Mr. Darwin's Tree

2023 Science Symposium graphic

Mr. Darwin's Tree

Tuesday, March 28 - 7:00 pm (doors open at 6:30)
Barrows Auditorium (Billy Graham Hall)

Mr. Darwin’s Tree presents a very human and very real Charles Darwin, one who wrestled with the challenges that his theories posed for traditional beliefs. It also presents Darwin’s wife, Emma, as an intelligent and articulate representative of Christian faith. In doing so, the play rejects the "straw man" effigies of Darwin presented by both his extreme protagonists and antagonists, providing the opportunity for lively engagement, thoughtful conversations, and fresh explorations.

The panel discussion following the performance will bring playwright Murray Watts together with Dr. Timothy LarsenDr. Alison Gibson, and Ms. Kailey Bell for interaction with each other and with Q&A from the audience.

Tdarwin-tree-posted-editedhe production itself is hailed for packing in "a great deal of history and fascinating insight [thanks to] the show’s 75-minute bravura performance by solo actor Andrew Harrison" (Christian Today) and acclaimed as "an elegantly conceived, clever and highly informative performance, overflowing with gentle humour and charm" (Three Weeks Magazine, Edinburgh). Mr. Darwin’s Tree premiered at Westminster Abbey in 2009, and had highly successful runs at the Edinburgh Festival in 2011 and at the King’s Head Theatre, London, in 2012. Since then, it has travelled to Oxford, Cambridge, St. Andrews, many other universities, colleges, and theatres in the UK, and on previous North American Tours in 2016 and 2019.

"Mr. Darwin’s Tree is not a play which is polemical in any way," says 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."

"Discussing creation and evolution in abstract terms often leads to polarized and emotional debates," says Dr. Stan Rosenberg, SCIO Executive Director. "Seeing these issues in their historical context and connected to real people, by contrast, helps us to understand the complexity of the issues and to discuss them in more nuanced and less confrontational ways."

Mr. Darwin’s Tree is an engaging story about a renowned historical figure. The first-person point of view allows us to see Darwin as a father, husband, and thoughtful scientist who wrestled with questions of theology as he observed creation through his studies. The play spurs conversation around important ideas,” said CCCU president Shirley V. Hoogstra.

andrew harrisonAndrew Harrison

English actor Andrew Harrison began his career with the York-based Riding Lights Theatre Co., touring in many of their musicals, comedies, revues and dramas at the Edinburgh Festival and throughout the UK. He began his repertory career playing the lead roles in A Chorus of Disapproval and Serious Money at the Northcott Theatre, Exeter. He made his West End (London) debut in Sir Michael Hordern's Trelawny of the 'Wells'. A regular contributor to BBC Radio 4’s drama department, Andrew also has many TV credits including Miss Marple. His film credits include Beyond Narnia (2005) and Florence Nightingale (2005). He has co-created six solo shows with Murray Watts including Mr. Darwin’s Tree and Fire from Heaven, which is touring the US.

Murray-WattsMurray Watts, B.A., Diploma in Theology

Murray Watts is an accomplished playwright and screenwriter. His work in TV, radio, film, and theatre has won national and international awards. Murray Watts was a Senior Scholar in English Literature at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, from 1971-1975. He later studied for a Diploma in Theology at Nottingham University. His screenplays include The Dream starring Jeremy Irons and The Miracle Maker dramatizing the story of Jesus. The Miracle Maker was the highest-rated movie on ABC TV network in the US for Easter 2000 and won the Movieguide/Templeton Epiphany award. His play Mr. Darwin’s Tree premiered at Westminster Abbey in 2009 and explores the relationship between science and faith in the lives of Charles Darwin and his wife, Emma. His latest play, Fire from Heaven, explores the life of Michael Faraday, a man of faith who was one of the greatest experimental scientists of the Nineteenth Century and made very significant contributions to the understanding of electromagnetism.


Symposium theme artwork by Christina Carper (Wheaton College '24)