Siemer on the Amphitheater’s 1987 Comeback

Ron Siemer, who was the photographer for the series of portraits currently on exhibit in the John Byran Comminty Center as part of “The Timeline Show: YS Theater Past to Present” exhibit, ” also contributed articles to the Xenia Daily Gazette as Arts Correspondent.

XENIA, OHIO, DAILY GAZETTE—Thursday,May 7, 1987

‘Radical Surgery’ hopes to revitalize Antioch Amphitheater

By RON SIEMER

DAILY GAZETTE arts correspondent

Denny Partridge, Antioch Theater’s new boss and the physician in charge of restoring health to that ailing enterprise, has announced “Radical Surgery” as the first major operation in the revitalization of the Antioch Amphitheater.

At a press conference Tuesday, Partridge introduced the specialist — husband playwright Steve Friedman — who wrote “Radical Surgery,” a political-sexual farce involving a four-way brain transplant and rampant presidential assassination, which will launch the Amphitheater’s first season in 10 years with a five-day run, May 20-24.

“Radical Surgery” will be performed by a student cast. Curtain time is 8 p.m. on each date. In case of rain — always a contingency with outdoor theater — the dates will move, Partridge said, rather than the play, since the play has been produced for the outdoor theater.

RETURN TO OUTDOOR THEATER

“Everyone is excited about this show,” Partridge said, “not only because it’s a great new play, but because it’s bringing outdoor theater back to Antioch. Once again, outdoor theater will be a large part of the Antioch Theater focus.

“Outdoor theater is a great love of mine,” Partridge said. “And the students really love working here. One of the reasons for restoring the Amphitheater is that it’s such a great place to work.

“Outdoor theater is extremely attractive to people,” she said, “especially to people in a highly cultured, theater-conscious community like this. We’re hoping the community will respond with as much enthusiasm as it did when we started rebuilding the theater department last year.”

Denny Partridge took over as head of the Antioch Theater Department in 1986, with the substantial chore of breathing life into the department’s decaying, all-but-abandoned program and facilities.

‘An energetic program of new theater curriculum, a high-quality season of outstanding plays, and a sleeves-up attack of the job of restoring the Antioch Theater’s physical facilities has resulted in rebirth of the enterprise, which had been revered as a vital and forward-looking entity in the academic world and in area theater generally.

THEATER OF CLASSIC DESIGN

The Antioch Amphitheater itself, an imposing, mostly-concrete structure built in 1961 and modeled after the ancient Greek theater built at Epidaurus more than 2,500 years ago, has loomed as an attractive but strangely abandoned edifice hauntingly like the ancient structure that inspired it.

Often compared to the awe-inspiring stone antiquity at Stonehenge, England, the Antioch Amphitheater has stood as a monument to timeless design and better times — at least for most of the 10 years since it was officially used as an outlet for the dramatic productions of the Antioch Theater Department.

Unlike the ancient theater, however, it isn’t a ruin.

“The Antioch Amphitheater probably is the safest place on the campus,” said Antioch Fire Chief Ariel Leonard.

Built in 1961 by Yellow Springs builder William Hooper, with design consultation by Paul Treichler and Meredith Dallas, the Amphitheater has the visual impact of an ancient fortress with graceful, contemporary lines. Essentially circular, the hemispheric concrete audience seating area is approximately 80 feet in diameter, facing the hemispheric cyclorama (back wall), also of concrete and approximately 20 feet high and 70 feet in diameter.

OUTSTANDING ACOUSTICS

Partridge demonstrated the outstanding acoustics of the theater by standing at center stage with her back to the audience area and speaking in a soft voice. Every word was heard clearly by the several persons sitting in the theater.

“This is one of the many reasons why we’re so excited about plays in the Amphitheater,” Partridge said into the curved back hall. “Not only will we be doing great plays, but we’ll be able to use all the vocal dynamics that make a dramatic presentation really dramatic!”

“Radical Surgery” should be a ringing — and therapeutically effective — opener for the reintroduction of the Amphitheater. Playwright Steve Friedman, now a nearly full-time resident of Yellow Springs, is a successful author of Off-Broadway plays in New York City, affiliated for the past nine years with the Modern Times Theater in New York.

Friedman’s work includes “Fallout” (1985), a short play commemorating the 40th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima; “Freedom Days” (1984), a play about the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s; “Hibakusha” (1982), a prize-winning play about the survivors of Hiroshima that was broadcast in part on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered” in 1982; and other dramas, some of which have been produced internationally.

Friedman also has been a drama teacher in New York, California, and abroad in France. He was won numerous awards for his plays and teaching activities and has written and acted in plays for the San Francisco Mime Troupe.

He still is an active playwright and actor for the Modern Times Theater.

“RADICAL SURGERY” BITING SATIRE

“Radical Surgery” is set in the near future amid the crumbling remnants of America, where even shooting the president has become a national pastime. The four principal characters, who are subjects of a four-way brain transplant that goes haywire, are a southern white racist sniper, a militant black lesbian poet, a jilted surgical nurse, and the wounded president of the United States.

The action becomes a wild and hilarious jumble of shootouts, assassinations, seductions, and general mayhem, liberally mixed with stark revelations about American politics and sexual identity.

Admission to “Radical Surgery” — as to all the plays produced in the Antioch Amphitheater — will be free.

What will be the financial support required for continuing productions in the Amphitheater?

“Maybe we;’ll pass a hat at the end of each performance,” Partridge said. “We really want to keep the Amphitheater and all its productions free to the public. Passing the hat has worked in the past in this community, because people who have come to outdoor plays have been wonderfully supportive. They want this kind of theater to continue.”

OUTLET FOR NEW DRAMA

Partridge intends to continue producing new plays in the Amphitheater.

“This isn’t to be a once-in-a-lifetime event,” she said. “We want to create new plays on a regular basis here. Some of them will be written by well-known playwrights, and some will be written by students. But they’ll all be good theater.

“The lack of original material is a serious problem in American Theater,” she said. “That’s one of the things Antioch Theater is focusing on. A big part of the drama curriculum at Antioch is creating new plays — as opposed to just writing new plays. We’re committed to improving the quality as well as the quantity of American drama.”

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J. Peery Miller Memoirs — Part 4

[In which he describes the process of preparing the apple harvest for use]

In the evening after the regular work of the day was finished, paring and coring apples preparatory for drying was a part of the duty of the whole family. Several bushes of drop apples were brought from the orchard to the house during the day. This labor was generally performed by the women and children, the men being too busy at field work to stop to pick up a few bushels of apples.

After the supper dishes were cleared away the kitchen table was surrounded by all hands able to aid in the important work of saving the fallen apples and adding to the winter supply of edibles.

Family preparing apples – photo taken from J. Peery Miller’s daughter Della’s memoirs

The paring was usually done by a paring machine – a home made affair – consisting of a wooden frame containing a band-wheel six of eight inches in diameter, turned by a crank. By means of a leather belt the power was conveyed to a spool wheel of inch and a half diameter immediately above the crank wheel. The axis of the spool-wheel was an iron spindle the left end of which had two prongs like a fork. On this fork an apple was stuck and a modest turn of the crank gave a rapid revolution to the apple. As the apple spun around a short knife blade fitted into a wooden base with a short handle, was held against it, paring the skin thick or thin according to the setting of the knife in its wooden frame. Any good carpenter could make this machine. The spindle on which the apple revolved was shaped by a blacksmith. I think ours was made by brother Milton, who was skillful in the use of carpenter tools. An expert hand with this machine could keep four or five persons slicing and coring to keep up with him.

[Note: examples of such early apple paring machines can be seen in the Virtual Apple Parer Museum’s Gallery.]

The modern metal parers are fastened firmly to the edge or table by means of a set screw, but the one above described was framed to the end of a board about two feet long, which, when in use, was placed on a bench or kitchen chair and held firmly by the operator’s own weight as he sat astride it.

Personally, I must confess that I did not always take kindly to these family apple-cutting bees. They came at the time when the average farmer boy would rather sleep than work, and frequently I tried to persuade the managers that, in my particular case, the former was more necessary than the latter. Looking at it from the standpoint of youth doubtless my parents sympathized with me, but thee was a question of duty to be considered. Children should help in providing for the needs of the family and dried apples were certainly a necessity. So with visions of dried applesauce and dried apple pies in the future, I applied my knife in quartering and coring the luscious fruit as vigorously as conditions would permit until the end of the session, which was announced by the machine man when he reached for the last unpared apple.

Machine paring was not very satisfactory with bruised or imperfect fruit as the knife would fail to catch all the rind, leaving much for the hand knife to finish. However, much labor was saved by its use.

After the fruit was prepared for drying it was spread out in thin layers on hurdles (commonly called hartels) and these were placed on a scaffold built for this purpose, located in a convenient, sun-shiny spot. The dryhouse with stove heat could be used in all kinds of weather.

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Not Just a Local Big Deal

One of the ways in which Mary E. Morgan shared her love of Yellow Springs history was to create bulletin-board style presentations. An envelope found among the her papers received by the Historical Society containe some of the items used for her presentation on the subject of the notable theatrical Shakespeare presentations at Antioch College in the 1950s with newspaper excerpts indicating the wide interest in the Shakespeare plays across the nation.

To find out more about the history of all theater in Yellow Springs don’t forget to attend the exhibit opening event at the John Bryan Center for “The Timeline Show – YS Theater Past to Present”

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1870s Sketchbook — Part 1

The Yellow Springs Historical Society is the fortunate recipient of a donation by noted local sculptor Jon Hudson of a sketchbook (which he thinks he acquired at an auction) with at least one sketch dated 1870.

Some of the sketches are definitely not of local subjects, but many are, and it should be no surprise that nature is a favorite subject.

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Learn about YS Theater History

There has always been great theater in Yellow Springs, whether amazing Community Theater, “Shakespeare Under the Stars” at Antioch, the YS Kids Playhouse, a Ten Minute Play Festival or High School Musicals and Dramas. The Yellow Springs Arts Council, YS Arts & Culture Commission and the Yellow Springs Historical Society are the joint sponsors of a special exhibit at the John Bryan Community Center between January 18 and June 30: “The Timeline Show — YS Theater Past to Present.”

There will be an opening reception with refreshments 6:30 until 8:00 pm on January 18 in the John Bryan Gallery on the second floor of the Community Center featuring:

  • – Center Stage Head Shots by Ron Siemer
  • – Theater Timeline by Dave Neuhardt
  • – 6-7 Live Music by Barbara Leeds
  • – 7 pm. Early Years of Antioch Theater – talk and slide show by Tony Dallas
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From the Antioch Bookplate Archives — 1990s part 4

A wide variety of illustrators featuring a variety of themes (although another cat illustration makes an appearance) with a few science fiction designs.

B-314 by Jan Brett, suitable for institutional use

B-315 by Sara Eyestone

B-316 by Doyle Gray

B-317 by Helen Lea

B-318 by Pieter Folkens

B-319  the Enterprise from original Star Trek

B-320 Victoriana by Thomas L. Cathey

B-321 Boris Vallejo’s “Golden Wings” (previously introduced on gumned paper as B-141 in 1980)

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A Clean Sweep of Luck for a New Year

The Yellow Springs Historical Society wishes you all the best in 2019

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Pioneering Days at Antioch — Part 8 (final)

ONE OF MY PLEASANTEST ASSOCIATIONS with Antioch is to see Rockford so much used. In 1929 I received a bequest from my aunt, Emma C. Bancroft. She and Uncle William had great and lasting influence on me and on innumerable other young people. In the over-crowded busy life at Antioch there seemed a need for some quiet place where one could meditate in peace. The bequest was used to build it in their memory. Since Uncle William and Aunt Emma Bancroft were Friends, the architecture of a Friends’ meeting-house seemed the only suitable style. William Shilling, a Springfield architect, entered completely into the plan and made no charge for all the work of designing the building. He himself carved the inscription on the mantle. The words are from Uncle William’s bookplate. Bishop Jones was coming that autumn to the college, and the office at the rear was ready just in time for him. So far as I know, a wedding with him officiating was the very first use to which Rockford was put. The name “Rockford” is that of the home of my uncle and aunt at Wilmington, Delaware.

Our house at 120 West Limestone was my dream house. I had planned the inside and Louis Grandgent skillfully put a colonial exterior on it. We had many happy times there. We took folks in to live with us after both the early college fikres, and for all sorts of other emergencies. It was a fine place for parties, but it seemed it must have been fore-ordained as a co-op house, for the dumb-waiter, which was a very casual result of a visitor’s suggestion just at a time in construction when it could be easily added, proved to be the indispensible item for the use to which I put it in 1931 and ‘32. It was sad for me to leave the house, but now it a joy to see the students using it.

To all Antiochians and friends of Antioch who read this, Arthur and I send our greetings.

[Signatures of Lucy G. Morgan and Arthur E. Morgan]

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We Wish You a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

From the Howard Kahoe glass negative collection

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J. Peery Miller Memoirs — Part 3

Although the images are missing from the document, one can get a glimpse of a typical log cabin in this post, and Della Miller provided the photo of the house which replaced the log cabin below.


BUILDINGS AND HOME SURROUNDINGS AT BETHEL FARM HOME

It is stated that when my grandfather, Frederick Miller, purchased the quarter section of land (1817 or 1818) which after his death in 1822, soon became the property of my father, John Miller, there was a log cabin on the land which served as the family abode until the more commodious house, built in the year 1822, was ready for occupancy. Not a vestige of this primitive structure remained in my time. It is hardly probable that it occupied the space needed for the new building, making its removal necessary. There were plenty of building spots, and, besides, the cabin was needed as a residence while the new house was in process of erection. What does it matter now, nearly one-hundred years after its destruction, where it stood, how it looked or what became of it? However, to my mind a picture of that primitive cabin, real or imaginative, is needed as a starting point in the associated interests of my ancestors during that period. No one is now living that can give me a rough memory sketch of it sufficiently accurate to enable an artist to reproduce its size, shape and general appearance. I am left to imagine that it looked like hundreds of other back-woods log cabins still standing in Clark and adjoining counties of Ohio during my boyhood days.

On page 18 of the Miller genealogy brief mention is made of the new log house built in 1822. I attach to this writing (page ) a print of same reproduced by Herbert B. Judy from a description given by brother Samuel, who well remembered the building as it appeared before the pride of the family demanded weather-boarding to conceal the logs and mortar. This improvement with a one-story addition to the rear, and later a porch in front, marks the appearance of our homestead as it was added to the house and its surroundings which the accompanying kodak snap-shots will show, but the same old log structure built by grandfather Frederick Miller in 1822 still supports these modern features with its enduring strength.

The barn seen in these late photographs was built by my father in the year 1848. It took the place of an old log barn of primitive type. Here again imagination must be drawn upon to restore to mind the old building. Much of the timber of the old barn was utilized in building the new frame, but many of the old logs lay heaped up in one corner of the barn yard there to rot if not used to meet special needs on the place. These logs would serve a good purpose as bridge material across ditches in marshy localities; or if cut in short lengths (two or three feet) they made lasty ground-chunks under the corners of rail fences. The purpose of the ground-chunk was to prevent the lower rail of the fence from settling in the ground too far, thereby absorbing moisture which would soon cause the bottom rail to rot. It was a part of the farmer’s work, as soon as the spring weather would permit to repair the fences, pry up the corners and replace the rotten ground-chunks with new ones. Here was work for a ten or twelve year old boy to assist, and I had plenty of it to do.

One of these log heaps (relics of the old barn) lay under a walnut tree which stood in the barnyard not far from the water-trough which was supplied with spring water after it had passed through the milk-house trough, depository for milk and butter. Here was a delightful shady place to play, much enjoyed in my youth. In the fall of the year when the walnuts were dropping, one-half of the labor of hulling was saved by their striking these logs as they came rattling down from the top of this tall tree. My recollection of the happy hours spent in hulling and drying for winter use these delicious nuts is quite vivid. I say delicious advisedly, for I feel and speak as a boy of nine or ten years.

The new barn was a frame and stood on a hill but a short distance southwest of the dwelling (see photographs). It stands today (1917) as built in 1848 with no change except a small shed addition at the northeast corner to give more stable room. Being a bank-barn the lower story was devoted entirely to stabling stock. The upper story contained room for a threshing floor in the center and a large mow on each side for hay or grain. A loft space over the threshing floor was also used for mowing purposes. A granary occupied a part of the space of the westside mow. It was a tight room entered by a special door off the threshing floor and contained bins to receive the different grains when threshed and cleaned. From the northeast corner of the threshing floor a narrow stairway led to the basement story. Down this stairway-opening hay and other feed was pitched to the hall-way below to be parcelled out to the horses in their separate feed troughs and hay-racks (mangers). Sometimes a boy would pitch himself down this gang-way along with the feed. We always had to guard against a misstep or a slip.
All the necessary out-buildings found on farms of an early date were located on spots convenient to the central home, – viz., bake-oven, built of stone or brick under a shed roof; wood-house, smoke-house, carriage-house, spring-house, hog-pen, sheep-pen, wagon-house with corn-crib on one side, a dry-house, heated by means of a wood stove, for drying fruit – the only means of preserving the surplus stock of fruit then known.

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