Ohio Chautauqua Returns to Village of Milan June 11-15
May 28, 2019
This charming, five-day event will once again grace the village square in Milan this June. Recently we chatted with troupe member Jeremy Meier to learn a little about him and about the upcoming event.
LES&I: What is Ohio Chautauqua and what can visitors to the event expect?
Jeremy: Ohio Chautauqua is a five-day community event which combines living history performances, music, education, and audience participation – it is based on the 19th-century tradition established at New York’s Chautauqua Lake. Ohio Humanities brings this fantastic event to different historic communities across the state each summer. This year the tour will visit Defiance, Milan, Burton (Century Village), and Warren. During the week there is a full schedule of events, including workshops and educational programs. But the highlights are the nightly programs which combine live musical performances, community discussions, and then a historical figure comes to visit the tent and talks about their life. It is an interesting way to juxtapose history with the world we live in now. Each night there is a different character who will present a 30- to 40-minute monologue, 20 minutes of questions and answers IN character, and then 10 minutes as themselves to tell you about developing the character.
LES&I: How did you get involved and what characters have you portrayed?
Jeremy: I am currently the Chair of Fine and Performing Arts at Owens Community College in Northwest Ohio – teaching acting and directing student productions. I began portraying characters back in 2001 when I developed the character of a young George Custer – the boy general, not the “Custer’s Last Stand” Custer most commonly known. That was a lot of fun – I like to portray characters that have short but fascinating lives. In 2005 I portrayed John Dillinger and in 2012 I recreated Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry. I have portrayed Perry for several years at many events around the area, most notably on Put-in-Bay at the Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial. As I age, I have to choose older characters. Last year I was able to develop a portrayal of Robert F. Kennedy, which I will perform this year in Milan.
LES&I: What do you like best about portraying Kennedy and what can we expect in your performance?
Jeremy: Robert Kennedy is such a fun historical figure to portray and there is a lot to draw from as far as actual video and audio available from his lifetime. That also makes my portrayal a little more challenging because the audience has a preconceived perception of him as well. I portray Kennedy in a very specific period of time – three days before the California Primary and, ultimately his death. In my monologue I am able to pull dialogue from famous campaign speeches. I have studied his dialect and mannerisms and think I do a good job being in-character. What I love about Kennedy is he started out as kind of a struggling legal counsel, then ran his brother’s campaign, but then really came into his own and evolved into a champion for social justice. A lot of what he was about was fighting for the common good. My monologue is a bit shorter than most because I like to allow a little more time for the Q&A. People really seem to love to interact with me as RFK.
LES&I: What would you tell someone who has never been to Ohio Chautauqua and why they should come?
Jeremy: This year’s troupe features “Modern Legends” – someone who will connect in one way or another to everyone. Someone once said that Chautauqua was “the most American thing about America” and that has really stuck with me. It’s a truly unique experience with a warm, nostalgic vibe. Attending immerses you into history while also opening minds and starting conversations. It’s amazing how some of the historical context still relates to the world today. It’s a really fun event as well, great for all ages and great for communities. We even have “Chautauqua families” and groups who follow the event each year, visiting the different communities throughout the state. I’m looking forward to visiting and performing in Milan.
Ohio Chautauqua 2019: Modern Legends comes to Milan June 11-15 and features living history performances of five historic figures from the mid-twentieth century whose lives and work left a larger-than-life imprint on the American psyche. This year the program will feature James Holmes Armstead as Benjamin O. Davis Jr., the first African-American general officer in the US Air Force; Fred Blanco as Cesar Chavez, labor leader and civil rights activist; Susan Marie Frontczak as Erma Bombeck, famed author of the popular newspaper column, “At Wit’s End”; Karen Vuranch as Julia Child, cookbook author and beloved TV personality; and Meier as Robert F. Kennedy, a politician and lawyer.
Visit the schedule for the five-day event at http://www.ohiohumanities.org/ohio-chautauqua1/milan-2019-2-2/
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