Evolution versus creationism: the battle over what to teach in public schools came to a head first nearly 85 years ago in a Tennessee courtroom. The transcripts from that famous trial form the basis of a national theatrical production that has come to Utah.
"The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial" stars Ed Asner. He says decades later, the battle against teaching evolution goes on. "Texas just had a slam bang fight on this school board, and they were barely able to eake out passage of teaching … evolution," he said.
Asner plays the part of prosecutor William Jennings Bryan; John Heard portrays defense attorney Clarence Darrow.
Heard says the first audience on this national tour loved the production, which is staged as a 1925 era radio show. "They were cheering. We said they're the jury, and they acted like, ‘Boo! Hiss!' They were very participatory," he said.
At each city, a young actor plays Tennessee student Howard Morgan who testified about his teacher, John Scopes. Gardner Dee got that part in Utah. "My mom told me what it was about, and we rented a few books from the library, and I read a few of them, and so it was interesting to learn it was about evolution," Dee said.
Producing director Susan Loewenberg said, "Taking this play around the country, to communities all around the United States, is a way of really engaging people, giving them information and provoking a national conversation."
"The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial" was performed tonight in Ogden, and another performance is scheduled for tomorrow night at Kingsbury Hall at the University of Utah at 7:30.