published Thursday, July 17th, 2014

'Front Page News,' festival celebrates Scopes trial

John R. Kia, left, and John T. Scopes
John R. Kia, left, and John T. Scopes
  • photo
    Bobby Taylor is "The Storyteller," George Miller is William Jennings Bryan and Rick Dye is Clarence Darrow in "Front Page News."
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

It's fair to say that Cumberland County Playhouse producing director Jim Crabtree knows a thing or two about putting together an entertaining show. His father opened the playhouse in 1965, and it's been a part of his life since.

When Mainstreet Dayton director Anna Tromanhauser needed to find a new director for "Front Page News," the play about the famous Scopes Trial that took place there in 1925, she reached out to Crabtree for a name. He immediately offered his own.

"I've always been interested in this story," he says.

After reading the script by Deborah DeGeorge Harbin, Crabtree realized the play was about more than the issue of evolution being taught in school. It is about an entire community trying to hold onto its beliefs and way of life and being portrayed to the rest of the world as backward because of it, especially in "Inherit the Wind," the play and movie about the trial.

"The people of Dayton are made to look like rubes, and they feel that to this day," he says.


What: Scopes Trial Play & Festival.

When: 5-8 p.m. Friday, July 18 (play starts at 7:30 p.m.); 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Saturday, July 19 (play at 2:30 and 7:30 p.m.); 1-8 p.m. Sunday, July 20 (play at 2:30 p.m.).

Where: Rhea County Courthouse, 1475 Market St., Dayton, Tenn.

Admission: Festival activities, free. Play performances, $24 and $18 adults, $18 and $12 children/students, $23 and $17 seniors; family packages, $12 adults, $11 seniors; $6 children/students.

Phone: 423-775-9847.

Website: (ticket purchase), (more information).

"Front Page News" will be presented in the Rhea County Courthouse this weekend, July 18-20, as part of the larger Scopes Trial Festival. The festival part of the event will feature an oral history project focused on the trial, live music on the courthouse lawn, demonstrations of traditional crafts and skills, an antique tractor show and an antique/classic car cruise-in.

It also will feature special guests Benny Williams and two descendants of the legendary Louvin Brothers, Ira's daughter Kathy and grandson Jacob.

The play will feature George Miller as William Jennings Bryan and Rick Dye as Clarence Darrow.

The event is centered on the famous state of Tennessee vs. John Scopes trial that took place July 10-21, 1925. Scopes was on trial for violating the Tennessee Butler Act by teaching evolution to students at Rhea County High School. The whole thing was orchestrated by Dayton movers and shakers who accepted an offer by the American Civil Liberties Union to challenge the law, in hopes it would bring attention, and business, to Dayton. It succeeded in that regard, drawing journalists and attention from around the world.

According to Crabtree, the festival preserves the history and focuses on the ideas surrounding the Scopes Trial and gives "a true Tennessee perspective on the clash of science and religion fictionalized in 'Inherit the Wind.'"

To help better give that perspective, Crabtree worked with Harbin and Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Bobby Taylor to add music to the play for the first time. They chose a couple of traditional church songs and composed some new numbers. Taylor will also portray "The Storyteller" in the production.

"Music is a big part of the lives of the community," Crabtree says.

Tromanhauser believes the new play does a good job of telling the whole story.

"And it is very entertaining," she says.

Contact Barry Courter at or 423-757-6354.


Friday, July 18

4-6 p.m. Free tours of Scopes Trial sites

5 p.m. Storytelling, music, food, arts and crafts vendors on courthouse lawn

7:30 p.m. "Front Page News" inside courthouse (tickets required)

Saturday, July 19

10 a.m. "The History Within Us," program on importance of oral histories and stories by descendants of trial participants

11 a.m.-3 p.m. Free tours of Scopes Trial sites

Noon. Music, food, arts and crafts vendors on courthouse lawn

1 p.m. Kathy Louvin performs

2:30 p.m. "Front Page News inside courthouse (tickets required)

5 p.m. Storytelling by Bruce Bellinger

7:30 p.m. "Front Page News" inside courthouse (tickets required)

Sunday, July 20

Noon. Music on courthouse lawn

12:30 p.m. Storytelling

2:30 p.m. "Front Page News" inside courthouse (tickets required)

about Barry Courter...

Barry Courter is staff reporter and columnist for the Times Free Press. He started his journalism career at the Chattanooga News-Free Press in 1987. He covers primarily entertainment and events for ChattanoogaNow, as well as feature stories for the Life section. Born in Lafayette, Ind., Barry has lived in Chattanooga since 1968. He graduated from Notre Dame High School and the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga with a degree in broadcast journalism. He previously was ...

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