Chautauqua opens July 24
June 24, 2012
Jeremy Meier will perform in full character July 24 under a huge red-and-white-striped tent on the south lawn of downtown Warren’s historic Kinsman House, portraying War of 1812 hero Oliver Hazard Perry.
Meier has been studying Perry for more than a year now, even going so far as to remodel the kitchen in his home into a huge timeline of the war.
That came, Meier said, through a deal with his wife, Adrian, who wanted the kitchen remodeled last summer.
“It was the only way I could get all of the information into my head was to be surrounded by it,” he said.
Meier is scheduled as one of five characters who will present portrayals about ”When Ohio was the Western Frontier” in free presentations open to the public for five days beginning July 24.
It is part of the 14th installment of the Ohio Humanities Council’s Ohio Chautauqua, returning to Warren for the fourth time this summer.
The event this year is being sponsored by the Tribune Chronicle, Warren-Trumbull County Public Library and Trumbull 100 in partnership with the Ohio Humanities Council and the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau. It is part of a year-long string of events helping to mark the Tribune Chronicle’s celebration of the 200th year of newspaper publishing in downtown Warren.
Other character portrayals that will be featured during the five-day Ohio Chautauqua event are Johnny Appleseed, Margaret Blennerhassett, Chief John Logan and York.
The Humanities Council’s Chautauqua director Fran Tiburzio said the Oliver Hazard Perry monologue will be presented from the vantage point of Perry speaking at the five-year anniversary of the Battle of Lake Erie during the War of 1812.
Perry is best known as the hero of that naval skirmish of Sept. 10, 1813, that won control of Lake Erie for the U.S., cutting off British Supply lines from Canada. Perry became a hero almost overnight, with some help from the Tribune Chronicle’s predecessor, the Trump of Fame, still in its infancy then.
Trumbull County Historian Wendell Lauth said a member of Trumbull’s Adams family was a mail carrier from Cleveland to Pittsburgh and was traveling through Warren around Sept. 14, 1813, bringing word of Perry’s victory.
The Sept. 14 edition of the Trump of Fame contained the first published account of the victory in any newspaper of the day.
“By the express mail, we have received the good news that Com. Perry has made an attack on the British fleet, and after a dreadful conflict, has succeeded in capturing six of his vessels. When the mail left Sanduskey [sic], the prisoners were landing…,” the newspaper reported.
A later edition of the Trump includes a copy of a letter Perry wrote to an unspecified superior, believed to be Gen. William Henry Harrison, detailing some aspects of the battle, including the casualties from some of the British ships:
“The capt. and first lieut. of the Charlotte, and first lieut. of the Detroit were killed, Capt. Barclay, senior officer and the commander of the Lady Prevost, severely wounded. The commanders of the Hunter and Chippeway [sic] slightly wounded. Their loss in killed and wounded I have not yet been able to ascertain, it must however have been very great. Very respectfully, I have the honor to be, sir, your obedient servant, O.H. Perry.”
Following the war, Perry continued his naval career and was on a diplomatic mission to Venezuela when he contracted yellow fever. He died on his 34th birthday, on his ship, Aug. 23, 1819.
The actor who will portray Perry, Meier, of Sylvania, is an assistant professor of theater at Owens Community College and has toured with Chautauqua twice before.
In 2001, he portrayed General George Armstrong Custer for the “Buckeyes in the Civil War” tour, and again in 2005, when he played John Dillinger for the “Roaring 20s” tour.
Meier said he knew that this year’s tour would be “When Ohio was the Western Frontier” and also knew that it would be the bicentennial of the War of 1812.
“I thought what character would be better to link the war and the theme than Perry?” Meier said.
Perry is well-renowned in the area of Sylvania, near Toledo. Another town, Perrysburg, is nearby, as is the Perry Peace Memorial.
Meier said that, unlike Custer and Dillinger, who were both outspoken men, Perry was reserved and prided himself on being a gentleman. In that way, his writings were limited and he often asked that his letters to others be burned after they were read. Meier said he has has to read other people’s accounts of Perry to get the “juicier details.”
He said Perry’s decorum also does not allow him to quip with people who ask questions Perry wouldn’t like, as he was able to do when portraying Custer and Dillinger.
He also has studied the war itself extensively, on top of Perry’s role in it.
“By being the one character in this tour with a direct link to the War of 1812, I feel like I have to be on my toes about the whole war and not just Perry’s part in it, because it’s the one time during the week when people will have a chance to ask a question about the war, and I feel I need to be prepared to answer them,” he said.
Meier said he is excited to come to Warren because it is the closest the tour will get to Erie, Pa., where there is a recreation of the bridge of the Niagara, one of the two main battleships in the Battle of Lake Erie.