Here’s a taste of my latest “Sightings” column in the “Pursuits” section of the Saturday Wall Street Journal:
Talk about timely: “The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial,” a docudrama about the Scopes trial that is L.A. Theatre Works’ first show to go on the road, opens Oct. 11 at Humboldt University in Arcata, Calif., mere weeks after a judge in Harrisburg, Pa., began hearing arguments over whether the theory of intelligent design should be taught alongside the theory of evolution in local classrooms. You can’t pay for publicity like that. It’s a gift from … er, Charles Darwin? Well, someone, anyway….
“Inherit the Wind” is a work of fiction loosely based on the Scopes trial, one that takes huge liberties with the facts in order to make Bryan and the fundamentalists of Tennessee look like gargoyles and morons. Yet millions of unsuspecting playgoers know what they “know” about the Scopes trial from having seen it. Will those who see or hear “The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial” be better served, factually speaking?
The answer is yes, mostly. The bulk of Mr. Goodchild’s script is drawn from the official trial transcript. To be sure, the scene-setting (deck-stacking) narration leaves no doubt as to which side enlightened minds should root for, blandly informing us that religious fundamentalism circa 1925 was linked “in spirit if nothing else” to “the ultra-conservative and violent Ku Klux Klan.” But the trial itself is heard as it happened, and is all the more dramatic for being true….
No link, alas. To read the whole thing, pick up a copy of the Saturday Journal, or go here to subscribe to the Online Journal.