New play draws on oral-history projectsGAMBIER, Ohio (September 25, 2003) Thanks to Kenyon students and a Kenyon professor, the stories of seventeen Knox County residents will figure in a play that uses the lives of real people to create a portrait of twentieth-century Ohio. The play, From Here: A Century of Voices from Ohio, will be performed in Mount Vernon's Memorial Theater on Saturday, October 4, at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday, October 5, at 2:00 p.m.
A creation of the Wallpaper Project in Wapakoneta, Ohio, From Here weaves together personal stories of immigration, wartime, hard times, and good times, along with reminiscences of everything from favorite foods to folk remedies. Forty communities around the state are hosting performances during 2003, Ohio's bicentennial year. The script actually varies according to the performance venue, incorporating stories of local interest. Local performers, moreover, join the professional actors in staging the play.
The play's creators gathered material by contacting organizations around the state that had conducted oral-history interviews. One such group was Kenyon's Rural Life Center, which has used oral history and documentary photography to produce a number of award-winning projects that explore Knox County life. "The Community Within," for example, presented a rich picture of the county's African-American community. Other projects include "The Family Farm Project" and "Life Along the Kokosing."
In giving voice to everyday people, these projects readily lent themselves to an undertaking like the play, according to Professor of Sociology Howard Sacks, the director of the Rural Life Center, who has served as the humanities scholar for the statewide project. "History comes alive when it's told through the voices of those who have lived it," says Sacks. "The impact is even greater when those stories relate directly to your own community, your friends and neighbors."