Scopes Trial Play And Festival Set For July 18-20

Monday, July 7, 2014
Rhea County Courthouse during the Scopes Trial (1925).
Rhea County Courthouse during the Scopes Trial (1925).
- photo by Scopes Trial Play and Festival

Crossville’s Cumberland County Playhouse and Dayton’s Scopes Trial Festival will present “Front Page News: Dayton and the World Famous Scopes Trial,” a newly adapted play with music, in the historic Rhea County courtroom July 18-20. 

The Scopes Trial Play and Festival features the prosecution of John T. Scopes, who was put on trial for reportedly teaching his students the theory of evolution. Clarence Darrow, an acclaimed criminal defense lawyer and religious skeptic, volunteered to defend Scopes. The prosecution brought in William Jennings Bryan, a renowned orator, fervent fundamentalist and Bible expert. The first American trial to be broadcast live nationally on the radio, the trial received worldwide attention - although not necessarily the type town leaders were seeking.

Each July, the city of Dayton hosts the play in the actual courtroom where all the action took place in 1925. In its 28th year, the Scopes Trial Play and Festival is the community’s effort to remember an important moment in history—and to clear up the many misconceptions about what actually took place. 

This year, the Cumberland County Playhouse is co-producing this historically accurate account of the famous trial. Grammy-nominated Nashville songwriter/actor Bobby Taylor will team with the Cumberland County Playhouse’s Producing Director, Jim Crabtree, to adapt the 2013 play written by Deborah DeGeorge Harbin of Elizabethton, Tenn. Taylor - whose Billboard hits have been recorded by Montgomery Gentry, The Oak Ridge Boys, Allison Krause and Don Williams - will also play “The Storyteller” in Front Page News, weaving original, traditional and sacred music throughout the story. 

“’Front Page News’ will bring the power of Southern gospel and Tennessee music, and the faith and spirit of rural America to this true account of the Scopes Trial, which is the flagship event of our festival,” said Tom Davis, chairman of the Scopes Trial Play and Festival.

The Scopes Trial Play and Festival will take place July 18–20, in Dayton. "Front Page News" performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. July 18, 2:30 and 7:30 p.m. July 19, and 2:30 p.m. July 20. Tickets cost $12 to $24, with discounts for seniors, children, students and groups. To purchase tickets, call 931.484-5000 or visit


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