An exciting mixture of education and entertainment, Ohio Chautauqua will travel to four historic communities across the state this summer.
The tour begins in Defiance (June 4-8). Evening performances will take place at the Defiance Public Library. Follow the tour during its second week in Milan (June 11-15). The New England-style village near Lake Erie will hold evening performances in their bustling town square. Geauga County (June 18-22) is the setting for the third week of the tour. Century Village Museum in Burton, an authentic representation of a Western Reserve Village from 1798 to the end of the nineteenth century, will host all evening performances. The tour’s final week is Warren (June 25-29), where Ohio Chautauqua is a community tradition. Evening performances will be hosted in their beautiful downtown park, which is adjacent to Warren’s town square.
This summer, Ohio Chautauqua explores the theme Modern Legends. The program showcases historical figures from the mid-twentieth century whose lives and work left a larger-than-life imprint on the American Psyche.
Ohio Chautauqua kicks off each week on Tuesdays, when Susan Marie Frontczak portrays Erma Bombeck (February 21, 1927 – April 22, 1996). Bombeck captured—with great poignancy and humor—the daily life of a new American phenomenon: the suburban housewife. Believing you had to be able to laugh at life to get through it, she captured the essence of the housewife’s daily struggles in her column “At Wits End” three days a week, eventually appearing in 900 newspapers across the country and in books such as “I Lost Everything in the Post-Natal Depression” and “The Grass is Always Greener Over the Septic Tank.” She brought to American awareness the life of millions of women whose lives otherwise often felt invisible and taken for granted. She let women across America know: You are not alone. In fact, we number in the millions. I, too, am an American housewife, and I will laugh by your side.
Fridays will feature Dr. J. Holmes Armstead as American United States Air Force general and commander of the World War II Tuskegee Airmen, Benjamin O. Davis Jr. (December 18, 1912 – July 4, 2002). Davis was the first African American general officer in the United States Air Force. On December 9, 1998, he was advanced to four-star general by President Bill Clinton. During World War II, Davis was commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron and the 332nd Fighter Group, which escorted bombers on air combat missions over Europe. Davis flew sixty missions in P-39, Curtiss P-40, P-47, and P-51 Mustang fighters. Davis followed in his father’s footsteps in breaking racial barriers, as Benjamin O. Davis Sr. was the first African American general in the United States Army.
On Thursdays this June, join Karen Varunch as cookbook author and beloved TV personality Julia Child (1912 – 2004). In recent years, TV shows about food have captured the imagination of Americans. The art of cooking has become a hobby and passion for people across the nation and around the world. But before Rachael, Emeril, or Paula—or any of the myriad chefs who now occupy our TV screens 24/7—a tall, gangly woman with a preposterous voice and joy of life revolutionized the art of cooking for Americans. In the 1960s, Julia Child brought her love of French cooking to the American public, using her remarkable energy and humor to change the way American thought about food, and convinced a nation that anyone could create gourmet meals. Julia Child was an innovator who, with her enthusiasm for food and joy for life, ignited a national obsession and passion for good food.
Friday evenings Fred Blanco brings Cesar Chavez (March 31, 1927 – April 23, 1993) to the stage. Chavez was a labor and civil rights activist and reformer who, with Dolores Huerta, founded the United Farm Workers labor union to protect the rights of migrant workers. Chavez brought national attention to his cause by organizing non-violent protests, boycotts, legislative reform efforts, and hunger strikes in the spirit of Gandhi and Martin Luther King. In 1968 he went on a widely publicized 25-day fast promoting non-violence, which ended with an outdoor Roman Catholic mass. For thirty years Chavez tenaciously devoted himself to the problems of some of the poorest workers in America. The movement he inspired succeeded in raising salaries and improving working conditions for farm workers in California, Texas, Arizona, and Florida.
Each week will wind up with a Saturday evening performance of Bobby Kennedy by Jeremy Meier. Robert Francis “Bobby” Kennedy (November 20, 1925 – June 6, 1968) was an American politician and lawyer who served as a United States Senator from New York from January 1965 until his assassination in June 1968. He was the 64th US Attorney General from January 1961 to September 1964, serving under his older brother, President John F. Kennedy, and his successor, Lyndon B. Johnson. In 1968, Kennedy was a leading candidate for the Democratic nomination for the presidency; he ran on a platform of racial and economic justice, non-aggression in foreign policy, decentralization of power, and social change. A crucial element of his campaign was an engagement with the young, whom he identified as being the future of a reinvigorated American society based on partnership and equality.
This summer’s Modern Legends will be portrayed by scholars from all around the US.
Susan Marie Frontczak has given over 700 presentations as Marie Curie, Mary Shelley, Irene Castle, Clara Barton, and Eleanor Roosevelt across 38 of the United States, and abroad in her 18 years as a Living History scholar. Susan Marie also works with both adults and youth to develop their own living history presentations. She authored the Young Chautauqua handbooks for Colorado Humanities and works with students throughout the state. As a teen, Susan Marie competed with her mother to see which of them could snag the monthly Good Housekeeping magazine first, in order to read Erma Bombeck’s column. Now the challenge is to convey Bombeck’s humor along with the person behind the persona.
Dr. J. Holmes Armstead is a retired professor of Strategy and International law from the US Naval War College. He has taught international law, strategy and national security policy for nearly 40 years. Professor Armstead has served on faculties at Stanford University, Pepperdine University, the University of California. the University of Nevada, Southern University the US Naval Postgraduate School, Lewis University, the Virginia Military Institute and Washington and Lee University. He participated in negotiations enlarging NATO with the accession of Poland, Hungary, Slovenia, Slovakia, Albania, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Dr. Armstead has assisted in drafting constitutional reforms in Montenegro, South Africa, Poland, the Congo, and Lithuania and is currently Of Counsel to the American Bar Association Office of Human Rights. Dr. Armstead lectures on International law at the Austrian Academy of Higher Military Studies in Vienna.
Award-winning storyteller and actress Karen Vuranch has toured throughout the US with her traditional storytelling and living history performances—including Julia Child, Clara Barton, Edith Wharton, Louisa May Alcott, and Belle Starr—and has completed five tours of Wales and England with Coal Camp Memories. Vuranch also performs a WWII play, Homefront, and produces audience-participation murder mysteries with her traveling troupe, the “In Cahoots Players.” She has recorded a CD of Potluck: Stories and Songs about Women, Wisdom and Food and a DVD of Coal Camp Memories. In addition to her work as a storyteller and actress, Karen is the Director of the Theatre Department at Concord University. In addition to teaching theatre courses, she directs at least two mainstage productions a year.
Fred Blanco has appeared on stage and screen for 20 years, performing with the national touring troupe, Traveling Lantern, and the street theatre company, The Bad Puppets. Featured on radio and television, his solo production, “The Stories of Cesar Chavez” has reached theatre audiences for the last 12 years. In that time, he has worked with the LAUSD and L.A. County Office of Education to bring theatre into the classroom. He has brought the show to the famed Chicano theatre, Su Teatro in Denver, CO, and The National Hispanic Cultural Center, in Albuquerque, NM, just to name a few.
Blanco has toured theatre festivals internationally bringing home BEST OF FRINGE from Canada and San Francisco as well as the prestigious BRICKENDEN Award for Best Touring performance in London, Ontario. In addition to his theatrical show, “The Stories of Cesar Chavez,” he speaks as Chavez for the Chautauquas around the country.
Jeremy Meier is a professor of theater at Owens Community College in northwest Ohio. He teaches acting and has directed nineteen student productions at the school including Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night and Romeo and Juliet. He also has adapted and directed texts for the stage, including Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and American Salvage by Bonnie Jo Campbell. Meier has created several original solo performances for Ohio Chautauqua, including Robert F. Kennedy, John Dillinger and Oliver Hazard Perry. In 2016, Meier was awarded a grant by Ohio Humanities to pilot the state’s first Chautauqua Training Program for new scholars learning to develop original figures based on historical figures.