Scopes Trial Play

July 12 – 13, And 19 – 20

Scopes Trial Play Dates For 2024

Join us for this year’s play!

Fridays, July 12 and 19 7pm, and Saturday,  July 13 at 2pm & 7pm and July 20 at 2pm.

Plan Your Visit to Dayton!

Click here to reserve your tickets to the Scopes Trial Play today!
This Year’s Play

THE PLAY: Destiny in Dayton

Step back to the hot summer of 1925 when “a little case” caught the attention of the world.

The Scopes Trial: Destiny in Dayton re-tells the story of a Rhea County High School teacher who was charged with violating a new law that prohibited teaching Darwin’s theory of human evolution in public schools.

Watch as the jury is chosen (maybe there’s a seat for YOU) and listen as the lawyers argue about what teachers should teach, whether parents should have a say in their children’s education, and whether the majority really rules.

Taken directly from the trial transcript, the words of William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow, Tom Stewart – and even John Scopes – ring again in the courtroom where the trial took place.

You’ve heard about it – even seen some of these arguments on the nightly news – now “Let’s All Go to the Scopes Trial” play and see what started the arguments we are still having today!

See the real story of the trial that put Dayton on the map. Come early, and you might even have a chance to serve on the jury!

NEW THIS YEAR: Choose to see Destiny in Dayton on Saturday, July 20, then join the cast on the courthouse lawn for a catered dinner. Pricing for this show only includes the show plus dinner.

Destiny in Dayton is produced by the Rhea Heritage Preservation Foundation as part of the Scopes Trial Play & Festivities, with major financial support from the Tennessee Arts Commission, the City of Dayton, and Rhea County.

Check Out The Menu For Dinner With The Cast

When you’ve seen the show, get ready to indulge your tastebuds with a delicious 1925-style meal after the Saturday, July 20 performance of Destiny in Dayton. Catered by Oren’s Orchard Café & Catering, a regional favorite, the menu will include:


  • A strawberry popsicle as you move from the courtroom to the dining area.
  • Deviled eggs and tea sandwiches (a staple of 1920’s evening meals).
  • Salad – a “new thing” in the 20, because of an increased production of lettuce and carrots. Croutons made from Wonder Bread, another invention of the ‘20s.
  • Choice of entrees – Chicken-a-la-King (invented in the ‘20s) or baked ham (then a staple in the area). Sides will be dutchess potatoes with Wheaties crumble, and Mrs. Robinson’s squash supreme (another dish introduced to American diners in the ‘20s).
  • Dessert – choose a slice of Reese’s Pie or a piece of pineapple upside down cake (both new in the 20s).


Drinks: Monkey Fizz mocktail, tea or water.


Dinner with the cast is included in the price of tickets for the Saturday, July 20 show only. Reserve your tickets here.

Cast List


65 years, three-time candidate for president, former member of Congress, Secretary of State for President Woodrow Wilson, popular orator, leading advocate for “fundamentalist” Christianity, political “progressive.” From Florida

William Jennings Bryan


68, America’s premier defense attorney, prominent labor lawyer, champion of the “underdog,” political progressive and former political ally of William Jennings Bryan, noted religious agnostic. From Chicago.

Clarence Darrow


44, civil rights attorney, co-founder of the American Civil Liberties Union, a Jew. From New York

Arthur Garfield Hays


33, district attorney general for the 18th judicial district, lead counsel for the prosecution. From Winchester, TN

Tom Stewart


43, attorney, liberal activist, undersecretary of state for William Jennings Bryan. From New York.

Dudley Field Malone


49, noted constitutional lawyer, former law professor at University of Tennessee and dean of his own law school; formal lead defense counsel. From Spring city, TN

John R. Neal


29, policeman from Chattanooga, hired for the Scopes case and appointed bailiff by Judge Raulston.

Kelso Rice


57, circuit court judge for the 18th judicial district, elected in 1918, and a candidate for re-election in 2026. From South Pittsburg, Tennessee.

John Tate Raulston


59, attorney for the prosecution, former district attorney general, father of J. G. McKenzie. From Dayton.

Ben McKenzie

JG McKenzie

attorney for the prosecution, son of Ben McKenzie, county judge (county mayor). From Dayton.

J.G. McKenzie


4, lived across Third Avenue from the courthouse, selected by the sheriff to draw names for the jury.

Tommy Brewer


45, Rhea County superintendent of schools, a former state representative. From Graysville, Tennessee.

Walter White

School Superintendent

14, a student of John Scopes. From Dayton.

Howard Morgan


44, proprietor of Robinson’s Drug Store, chairman of the Rhea County school board, correspondent for several Tennessee newspapers. From Dayton.

Frank Earle (F.E.) Robinson


57, zoologist, professor and research scientist. From Baltimore, Maryland.

Maynard M. Metcalf


School teacher, coach. From Paducah, Kentucky and previously lived in Salem, Illinois (William Jennings Bryan’s home town).

John Scopes


27, reporter for the Chattanooga News and one of the few women to cover the trial.

Nellie Kenyon


31, manager of the Cumberland Coal & Iron Company, whose comment to F.E. Robinson triggered local efforts to hold the Scopes Trial.

George Rappleyea

July 12th-13th

Scopes Trial Play Location

Located at the Rhea County Courthouse

The Play

About The Scopes Trial Play

In the late 1988, an independent writer/producer visited Dayton with the idea of producing the play Inherit the Wind in the Rhea County Courthouse, scene of the 1925 Scopes Evolution Trial.

Frank Chapin was directed to Bryan College, where he met with Dr. Richard Cornelius, a student of the trial and William Jennings Bryan, who persuaded Chapin to try something new. Inherit, the classic play and movie, had been presented numerous times in the courthouse; instead, Dr. Cornelius suggested Chapin read the trial transcript and dramatize that. He did, and that July he directed The Scopes Trial: Destiny in Dayton, which included a number of descendants of trial participants in the cast.

The next year a festival was added, in an effort to recapture something of the circus atmosphere which surrounded the trial. Each year since (except for a year with casting problems and another because of COVID) the Scopes Festival has helped Rhea County remember its most famous court case.

In 2016, the Rhea Heritage Preservation Foundation was formed and took on the production and preservation of the Festival and Play.

A volunteer cast and crew each year brings to life the personalities including William Jennings Bryan, Clarence Darrow, District Attorney Tom Stewart, Judge John Raulston and other “characters” who captured the attention of the world with this trial in 1925.

Over the years, five different scripts have been presented: Destiny in Dayton, Monkey in the Middle, One Hot Summer, Front Page News and How It Started, all different interpretations of the trial and the surrounding story. The underlying commitment for each has been the Foundation’s insistence that the script be historically accurate. Unlike other plays or movies, the Scopes Festival plays must follow the facts of the case.

Of course, we sometimes are asked “Why didn’t you include…” in the play? The answer is simple: we have tried to summarize a trial which lasted eight days in a two-hour play, and we can’t get it all in. But if you really want to know the whole story, the trial transcript is for sale in the Scopes Trial museum.

We invite you to join us the third weekend of July for the Scopes Festival, and the Play about the case which put Dayton on the map.

The Play

Want to Join The Cast?

Casting calls are open now! Check back later to see 2024 cast assignments!

    Please indicate specific parts you may be interested in and any messages to the director (if any):

    Click here to reserve your tickets to the Scopes Trial Play today!
    The Play

    Front Page News Available on DVD

    We may think today’s public debates over who controls what is taught in schools is a new question, but that was one of the key arguments during the 1925 Scopes Trial in Dayton, Tennessee. The right of teachers to teach what they believe to be true, of students to hear more than one side of an issue, whether majorities set the rules or if minorities can object to those rules – and, oh, yes – science and religion, all played a part in the famous trial in 1925.

    Over the years the Scopes Festival has produced a number of dramatic recreations of the that case in the courtroom where the trial was held. One of our most ambitious projects was Front Page News, created in conjunction with the Cumberland County Playhouse.

    Jim Crabtree, then producing director of the Playhouse, in conjunction with his wife, Ann, and musician Bobby Taylor, developed Front Page News, a play with music, based on the play of the same name by Deborah DeGeorge Harbin. The video was filmed by Public Television station WCTE of Cookeville, Tennessee, and originally aired on that station

    Front Page News is a dramatization of the Scopes Trial, which pitted three-time presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan, a leading spokesman for evangelical Christianity, against Clarence Darrow, arguably the era’s premiere defense attorney – and an outspoken agnostic – in the cast of a Rhea County teacher charged with violating Tennessee’s new anti-evolution law.

    The play begins with Dayton leaders discussing the plan to test the law, depicts how John Scopes was recruited to be the defendant, how Bryan and Darrow entered the case, and captures the world-wide media interest that focused on Dayton, Tennessee, that hot summer of 1925. With dialogue taken from the trial transcript and other historical records, viewers will get a glimpse of the case and the media circus which surrounded it.

    Click here to purchase Front Page News DVD
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