Evolution dispute scraps New Ulm play

There’ll be no production of the play “Inherit the Wind” by the New Ulm Actors Community Theatre.

The production lost too many cast members after professors at Martin Luther College objected to the way the debate over creationism vs. evolution is depicted in the play, which is a fictional version of the 1925 Scopes “Monkey” Trial.

The college is part of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which believes that the book of Genesis is historical fact.

“We felt it was not compatible with what (the school) teaches the Bible says about the universe and the world,” Jeffrey Schone, the college’s vice president of student life, tells the New Ulm Journal “This is a ministerial school. People employing our students need confidence about their views.”

The play was to be held at the college, and The director, Zach Stowe, is a student at the college. He quit the play after professors and others on the campus criticized him for participating. Other cast members quit thereafter.

“The play does not just say evolution is right. It treats Christians with respect. The entire point of the play is both sides need open, free discussions,” Stowe told the paper. “But, I don’t have any negative feelings about it. Everyone acted how their conscience directed them in this situation. I can respect it.”

Next summer’s musical, “Fiddler on the Roof,” is still on.


    Not true. The location of auditions were to be at the college. The public performances were to be held at the New Ulm Armory on October 4-6. Now a public reading will occur in New Ulm on October 8 at the Lind House. Reservations are needed. (507) 359-9990.

    • kevins

      I hope that the public reading goes well.

  • mausX

    Great movie that influenced my life. Hopefully, “the show will go on”. It has much to teach us, especially as the religious zealots “…are forever busy.”, as Spencer Tracy’s [a Catholic in real life] character forewarns.

  • Sonya Jaworski

    To the folks at the New Ulm college to afraid of turth: I am sad to see such ignorance in Minnesota. I can’t believe that this is the 21st century and people still can’t accept the laws of nature. If you use the science that gives you cell phones, computers, cars and all of the food you eat, why must you have such a problem with natural selection? Are you that vain that you believe the laws of nature don’t apply to you? Just plain sad. I’m glad I don’t teach there.

    • ploroff

      So you’re calling us in New Ulm ignorant because we follow our own beliefs? We’re not saying that the laws of nature don’t apply to us. We just choose to view nature through the lens of God’s Word, and God’s Word clearly states that God created the world in six days.

  • MrE85

    I wouldn’t be surprised if they cancelled “Fiddler on the Roof” for being “too Jewish.”

    After all, Martin Luther was never much of a controversial figure in his day. Oh, wait…

  • kennedy

    The play is a commentary on how individual intellectual freedom is put at risk by dogmatic group adherence to a particular belief. Funny how this conflict parallels the theme of the play. This is an opportunity for Mr. Stowe and others in the community to consider how to balance individual freedom against the power of an organization.

    • Chuck

      As a student at MLC, Mr Stowe is unlikely to be able to balance his individual freedom vs the organization. Attending MLC means he intends to become a teacher at a WELS parochial school. He will be fully supported by the congregation(s) who hire him. Unless he is willing to be expelled from the college, he will need to follow WELS doctrinal guidelines. And as one article I read noted, the congregations that do hire him will need to be confident that his beliefs match theirs and he won’t go against what they are alredy teaching their children.Mr Stowe has a lot of guts to have even started down the path of directing this play, which obviously will raise the ire of his church, but I do not blame him for considering his professional future by withdrawing. Most ironic is that the original play under consideration for the NU Actors Theater was “Doubt,” but they thought that would be too controversial for New Ulm and opted for the safer play “Inherit the Wind.”

      • kennedy

        I agree, except for the part about not being able to balance. Balance doesn’t mean having it all, it means freedom to weigh options and choose. Those involved had a choice, whether to continue with the play or back out. Surely there would be consequences. For Mr. Stowe, pursuing a career with the WELS seems to require that he forego participation in activities that are counter to the teachings of the church. He can go his own way, acquiesce, or encourage change from within the organization. All are difficult choices.