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Second U.S. Christian College Campus Tour Underway for ‘Mr. Darwin’s Tree’

October 20, 2016
Actor Andrew Harrison performs in the acclaimed one-man play 'Mr. Darwin's Tree.' Photo by Stan Rosenberg
Actor Andrew Harrison performs in the acclaimed one-man play 'Mr. Darwin's Tree.' Photo by Stan Rosenberg
WASHINGTON – The acclaimed British one-man play “Mr. Darwin’s Tree” is making its second tour of North American Christian colleges campuses throughout October. The tour aims to strengthen the educational environment on CCCU campuses by enhancing the conversation on science and religion.

The play toured six CCCU campuses along the West Coast during the spring 2016 and is now touring eight campuses in the Midwest. Following each performance, there is a panel discussion featuring a local theologian and biologist; many also include the playwright Murray Watts and Stan Rosenberg, executive director of Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford (SCIO), the UK center of the CCCU, which produced the play.

“In offering this play, SCIO is striving to support the serious engagement of scientific study grounded in robust Christian commitment,” Rosenberg said. “The colleges have received the play with warmth and excitement, and we are delighted to see the ways students and faculty utilized the opportunity for serious conversations. The panel discussions following have given opportunity to engage difficult questions, reflect on the role of the arts in dealing with sometimes contentious subjects, and better understand the humanity of Darwin. Darwin is often treated in caricature, which can foreclose conversation; instead, this play gives us a very real human, which invites conversation.”

Written by noted award-winning playwright and director Murray Watts (“The Miracle Maker,” “KJB: The Book that Changed the World,” “The Dream”) and starring leading British film, TV and theater actor Andrew Harrison (“Dorian Gray,” “Miss Marple,” “Beyond Narnia”), the play presents a very human and very real Charles Darwin, one who wrestled with the challenges that his theories posed for traditional religious beliefs.

“Mr. Darwin’s Tree” also presents Darwin’s wife, Emma, as an intelligent and articulate representative of Christian faith, exploring the dynamics of his studies in the midst of their vibrant marriage and family life. In doing so, the play rejects the “straw man” effigies of Darwin presented by both his supporters and detractors and instead provides the opportunity for lively engagement, thoughtful conversations and fresh explorations.

“It is not a play which is polemical in any way,” said playwright Murray Watts, “and it does not seek to explore the relative merits of evolution, whether theistic or atheistic, and it does not examine arguments for creationism or intelligent design. Rather, it looks intently at the emotional, psychological and spiritual crises at the heart of one of the most earth-shattering periods in our cultural and scientific history.”  

At many of these campuses, both Watts and Rosenberg gave special lectures to faculty and students. The fall tour, which has been underwritten by the Templeton Religion Trust, has taken the play to Franciscan of University of Steubenville, Calvin College, Crown College and Northwestern College. It will also be presented at the University of Missouri (Oct. 22), Oklahoma Christian University (Oct. 24), Samford University (Oct. 28) and Trinity Western University (Oct. 31).

To learn more, visit www.mrdarwinstree.com.

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The Council for Christian Colleges & Universities is a higher education association of 182 Christian institutions around the world. The 117 member campuses in North America are all regionally accredited, comprehensive colleges and universities with curricula rooted in the arts and sciences and whose missions are Christ-centered and rooted in the historic Christian faith. In addition, 65 affiliate campuses from 20 countries are part of the CCCU. The CCCU’s mission is to advance the cause of Christ-centered higher education and to help our institutions transform lives by faithfully relating scholarship and service to biblical truth. Visit www.cccu.org.

Scholarship & Christianity in Oxford (SCIO), the UK center of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU), is a research and educational institute in Oxford, England. It strives to serve CCCU institutions in North America and elsewhere and the undergraduate, graduate, and faculty members of those institutions by producing and supporting scholarship of the highest standards. It offers two rigorous study abroad programs, the Scholars’ Semester in Oxford and Oxford Summer Programme, which enable undergraduates and a few graduates to develop academically and experience scholarly life at a major research university. It runs an increasing number of faculty-focused research projects, with a particular focus on the relationship between science and religion and on ancient texts. For more information, visit http://www.scio-uk.org.

Templeton Religion Trust is a relatively new, offshore sibling of the better-known John Templeton Foundation (JTF). Its core funding areas are the same as JTF’s, but the Trust’s governance and decision processes are independent and somewhat different from those of its Philadelphia-based sibling. Unlike JTF, the Trust does not invite open submissions via a website. All of its grant development activity results from outreach by Trust staff, from its base of operations in Nassau in the Bahamas.