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Evolution revolution 

In the wake of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday, playwright Gordon Greene travels from Oklahoma to perform a special play

New Times Are you a writer or an actor first?

Gordon Greene My first career was as an actor, and then I got more interested in directing. It was a long time before I got into writing in a big way. I taught theater as well. One of my students was Curt [Miner–the Reverend at the United Church of Christ in SLO] ... I gave him his first professional job.

New Times You are directing The Scopes Monkey Trial: What Really Happened as well?

Greene Yes. I grew up in Tennessee, which is where the play takes place, so I’ve heard about it all of my life. My background is in theater. It was my major in college and I have my masters from Northwestern. I worked professionally for a few years, did some summer stock and some tours, worked with Ned Beatty and Morgan Freeman. We all liked Freeman but no one would have said he would have been the “most likely to succeed”.

New Times What drew you to the material of The Scopes Monkey Trial?

Greene I was in high school when the play Inherit The Wind came out. I read it and thought, “Wow, I would love to play the part of Clarence Darrow.” He became my hero. He was probably the most famous defense lawyer of the 20th century. He took a lot of unpopular cases and people who couldn’t afford legal help and defended them.

New Times So he’s the good guy in this story?

Greene Yes. [Laughs]

New Times Your version is accurate ... Inherit The Wind was fictionalized. So, what really happened?

Greene Mine is historical. It’s about the trial that took place in 1925 in Dayton, Tenn. The state had passed a law in the legislature forbidding the teaching of evolution or teaching a theory that denies the story of the divine creationof manas taughtin the Bible.In other words the law was attacking evolution ...

New Times This was just in Tennessee?

Greene There were movements in a number of states. A fellow by the name of William Jennings Bryan who was a giant of a man and one of the best known Americans of his day; he had a been a candidate for president three times. He was a great orator. He absolutely got behind this thing and pushed it through the state legislatures. The ACLU, a fledgling organization at the time, thought this was unconstitutional and they sought a teacher from Tennessee to volunteer as a test case. That is what started the ball rolling. Interestingly, it wasn’t for some great noble purpose. The town leaders in Dayton thought, “You know this might be a good way to get somepublicity for our town.” It became international news when Bryan volunteered to help prosecute John T. Scopes, and Darrow immediately volunteered to defend him.

New Times What was the resolution or do you want audiences in SLO to find out for themselves?

Greene Yea, let ‘em come and find out. This trial is considered to be by many legal historians as the most significant trial of the 20th century in America and maybe in American history. I’m distressed that it isn’t more known by people. I want to set the record straight and let them know what really happened.

New Times What exactly is a readers’ theater?

Greene Instead of actors in costume and make-up moving about the stage reciting memorized lines, in readers’ theater the whole focus is on the ideas and the words. We don’t memorize it, we read from scripts at music stands strategically positioned throughout the stage. It has its own set of conventions.




What Really Happened—The West Coast premiere of play captures the drama of the proceedings as found in the actual trial transcripts. Convinced the law to forbade teaching of evolution in public schools was unconstitutional, the ACLU sought John T. Scopes, a teacher who volunteered to stand trial in a test case. The production takes place at The United Church of Christ of San Luis Obispo, 11245 LOVR. Oct. 18 AT 7:30 p.m. and Oct. 19 at 3 p.m. $10. Info: 544-1373 or


Christy Heron evolves every single day. Call her a monkey at


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