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Ed Asner Tours with Play about Scopes Monkey Trial Advisory Board Member Plays William Jennings Bryan in The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial, Talks With Us About the Play and Protecting the Teaching of Evolution

by, April 24, 2007

Ed Asner as William Jennings Bryan and John de Lancie as Clarence Darrow in The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial

Ed Asner is currently on tour with The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial, a cautionary play for our times. The play, as he explains during a recorded interview, uses transcripts of the 1925 trial -- a test case, really -- of a Tennessee high school teacher for teaching evolution. The trial attorneys, William Jennings Bryan and Clarence Darrow, were towering figures of the early 20th century; the trial proceedings were the first ever broadcast live on the radio.

During our telephone interview, recorded during his tour with the play (there are links below to some of its reviews and to a CD of an earlier performance), Asner recounts the situation that created the trial and its aftermath, with laws throughout the Bible belt mandating the teaching of creationism.

The nation only came to grips with the resultant science deficit when the Soviet Union launched Sputnik in 1957. But even now, Asner says, the United States leads all other nations in the percentage of people who believe the earth was created in six days, as related in the Bible, rather than evoluting over millenia.

"This battle will never be finished in this country. It must be fought constantly and perpetually and those people who believe in Darwinism must never rest because the enemy lies out there in great numbers," Asner says. Please click here to listen to the 18-minute interview.

NPR Science Friday Interviews Ed Asner, Great Tennessee Monkey Trial playwright and director

National Public Radio, Science Friday, April 13, 2007

Click here for an introductory page with a link to the archived audio of the program.

Primate Debate at the IOP

By Ben C. Burns, Harvard Crimson, April 11, 2007

The spotlights of the John F. Kennedy Forum at the Institute of Politics (IOP) highlighted an unconventional group of guests this Monday evening, as the IOP entertained a full house with a blast from the past.

Actors from L.A. Theatre Works presented their rendition of “The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial,” adapted from the original transcripts of the 1925 trial of John Scopes, a science teacher charged with teaching evolution in the classroom. Continue.

Veteran Actor Asner ‘Scopes’ Out Harvard

Ben C. Burns, The Harvard Crimson, April 13, 2007

Prolific actor and activist Ed Asner is accustomed to speaking his mind.

Asner recently played the role of William Jennings Bryan in Peter Goodchild’s "The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial," which was hosted by the Institute of Politics on Monday night. Perhaps best known as Lou Grant on the "Mary Tyler Moore Show," Asner has earned seven Emmys, more than any other male actor.

Produced by L.A. Theatre Works under the direction of Susan Albert Loewenberg, "Monkey Trial" is adapted from the transcripts of the landmark 1925 Scopes Trial which challenged a law that prohibited the teaching of the theory of evolution in Tennessee schools. Called the "trial of the century," the case put three-time presidential candidate Bryan up against the pro-evolution politician Clarence Darrow (played by John de Lancie).

The play is presented in the form of a radio program broadcast directly from the courtroom. The actors read from the script, and the set is minimal. Continue

Eloquent, vital Scopes trial

Wendy Rosenfield, The Philadelphia Inquirer, April 20, 2007

Things certainly seem to have come full circle in the 80 years since the script was written for L.A. Theater Works' The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial, now at the Annenberg. In 1925, the ACLU tested Tennessee's law against teaching evolution in public schools; in 2005, the ACLU challenged the right of the school district of Dover, Pa., to teach intelligent design in its classrooms. The more things change. . . .

John Thomas Scopes was a science teacher in Dayton, Tenn., when he took the ACLU's offer to pay the legal costs of anyone willing to challenge the state's legislation against evolution. When William Jennings Bryan - politician, preacher, pacifist, prohibitionist - signed on for the prosecution, attorney Clarence Darrow, fresh from his stunning performance at the sensational Leopold and Loeb murder trial, couldn't resist joining the defense. Continue.

A giant of stage and screen: Ed Asner to appear in courtroom drama at Z Friday

By Robert Higgins, South Coast Today (Southeastern Massachusetts), April 22, 2007

"A little song, a little dance, a little seltzer down your pants."

That line came from the pen of David Lloyd, who wrote "Bubbles Bites the Dust," an episode which aired on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" on CBS in October 1975. For his trouble, Mr. Lloyd picked up an Emmy for outstanding writing in a comedy series.

If you don't remember the show, here's the set-up: WJM's children's show host, Chuckles the Clown, dies after showing up for a circus parade dressed as Peter Peanut. "A rogue elephant tried to shell him," wisecracks Lou Grant, WJM's news show's tough, gruff editor.

Recently, Mr. Asner, talking by telephone from his Los Angeles office, recalled his stint on "The Mary Tyler Show" (1970 to 1977). He also talked about his upcoming appearance at the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center at 8 p.m. Friday in the L.A. Theatre Works production of "The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial." Continue.

'The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial'
Evolution has its day in court

By Jeffrey Borak, Berkshire Eagle (Western Massachusetts), April 13, 2007

The word's the thing in L.A. Theatre Works' "The Play's the Thing" radio plays series, and in the series' "The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial" the words are hot, historic and eloquent. Continue.

JewsOnFirst interviews Ed Asner

by Jane Hunter, April 24, 2007

"This battle will never be finished in this country. It must be fought constantly and perpetually and those people who believe in Darwinism must never rest because the enemy lies out there in great numbers," says Ed Asner in this telephone interview recorded during his tour with The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial with Jane Hunter of Click here to listen to the interview.

The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial on CD

Ed Asner said during our interview that a new CD of the current production will be available soon. We'll post a link for it here, at that time. Presently you can buy a CD of an earlier performance with a different cast and a slightly different script.

The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial
Starring Charles Durning, Edward Asner and Tyne Daly

for purchase at

Audio CD of The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial by Peter Goodchild (Author), Charles Durning (Narrator), Edward Asner (Narrator), Tyne Daly (Narrator). Click here to buy the CD at