By Sam Terry
Jobe Publishing, Inc.
As a student at Glasgow High School before his 1964 graduation, Joe Lynn Travis never considered acting in a play. Now an attorney in Somerset, Travis recalls he was usually busy playing ball and some of his free time was spent at the Plaza Theatre or the Trigg Theatre where he was entertained by the exploits of Lash La Rue and Hopalong Cassidy.
Fast forward to the 1980s when Travis was attending a conference and became engrossed in a television documentary about famed trial attorney Clarence Darrow. With his keen interest in law and how it is interpreted, Travis found himself fixated on Darrow whose most famous case was defending John T. Scopes in the Scopes “Monkey” Trail in 1925. A year earlier, Darrow defended teenage killers Leopold and Loeb in their trial for the murder of 14-year old Bobby Franks. He was also a prominent member of the American Civil Liberties Union.
“Darrow took the cases nobody else would take,” Travis said recently. The famous barrister typically defended people such as Scopes, Leopold and Loeb, and a group of 11 Negro men tried for murder in Detroit. In many of those cases, Darrow took no pay for his services.
“He fought for the common man,” Travis recalled, noting that Darrow fought for a standard 8-hour work day, decent wages for workers, and he stood firm against capital punishment. Much of Darrow’s work revolved around unions in the early 20th century when he travelled the country representing them in court cases.
By the early 1990s Travis was so well versed in Darrow’s work that he suggested to Steve Cleburg, Director of Somerset Community College’s Theatre Program that he would like to portray Clarence Darrow in David W. Rintels’ one-man show. Thus, some might say, “a star was born.”
Since his first performance, Travis has honed his acting skills while still practicing law. Along the way he’s performed at Somerset Community College, the West T. Hill Community Theatre in Danville, at the American Trial Lawyers Association conference in Louisville, in Charleston at the Public Defenders Conference for the District of South Carolina, and he done multiple performances for groups in North Carolina. Recently, he presented a show as fundraiser for the Carnegie Community Arts Center in Somerset.
On a recent visit to Glasgow, Travis was delighted to find the historic Plaza Theatre had been restored. In fact, he was so overjoyed that he’s decided to present the one-man show on the stage for one final performance. As a gift to his hometown and the movie theatre of his youth, Travis is donating the proceeds of the performance to the Plaza Theatre.
On Saturday, April 15th, the Plaza Theatre stage lights will come up at 7 p.m. as Travis becomes Clarence Darrow once again. Tickets are $10 and available by calling the theatre box office at 270-361-2101 or visiting www.historicplaza.com.