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Friday, May 20, 2022

One-man show highlights life of lawyer, benefits nonprofit firm

<p>Paul Morella, playing Clarence Darrow, looks at a temporary jury of audience members at the Hippodrome State Theatre on Monday night.</p>

Paul Morella, playing Clarence Darrow, looks at a temporary jury of audience members at the Hippodrome State Theatre on Monday night.

About a half-dozen second-year law students peered through a crowd of balding and silver-haired heads to get a look at the past and their futures Monday night.

Actor Paul Morella played lawyer Clarence Darrow in “A Passion for Justice: An Encounter with Clarence Darrow,” the one-man-show he co-wrote with Jack Marshall.

Monday’s show was a benefit performance to aid the nonprofit, Gainesville-based legal firm Southern Legal Counsel.

“It was a great opportunity for the community to learn more about what we do,” said the firm’s executive director, Jodi Siegel.

Former Florida Gov. Kenneth “Buddy” MacKay, K COUNTRY DJ Lewis Stokes, law students and practicing lawyers were in the 150-person crowd at the $50-a-ticket function.

Morella portrayed the turn-of-the-century lawyer as being initially young and lazy, but throughout the performance, he acted out Darrow’s triumphant moments of love, marriage and success as a lawyer. Then he weaved in stories of defeat — like when Darrow was accused of bribing jury members to win a case.

Morella also showcased Darrow’s intelligence. He often used techniques to manipulate the scene in a courtroom, once distracting jurors by inserting wire into a cigar to hold the ash intact. The jurors found themselves more focused on waiting for the ash to fall than listening to opposing arguments.

Nell Page, the development director for Southern Legal Counsel, said she thought the play was a good way to get the word out about the nonprofit.

“Theater is a wonderful way to have an audience feel a message,” she said. “People who leave here take away a feeling.”

Contact Alex Catalano at acatalano@alligator.org.

Paul Morella, playing Clarence Darrow, looks at a temporary jury of audience members at the Hippodrome State Theatre on Monday night.

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