recalled seeing the unusual play that Ayn Rand had written in the late 1930s for
the Broadway stage.
It was titled “The Night of January 16th” and it had
a clever gimmick, one that hadn’t been used before.
The story was a fictional
murder trial. It was performed in a courtroom setting, and the outcome was determined
by jury members randomly selected from the audience moments before the curtain
rose for the first act.
Rand had written two conclusions, so that whichever
verdict the jury turned in, the actors could segue to lines that embraced the
version ran two successive nights. He chose co-captain of the Ball High Tors,
Bobby Wilkins, to play the defense attorney.
And he picked ROTC Company
“C” Guidon Bearer, Victor Damiani, to be the prosecutor.
ran high among Ball High students. How could Damiani be a match for Wilkins?
all, the juries for both performances were sure to be picked from audiences of
That inferred that no matter which of the attorneys was the better
prepared or was the most convincing in his part, the co-captain was certain to
beat out the guidon barer.
The first performance, Friday evening, came
and all of the actors --- Wilkins, Damiani, Peter Moore, John Rowland, Raleigh
Garcia, Peggy Burton, Pat McInerney, Nancy Frederickson, Jean Moreland and Sandra
Salinas -– gave credible performances.
The jury gave its verdict. They
found the defendant was not guilty.
Damiani and his supporters said they
knew that was what would happen. They thought it was pointless to have the second
The defense would surely win the jury’s verdict again.
though, was betting that something else would happen. And it was the lesson he
wanted to teach.
Sure enough, Saturday night’s jury’s verdict went to
So now it was a tie; one for Wilkins, one for Damiani.
had let students discover for themselves that Wilkins hadn’t won the first night’s
verdict because he was the co-captain of the football team. He won because the
jury felt he was the more convincing.
And, Damiani, despising his first-night
defeat, had spent all day Saturday rehearsing his lines over and over again, with
his Aunt Rena as his audience and critic.
When that night’s performance
came, he was infinitely more prepared to win than he had been the night before.
As Damiani turned to walk out of the courtroom with his victory, he looked
at the large portrait that was in the regal frame and hanging on the rear wall.
He grinned and said under his breath, “How’d you like that, Judge?”
The picture on the wall was that of his cousin, Judge Jules Damiani, Sr., who
in years past had presided over many criminal trials in that same courtroom.
20 , 2012 column
Copyright William S. Cherry. All rights reserved
Bill Cherry's Galveston Memories
Schoolhouses | Columns | Texas