Audiences' interest overcomes weather
Organizers say evening events at the tent drew 200-500 guests
Jeremy Meier, an Ohio State University theater professor, performs as Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry during a living history performance Friday, July 19, as part of the Ohio Chautauqua at Capital University in Bexley. Ohio Chautauqua is a traveling living history program where actors portray historical figures. Next year, the program will stop in Worthington. Buy This Photo
The Ohio Chautauqua drew hundreds of people to Bexley July 16-20 to learn about state and local history.
The event featured interactive workshops about Ohio history at Capital University, the Jewish Community Center of Greater Columbus, the Drexel Theatre, the Bexley Public Library and Jeffrey Mansion.
"The Chautauqua event has a following in Ohio," Mayor Ben Kessler said. "We've seen a lot of people come into the city that don't normally come into Bexley."
Despite the rain and extreme heat that marked most of the week, many of the evening events drew 200 to 500 people and the daytime events were also well-attended, said Patricia N. Williamsen, executive director of the Ohio Humanities Council, one of the organizations that sponsored the Chautauqua.
"This shows us there's a high level of interest in history here in Bexley," she said.
Throughout the Chautauqua, workshops focused on Ohio historical figures such as Johnny Appleseed, Iroquois leader Chief John Logan and Battle of Lake Erie hero Oliver Hazard Perry. Information about Bexley-specific history was included in printed programs that participants received each day.
"I like to say this is a way people come face to face with history, because it's actually real, live in front of you and you can talk to these characters," Ohio Chautauqua Coordinator Fran Tiburzio said. "You can step back in time."
Scholars who brought the historical figures to life conducted workshops in their characters' voices, and then stepped out of character to answer questions from the audience.
"I always think the Chautauqua is synonymous with lifelong learning," said Debra Conner, who portrayed frontier aristocrat Margaret Blennerhassett.
The Chautauqua presented an opportunity for residents from Bexley and beyond to learn about Ohio history that they may not have been taught in school, said Dan Cutler, who portrayed Chief John Logan.
"I was talking to someone this evening who didn't know the Adena and Hopewell (Native American) culture started right here in Ohio," Cutler said at the July 16 opening event. "Those details get lost, and I think it's something we need to be proud of."
In addition to the Ohio Humanities Council, the local presentation of the Ohio Chautauqua was sponsored by the Bexley Community Foundation, the Whitehall-Bexley Rotary Club, the First Bexley Bank, the Wasserstrom Foundation, the Bexley Area Chamber of Commerce, Jay and Jeanie Schottenstein Foundation, Mike and Paige Crane, Bonnie and David Milenthal, and ThisWeek Community News.