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onCampus--Ohio State's faculty/staff news

Vol. 38, No. 18

By: Francesca Amigo

OSU Newark first stop for Ohio Chautauqua 2007

Big tent means big fun and learning for all ages

Each summer, a red-and-white-striped circus tent visits five Ohio communities for five days each, bringing with it a spirited mix of interactive theater, local music, entertainment and education.

Ohio Chautauqua 2007 will begin its tour at Ohio State Newark June 20-24 outside the Reese Center. The theme for 2007 is World War II, and scholars/presenters will talk about stories from the homefront, politics, international relations and accounts of battles both in the air and on the ground.

Five actors (scholars-in-residence) accompany the tent to present entertaining and educational workshops by day and perform in character by night. After each performance, that evening’s actor will answer questions from the audience about the character he or she portrayed.

From left, Angela Bartley as “Rosie the Riveter;” James Armstead as “Benjamin Davis Jr.;” Doris Dwyer as “Margaret Bourke-White;” Karen Vuranch as “Pearl Buck;” and Peter Small as “Franklin Roosevelt.”
The featured characters are President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, played by Cleveland native Peter Small; humanitarian and author Pearl Buck, portrayed by Ashland University alum Karen Vuranch; photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White, played by Miami University graduate Doris Dwyer; Tuskegee Airman Benjamin Davis Jr., presented by retired U.S. Naval War College Professor James Armstead; and “Rosie the Riveter,” a.k.a. Rose Will Monroe, played by Kentucky dance instructor and certified flight instructor Angela Bartley.

“We’ve been doing this for 10 years, and it’s always an adventure, for us and our ‘Chautauqua groupies’ around the state,” says Fran Tiburzio, director of public relations at the Ohio Humanities Council.

The process of selecting a theme, historical characters and actors to play those characters is more rigorous than people might think, Tiburzio adds. A Chautauqua Advisory Committee chooses a topic, generates a list of individuals they’d like to see portrayed on stage and then sends out a nationwide call for actors.

Would-be Roosevelts have to write an essay detailing their scholarship, include a video of their performance and provide letters of reference. The committee is very exacting on what it will and won’t accept, Tiburzio says.

“You’ll notice we don’t have a Churchill this year, and I’m not too thrilled about that, but the committee decided he just wasn’t good enough,” she says. “Same thing with the guy who applied to be General Patton: He was more of a motivational speaker than a scholar. You’ve got to really prove that you know your stuff before you go on our stage.”

Ohio Chautauqua traces its roots to the 19th century, beginning as educational summer camps at Lake Chautauqua in New York. As the outdoor summer school format caught on and word of Chautauqua spread, communities requested to be added to the Chautauqua schedule. The big tent and its accompanying lecturers, musicians, actors and other presenters traveled from town to town, sharing news, humor and culture.

Audiences who come to Newark’s big tent can participate in youth and adult workshops during the day — hosted by the actors/scholars — that cover topics such as radio programs in the 1940s, photographs from World War II and women’s roles on the homefront. The Newark Public Library will host youth workshops from June 20-24, each beginning at 10 a.m. A final youth workshop, June 24, will be hosted at Ohio State Newark, also beginning at 10 a.m. Adult workshops will take place at the Newark campus beginning at 1 p.m. All evening performances begin with a musical concert at 6:45 p.m. featuring groups such as Sweet Adelines and University Singers.

For more information about the program at Ohio State Newark, visit newark.osu.edu/chautauqua. To read biographies of the scholars and learn more about Chautauqua, visit ohiohumanities.org/chaut/index.htm.

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