be forced to marry into a loveless marriage in order to save her beloved home from falling into foreclosure if her true love, Hugh DeMann, can’t find out what’s going on.
Little does she know there may be a “golden” opportunity for beautiful Belle to marry the man she truly loves, save her home and keep a warming roof over her head and that of her dear, wise, Auntie.
The shows play Thursday and Friday nights, with three shows on Saturdays.