Ohio Chautauqua Brings History to Life in Urbana
Johnny Appleseed, frontier aristocrat Margaret Blennerhassett, Iroquois leader Chief John Logan, Lewis & Clark expedition member York, and hero of the Battle of Lake Erie Oliver Hazard Perry came alive this weekend during the annual Ohio Chautauqua held on Urbana’s campus and around Champaign County.
Actors/scholars portrayed the historical figures, brought “When Ohio Was the Western Frontier” to life during the three-night family-friendly event. The performances were presented by the Ohio Humanities Council in partnership with the City of Urbana, the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce, The Champaign County Arts Council, the Champaign County Historical Society, the Champaign County Library, Piatt Castles, the Mac-A-Cheek Foundation for the Humanities, and Urbana University.
Performer Jeremy Meier of Sylvania, Ohio is on his third Ohio Chautauqua tour and acts as Oliver Hazard Perry and he believes the event is such a success because it brings history to life. Chautauqua is a pure form of theatre. It gives people a chance to experience the early origins of theatre that began with compelling story telling,” Meier stated.
Kevin Fiddler, a junior majoring in education from St. Paris, Ohio, agreed with Meijer and attended all of the Chautauqua events on campus. He said, “This really is something special. Chautauqua doesn’t come to Urbana every year. It takes the experience of going to the theatre to a whole different level.”
The University felt strongly about hosting Chautauqua and supporting this experience for students and community members. “Our belief in the value of the humanities is really important to Urbana University. History is part of, not only the liberal arts curriculum at Urbana, but the human experience. It makes us more interesting. It makes the community more interesting when we know about historical figures and the humanities. Plus, it’s just fun,” shared counselor and student development specialist Susie Sassenberg, who served as the Urbana Chautauqua Co-Chair.
More than 1,000 visitors from the Miami Valley attended events and many left praising the unique experience. Urbana resident Penny Berlin exclaimed, “This whole thing has been wonderful! We have been to every single one of the evening shows. All of it is so enjoyable—especially for anyone who is a history buff!”