“The World’s Most Famous Court Trial” will come to life July 19 and 20 in the original Rhea County courtroom where the 1925 event happened, this time with some explanation of how that title came to be.
Festival Chairman Tom Davis said the claim to fame was adopted by two Rhea County men who published the transcript of the Scopes Evolution Trial in 1925. “The trial had attracted some 200 reporters, and newspapers from around the world carried stories about the proceedings,” he said. “In fact, George Oren Metzger and William Hilleary sold nearly 20,000 copies of the transcript, with that title, and the transcript still continues to sell today.”
Two plays will present aspects of the case that captured the attention of the world. “Front Page News,” which will be performed at 8 p.m. Friday, July 19, and 3 and 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 20, tells the story of how the trial came to be held in Dayton, and introduces the audience to William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, the most famous of the lawyers.
“People in America in 1925 didn’t need to be introduced to these men,” Mr. Davis said. “Bryan had been secretary of state and a leader of the Democratic Party for nearly 30 years. He was probably the most famous orator in the country. Darrow was the premier defense attorney in the nation, and won headlines for the cases he tried.”
The second play, “And on the Eighth Day…” features an imaginary conversation between Mr. Bryan and Mr. Darrow some time after the trial, in which the men reflect on their careers, the Scopes Trial and the ramifications of the trial. “This is a creative history lesson that really puts the trial in context, and shows how it influenced American life for many years,” Mr. Davis said.
“And on the Eighth Day…” will be presented at 5 p.m. on Friday, July 19, and noon and 5 p.m. on Saturday, July 20.
In addition to the plays, the festival will include music on the courthouse lawn, crafts, a car cruise-in, tours of sites important to the Scopes Trial, a demonstration of the Charleston dance popular in the 1920s, and a series of interviews with descendants of trial participants
For tickets to the plays or more information about the festival, visit the festival website, www.scopesfestival.com, or call MainStreet Dayton at 775-9847.