History coming to put on a show

Chautauqua series headed to Hance Pavilion

By Sam Wildow - swildow@aimmedianetwork.com

PIQUA — For those who have ever wanted to talk to a historical figure from the past or have an appreciation for history and unique theatrical performances in general, the Piqua Chautauqua series coming in September will entertain and educate.

Miami County Visitors Bureau Executive Director Diana Thompson said Chautauquas began as a traveling show and local assembly in the U.S. in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They combined education with entertainment in the form of lectures, concerts, and plays. Today’s Chautauquas are similar and hire humanities scholars who perform as historical figures while providing entertainment and light refreshments.

“There is an Ohio Chautauqua event that’s put on every year by the Ohio Humanities Council,” Thompson said.

Thompson explained the Ohio Humanities Council visited Piqua to consider holding a Chautauqua event at Hance Pavilion in Fountain Park.

“Hance Pavilion is a Chautauqua building,” Thompson said.

Chautauqua performances have a history in Piqua back to when the Piqua Community Chautauqua Association held their first festival at Fountain Park in 1912.

The Ohio Humanities Council declined to hold the Ohio Chautauqua event in Piqua in 2017, but encouraged a group of local interested officials, particularly the leading organization for this event, Mainstreet Piqua, to hold their own.

“The good news is, we just found out, we got accepted for the Ohio Chautauqua in 2018,” Thompson said.

While Piqua will be the site for the Ohio Chautauqua next year, that’s still not stopping a group of community-minded people, as Thompson called them, from hosting their own local Chautauqua this year as well.

Members of the committee for the Piqua Chautauqua series include Thompson; executive director of Johnston Farm and Indian Agency Andy Hite; executive director of Mainstreet Piqua Lorna Swisher; Piqua City Manager Gary Huff; Piqua Mayor Kazy Hinds; executive director of the Piqua Arts Council Jordan Knepper; and executive director of the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce Scott Miller. Thompson said that Hite, who runs an agency known for hosting popular history-based activities, helped the committee decide which characters to choose for this series.

Being held from 6-8 p.m. Sept. 19-21, at Hance Pavilion, the Piqua Chautauqua series will focus on historical figures alive during World War I.

Kicking off the event on Sept. 19, Karen Vuranch — a storyteller, actress, and writer — will portray Edith Wharton, a Pulitzer Prize novelist best known for “The Age of Innocence” and “Ethan Frome.” Thompson added, “Edith Wharton was a correspondent in France … (and) instrumental in getting France more involved in the war effort.”

The next day, Charles Pace — who tours the country reenacting influential figures in U.S. history, including Frederick Douglass and Malcolm X — will take the stage as W.E.B. DuBois. DuBois was a sociologist, historian, civil rights activist, and a co-founder of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in 1909.

For the last night, Paul Vickery, Ph.D. — a professor of history at Oral Roberts University and reenactor of historical characters such as Henry Ford and Bishop Francis Asbury — will portray Woodrow Wilson on Sept. 21. He will particularly show Wilson as he went against his campaign promise to keep the U.S. out of World War I.

Thompson explained that each of the nights will begin with a performance from that character followed by two question and answer periods. During the first question and answer session, the actor will remain in character and answer questions as the historical figure he or she is representing. During the second question and answer session, the actor will answer questions as themselves.

“It’s a free event,” Thompson said.

There will be light refreshments at the event. Attendees will also be greeted by different musical performances as they arrive before the main event.

“It’ll be quite a wonderful evening,” Thompson said. “There’s plenty of seating in the pavilion. We just want everyone to come out and enjoy this free opportunity to hear these performances and to learn about their important roles in history in this time period.”

This event is supported by the Miami County Foundation, the Piqua Community Foundation, Hartzell- Norris Charitable Trust, and the Neils A. and Ruth Lundgard Foundation. Partners include Mainstreet Piqua, the Piqua Arts Council, the Piqua Public Library, Johnston Farm and Indian Agency, the Piqua Area Chamber of Commerce, the Miami County Visitors Bureau, and the city of Piqua.

For further information, contact Mainstreet Piqua at 937-773-9355.

Chautauqua series headed to Hance Pavilion

By Sam Wildow


Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmedianetwork.com or (937) 451-3336

Reach Sam Wildow at swildow@aimmedianetwork.com or (937) 451-3336