Have you ever wished you could travel back in time to meet and speak with some of history's most influential people? Have you ever thought about what it would be like to have a front row seat to one of the most talked-about events of the 20th century? Ohio Chautauqua gives you just that opportunity!
Join us on the lawn of the McConnell Arts Center each evening, July 8-12, to hear a voice from the past explain what life was like for them.
Ohio Chautauqua kicks off with scholar Marvin Jefferson's portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on Tuesday, July 8. Dr. King was a leader in the Civil Rights Movement who led marches for equality, voting rights and desegregation before his assassination in 1968.
Jefferson chose to portray King as part of Ohio Chautauqua's "Journey Stories" (the theme for this year's event), because "Dr. King was arguably the most influential person in African American history, certainly in the history of the Civil Rights Movement." He also said, "I want people to know Dr. King had doubts and fears he had to overcome. He was more than a symbol; he was a human being."
The following evening, July 9, we meet another revolutionary thinker: Henry David Thoreau. The naturalist, philosopher and writer, most famous for penning Walden; or Life in the Woods in 1854, will be portrayed by Kevin Radaker.
Radaker, who became a Thoreau devotee while attending high school in Newton Falls, Ohio, said, "I have always been attracted to the eloquence and incisive nature of Thoreau's writings, so I consider myself to be very privileged in bringing that eloquent and prophetic voice to the Chautauqua stage for more than 20 years."
The series of event concludes Saturday, July 12, with Titanic survivor and Ohio native Edith Russell, as portrayed by scholar Debra Conner. Born Edith Rosenbaum in Cincinnati, she was working in Paris as a fashion reporter for Women's Wear Daily when she boarded the ill-fated luxury liner. She survived the disaster and helped to calm the children on her lifeboat by playing music.
Conner states that Edith, who reveled in her celebrity as a Titanic survivor, "loved the limelight, the attention, the glitz and the glamour."
The lesser-known but equally enthralling personas of Indian captive Olive Ann Oatman, portrayed by Dianne Moran, and J. Goldsborough Bruff, a cartographer and 1849'er portrayed by Hank Fincken, will be featured on July 10 and July 11, respectively. They will be the topic of next week's Library Lines column.
Each Chautauqua evening event begins with music at 6:30 p.m. with performances at 7:30 p.m. Food is also available. At the conclusion of each scholar's performance, they will take audience questions both in and out of character.
The five-day series of events also includes youth and adult workshops held at Old Worthington Library and the Griswold Center, respectively. A complete list of all Ohio Chautauqua programs in Worthington can be found at ohiohuman-ities.org. Ohio Chautauqua is presented by Ohio Humanities and locally sponsored by the Friends Foundation of Worthington Libraries and the McConnell Arts Center.
For more information, call 614-807-2604.
Lisa Fuller is director of community engagement at Worthington Libraries.