Five-day Ohio Chautauqua festival to educate on state historyWritten by Paige Shermis | | email@example.com
Though it is the heart of the Midwest today, Ohio was once the rugged western frontier of the United States.
This will be the focus of the Ohio Chautauqua 2013, a five-day traveling tent show featuring actors portraying notable individuals from the past, including Johnny Appleseed and Oliver Hazard Perry.The Ohio Chautauqua 2013, themed “When Ohio Was the Western Frontier,” will be held at Veterans Memorial Park in Rossford from July 9-13. The Ohio Humanities Council is primarily sponsoring the event.
Each evening, the scholarly performances begin at 7:30 p.m., with local musical entertainment beginning at 6:30 p.m. Food vendors, including Country Lane Barbecue and Marco’s Pizza, and drink vendors will be present.
“When you take history in school, it’s dry and it’s facts. … When these performers tell their story, you’re hearing facts because it’s very fact-based, but you’re hearing all the drama and the behind-the-scenes information you never hear about. Told in that first-person concept, it’s very engaging,” said Beth Genson, marketing consultant at Rossford Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Featured individuals are Johnny Appleseed (July 9), aristocrat Margaret Blennerhassett (July 10), Iroquois leader Chief John Logan (July 11), Lewis and Clark expedition member York (July 12) and Oliver Hazard Perry (July 13), according to a news release.
During the day of each festival, the actor starring in the next night’s show will host a children’s workshop at 10 a.m. and an adult workshop at 2 p.m. at Rossford Public Library, 720 Dixie Hwy.
Hank Fincken, the actor portraying Appleseed, will give his workshops on July 13.
The Ohio Humanities Council chooses five towns each year to host the Ohio Chautauqua.
“We were competing with other towns, including Maumee, for the Ohio Chautauqua, and 2013 is the [200th] anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie. The theme of early 1800s is a good fit for us,” Genson said. “Ohio Chautauqua has never been to either Wood or Lucas county, so this is a first for our area. The closest it’s been is Defiance or Archbold. That’s one of the reasons we are very excited to host it.”
Genson said the in-character performances will be 30-40 minutes long. Afterward, the actors will take questions in-character, and then step out of character to answer questions the character would not be able to answer.
“Depending on which performance it is, they’ll get the audience involved: they’ll ask them for their input, maybe ask them questions, ask them to come up and demonstrate something. It makes it interesting and engaging. Even people who are not particularly into history will find it the most amazing way to learn about history. It’s the history of our state too,” Genson said.
Fincken first played Appleseed in a theatrical production in 1982.
“It was a different version, and this is the adult version; not because it’s sensuous, because it has ideas that show a serious side of John and not just a funny side of John,” Fincken said.
For Ohio Chautauqua 2013, Fincken is focusing on Appleseed’s changing image over time, and how we define him by our needs in 2013 instead of looking at him as a real man.
At the children’s workshop, Fincken will lead attendees in theater games.
“They laugh along, and get to appreciate what [acting] is like as a profession, and how much fun they can have, especially if they go into theater. They actually have a really good time, and even if they go on to be a scientists, they can go on to do community theater,” he said.
The members of the troupe strive to give a nonfictional performance, Fincken said.
“We want to show the audience a complex character. There are always new things that we learn, and always things we learned were incorrect,” he said.
Fincken said the Chautauqua program has deep roots.
“It comes from Chautauqua, N.Y., the very first of this kind of program. … It was originally designed so Sunday school teachers could get a special education, and so they could relate to the problems of the day. Guest speakers come in and talk and train them in an idyllic area so the people could get out and appreciate nature at the same time,” he said.
The meaning of the word Chautauqua, however, is difficult to pin down.
“I have heard different meanings: ‘knot,’ or ‘good fishing,’ ‘place of learning,’ ‘dirty water,’ Fincken said. “Chautauqua sounds like it’s an important place, that’s all I know.”
Ohio Chautauqua is being brought to Rossford by the Rossford Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Rossford Business Association, Welch Publishing Company, Lake Erie Living magazine, the City of Rossford, the Rossford Public Library, Owens Community College, Meijer-Rossford and Northwestern Water and Sewer District, according to a news release.
For a full schedule of events and for more information, visit www.ohiohumanities.org.