Tater Patch Players production begins first week in May
Keith Galligan, a real life judge, will play a lawyer in the Tater Patch Players upcoming Inherit the Wind. He is shown with his kids Eli, Stella and Owen.
The Scopes “Monkey” Trial (formerly known as The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes) began in 1925 after a high school teacher violated a law that made it illegal to teach evolution in the classroom.
The trial attracted some of the most powerful attorneys in the country and created a media firestorm in the tiny Tennessee town of Dayton. It went on to become one of the most famous trials in U.S. history and was fictionalized in the 1955 play Inherit the Wind, which the Tater Patch Players will bring to stage this May.
Appalachian Judicial Circuit’s Juvenile Court Judge Keith Galligan, who was aptly cast as defense attorney Henry Drummond, has first-hand experience in the courtroom where his fictionalized character and the prosecuting attorney argue Creationism and evolution - a debate that continues to rage over 90 years later.
“I love this story,” said Galligan, now in his third production with the local theatre troupe. “I found out about it last year and told them to give me a call when they did it.”
From sports to law to stage
Galligan had an interest in film in high school and even considered studying filmmaking in college, but with a full tennis scholarship he selected a school willing to cover his tuition. He didn’t start acting until just a few years ago, but has fallen in love with the process of learning a character and developing the nuances of on-stage speaking and body language.
“I was never in drama or anything,” Galligan said. “When I went off to college, film was something I was interested in but I was more interested in sports. It’s not like it is now where there are all these schools that have majors for film. My parents and I looked around at different colleges, but when you’ve got places willing to pay for your education you go there.”
Before he got into acting, Galligan played tennis and studied biology and physical education in his home state of Texas, and only decided on law as a last-minute career decision.
“Law was kind of on a whim,” he said. “It was very last minute. My dad was a lawyer so for a while I definitely thought I did not want to go to law school, but I took the LSAT and had good grades and ended up applying to different schools.”
Galligan studied at Samford University in Alabama where he met his wife Jennifer, who tragically passed away last year. The couple moved to Pickens County in 2005 after they had children to be closer to her family. Galligan immediately went to work for the Appalachian Judicial Circuit’s District Attorney’s office where he stayed until 2012. He left to join his wife in a private firm in town. In the fall of 2016 he was sworn in as the circuit’s juvenile judge.
Galligan didn’t take the plunge into acting until a stray comment from a court reporter made him realize others saw him in a way he didn’t see himself.
“One day the court reporter told Jennifer I did a great job, but asked why I was always so serious” Galligan said. “I definitely take my work seriously, but I don’t take myself seriously at all. I’m really laid back. I didn’t want people to see me that way because I’m not like that. I decided to get out of my box a little.”
He started taking acting classes in 2014 at Alliance Theater in Atlanta. For about a year he’d go down on weekends for three to four hours at a time. After that he took classes at two other acting studios, one in Marietta and one in Norcross, then landed a part in his first play in the Tater Patch Players’ production of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde in 2015.
“I like the preparation and the focus acting takes,” Galligan said. “It reminds me of what I had to do when I played tennis, that focus of getting prepared. I’m also more soft-spoken, so it’s a way for me to get out of my comfort zone. I don’t like the spotlight very much [in life], but I enjoy the preparation and enjoy the acting. I don’t get nervous because it’s so enjoyable for me.”
Galligan has even taken acting techniques he’s learned off the stage and found ways they can benefit him in his working life.
“Acting has helped me with law,” Galligan said. “One of the coaches I worked with talked about how the different ways you can say the same exact phrase or word will affect how people hear it. The same phase can have different meanings. I started thinking about that when I was preparing closing arguments for a trial.”
Balancing kids, work and play
Galligan, who has three young children and a full-time job, has a busy schedule to juggle even without the demands of play rehearsal. He makes things work by enlisting the help of his older boys to read through the scripts with him so he can learn his lines, and he gets help from friends for child care when needed.
“Sometimes I have to rely on friends to watch Stella,” Galligan said. “My boys are older and self-sufficient, but she’ll stay with friends or I’ll take her with me to rehearsal. She doesn’t know it yet, but she’s going with me tonight.”
His most recent role in Inherit the Wind throws him into a fictionalized trial in a story he loves. His character - based on Clarence Darrow, a prominent U.S. lawyer and leading member of the American Civil Liberties Union - argues for the accused science teacher who taught his students about evolution.
“I love the character,” he said. “They call him the devil, but he’s very passionate about defending people and their rights.”
Galligan has opted not to watch the 1960 film Inherit the Wind during the rehearsal period.
“That’s a big movie with big actors, and I don’t look or sound anything like them,” he said laughing. “I’m just going to be me.”
Rehearsals are going well, and Galligan said he enjoys working with the local theatre troupe.
“We’ve got some really talented people here,” he said. “They take it very seriously and do a great job.”
You can see Galligan and the rest of the cast of Inherit the Wind at the Tater Patch Players theater on May 5, 6, 12, 13, 14, 19, 20, 21. You can buy tickets online at www.taterpatchplayers.org or call the theatre at 706-253-2800.