Chattanooga Now Festival's two plays offer new history, perspective of Scopes Trial - July 19-20

Chattanooga Now Festival's two plays offer new history, perspective of Scopes Trial - July 19-20

July 18th, 2013 by Clint Cooper in Chattanooga Now - Art

Hundreds of people annually attend the plays that tell the story of the Scopes Trial at the Scopes Festival in Dayton, Tenn.

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.


What: Scopes Trial Festival

When: 4 p.m. Friday and 10 a.m. Saturday

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

Admission: Plays $10; other activities free

Phone: 423-775-9847



Friday, July 19

• 4 p.m. Music and other entertainment begins

• 4-6 p.m. Bus tours

• 5 p.m. "And on the Eighth Day"

• 8 p.m. "Front Page News"

Saturday, July 20

• 10 a.m. "The History Within Us," plus music and other entertainment

• 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Bus tours

• Noon. "And on the Eighth Day"

• 1:30 p.m. Norman and Nancy Blake perform

• 3 p.m. "Front Page News"

• 5 p.m. "And on the Eighth Day"

• 8 p.m. "Front Page News"

For those who prefer their history in large doses, the annual Scopes Trial Festival has a treat for you.

Two plays new to the Dayton, Tenn., festival not only cover the background and evolution trial itself but an imaginary post-trial conversation between its two principals and the trial's long-term ramifications.

The festival, scheduled on Friday and Saturday, July 19-20, around the original Rhea County Courthouse where the trial occurred in 1925, includes the two plays, "Front Page News" and "And on the Eighth Day," as well as live music, crafts, a car cruise-in, site tours, Charleston dance demonstration and interviews with descendants of trial participants.

Festival chairman Tom Davis says the star of the play, the courthouse itself, is spruced up and ready to go.

"The old lady is getting some makeup," he says, "and she's looking better than ever."

The Scopes Trial Festival took a hiatus last year, but Davis says the interest never waned.

"We're really pleased with the number of people asking about it," he says.


"Front Page News," which will be presented Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 3 and 8 p.m., was commissioned for the festival.

Written by Deborah DeGeorge Harbin, an award-winning playwright who works at Milligan College in Johnson City, Tenn., it discusses how the trial came to Dayton, its background, the attorneys William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow who argued it, the trial itself and the death of Bryan immediately after the trial.

Davis says it captures the spirit of Dayton when the trial was planned, helps the audience understand the court proceedings and offers new insights into Bryan and Darrow.

"And on the Eighth Day," which will be offered on Friday at 5 p.m. and on Saturday at noon and 5 p.m., was written by Steve Brown and Michael Ullstrup of Wisconsin.

It imagines, according to Davis, a conversation between Bryan and Darrow after the trial that recaps their arguments and discusses the trial's ramifications.

It's essentially a two-man show, he says, though a local actor portrays the jury foreman.

Nancy and Norman Blake will be among the entertainers Saturday.

Nancy and Norman Blake will be among the...

Photo by Staff File Photo /Times Free Press.


Music on the courthouse lawn will begin around 4 p.m. Friday and about 10 a.m. Saturday, according to Davis.

Headlining the participants are Grammy-winning recording artists Norman and Nancy Blake, who will offer an acoustic guitar concert at 1:30 p.m. Saturday.

"We're delighted to have [them] back," Davis says.

Other performers include Lynne Haas, Tom Morgan, Sandy Gilliam, Richard Dress, Roy Harper, and Stuart and Joyce Carroll with Wesley.


The Rev. Clyde Fitzgerald, a Rhea County native, will lead free bus tours of significant Scopes Trial sites between 4 and 6 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday. The tours will begin and end at the Rhea County Courthouse.


"The History Within Us," an oral history event in which descendants of participants in the trial discuss their memories, will be offered at 10 a.m. Saturday in the General Sessions Courtroom on the first floor of the Rhea County Courthouse. There is no charge to attend.

Contact staff writer Clint Cooper at or 423-757-6497. Subscribe to his posts online at