Ohio Chautauqua 2012 Workshops

URBANA, Ohio (June 21, 2012) - The arrival of the OHIO CHAUTAUQUA to Urbana is just around the corner. Beginning on Tuesday, June 26 thru Saturday, June 30, the Ohio Humanities Council’s OHIO CHAUTAUQUA 2012, When Ohio Was the Western Frontier, will bring history alive to Champaign County with workshops and evening performances.

Each day there is an adult workshop at 10:30 a.m. and a youth workshop at 2:30 p.m. at locations throughout the county. The workshops are led by the five scholar-actors and allow participates to engage in hands-on, interactive learning. Each workshop lasts about 45 minutes; there is no charge for any of the OHIO CHAUTAUQUA programs. Although the workshops are listed as “adult and youth”, all are welcome to attend any or all of the programs. It is suggested that children, if unaccompanied by an adult, be at least 8 years of age.

The workshops kick off on Tuesday morning at the Mac-O-Chee Piatt Castle with “Women on America’s Western Frontier” presented by Debra Connor. Ms. Connor, who portrays Margaret Blennerhassett on Friday evening, begins the description of her workshop with this quote, “’Women are the forgotten men of history,’ claimed the historian Daniel Boorstein.” In this workshop, attendees will learn about the lifestyles and the habits of the women who settled the western frontier in the early 1800’s. Did you know that women smoked cigars? That dinner guests wiped their noses on the tablecloth? Or that women took arsenic to increase their pallor?

That afternoon, Dan Cutler, portrayer of Chief John Logan Thursday evening, will present a workshop entitled, “Adopted by Indians” at the shelter on the grounds of the Ohio Caverns. Frontier families were terrified that their children might be kidnapped by Indians. When loved ones were killed by the White Man’s disease and war, the Indians felt justified in adopting replacements. In this program, Mr. Cutler shares information about Indian culture and family traditions, and explains why many of the adoptees were so happy in their new lives. Then the participants will play some of the games that helped Indian children learn skills that were needed to do the work of men and women. The games are as fun today as they were back then.

Wednesday’s, June 27 adult workshop at the Champaign Family Y shelter, is led by Marvin Jefferson, the portrayer of York on Tuesday evening, presents “York, William Clark, Slavery, and American History”. This lecture and discussion program will examine the relationship between York and William Clark. Participants will also explore how slavery impacted their relationship, and how slavery’s legacy denied York his proper place in history for many years.

Ms. Conner will led the youth workshop, “Inspired by Margaret Blennnerhassett” at 2:30 p.m. at the Y shelter. Margaret Blennerhassett was known throughout the Ohio Valley for her creativity. She had a special appreciation for art, music, and poetry. Inspired by Margaret’s love of nature, participants begin by examining some fantastic nature-based art and then create their own imaginative drawings. Finally, they will do some creative writing to accompany the artwork.

On Thursday, June 28, the adult workshop led by Jeremy Meier, portrayer of Oliver Hazard Perry on Wednesday evening, is at the Champaign County Historical Society Museum on East Lawn Avenue in Urbana. “Three Perspectives on The Battle of Lake Erie” is timely with this being the bicentennial of the War of 1812. “We have met the enemy and they are ours...”, victorious words of Perry are still remembered nearly 200 years after the Battle of Lake Erie. Perry’s preparations of his Lake Erie squadron during the summer of 1813 make for intriguing history. But the preparations of his adversary, Commander Robert Barclay of the British fleet, are equally fascinating to look back upon. In this workshop, Mr. Meier’s discusses how each side prepared and strategized for the battle, as well as how Perry’s second-in-command, Lt. Jesse Duncan Elliott, would for years argue a very different version of what occurred in this battle. Following the workshop, participants will enjoy viewing the many displays and artifacts at the Museum.

The young people will meet Hank Fincken, who brings to life John Chapman/Johnny Appleseed for the final evening performance on Saturday, for his workshop entitled, “Becoming Johnny” at the Appleseed Education Center & Museum on the campus of Urbana University. Fincken explains that, “I first met Johnny Appleseed in a cartoon. He was energetic, sincere, and big-hearted, but seemed less than human. My job as an actor is to make him flesh and blood.” In this workshop, Mr. Fincken will ask the students to share their beliefs about John Chapman and discuss how we separate fact from fiction. It concludes with everyone playing theatre games that reveal how gestures and mannerisms bring historical characters to life. Students may be surprised to discover that a little of John Chapman resides in all of us.

Mr. Fincken leads the Friday morning workshop, “John & Johnny: Past, Present, and Future” at the Appleseed Education Center & Museum. Contemporaries described John Chapman/Johnny Appleseed as strange. One even called him “the oddest character in our history.” After he died, people began to see something special, even saintly, in this independent bachelor who wandered the countryside selling apple seedlings and preaching “good news right fresh from heaven.” Walt Disney reduced him to a well-meaning, simple-minded children’s cartoon. But the story isn’t over: John’s image continues to evolve, and the transition is still in flux. Using examples from his own 20-year career portraying John and stories both old and new, Fincken will discuss what we know and don’t know about this pioneer, the magic that makes him so dear to so many, and how and why the next change will make him equally relevant to future generations.

The youth workshop, “Telling a Tall Tale”, led by Jefferson at the Goshen Memorial Park in Mechanicsburg, uses theatre games to open up everyone’s imagination to describe the uniquely American art form, tall tales. Participants will go on an imaginary adventure, creating tales taller than mountains – much like York is purported to have done in his time. In these tall tales, the sky’s the limit!

Saturday, the final day of the OHIO CHAUTAUQUA workshops begins with the adult workshop, “History in a Nutshell: the American Indian Perspective” presented by Cutler at the St. Paris Public Library. Making connections between the past and the present helps make history come alive. In this program, Cutler will travel through time and highlight important aspects of American history, with a special focus on the Ohio frontier. During this fast-paced history lesson, he will explain how, no matter what the time or event, American Indians played an important role.


Mr. Meier will present, “The Star Spangled Banner” to the youth at the Champaign County Library. In September of 1814, Washington had been burned to the ground and British ships were sailing off to Baltimore. What stood in their way was a naval base called Fort McHenry. When Mary Pickersgill was asked to construct a flag to fly above the fort, the demands were large. The flag was to measure 34’ by 40’. In the morning after the attack on Fort McHenry, a young lawyer named Francis Scott Key saw Pickersgill’s flag flying valiantly over the fort. It was the inspiration for a poem he wrote called “Defense of Fort McHenry” and is now our national anthem. In this workshop, Meier’s will lead the youth in a discussion about the history of the American flag and the writing of Key’s poem during the attack on Fort McHenry in the War of 1812.

OHIO CHAUTAUQUA 2012 is presented in partnership with the Ohio Humanities Council, Urbana University, City of Urbana, and the Champaign County Chamber of Commerce and with major financial support from the Urbana Moose.


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