RHS students join Chautauqua troupe
Three Rossford High School students have spent their summer “stuck in the past” to prepare to bring history to life at the Rossford Chautauqua.
RHS students Hannah Beene, Alex Chiarelott and Nolan McHugh will be portraying Florence Scott Libbey, Edward Ford and Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones.
Jeremy Meier, assistant professor of theater and director of the Center for Fine and Performing Arts at Owens Community College, has been guiding the students through their preparations.
“Rossford drama teacher, Julie Zatko, recommended these three students when she learned of this ambitious project. And it's no wonder why she recommended them!” Mr. Meier explained.
“Hannah, Nolan and Alex have brought a serious work ethic, an appetite for learning and an enthusiasm for performing. These qualities have served their characters and the history well.”
Hannah, the daughter of Thomas and Cescelie Beene, has been in six shows produced by the RHS drama department, including “The Boys Next Door,” “9 to 5” and “Rock of Ages.”
“After studying the character for a few months and remembering as many important details about the person’s life, you really start to appreciate who they were–and in a sense, a part of that person you portray never dies,” she explained.
Her portrayal of Florence Scott Libbey (1863-1938) highlights a woman who with her husband, glass industry pioneer Edward Drummond Libbey, was a world traveler and fashionable member of Toledo society at the turn of the 19th century.
The daughter of a successful Toledo real estate dealer, Mrs. Libbey was an avid art collector, focused on Asian art and ceramics.
The couple donated enormous financial and leadership resources to the Toledo Museum of Art, founded in 1901, including her family’s homestead and other Monroe Street property where the museum opened.
Her grandfather, Jesup Scott, was an early editor of the Toledo Blade. Scott Park campus, Scott High School and Scottwood Avenue are named after him.
In 1912, she donated her entire art collection to the museum.
She and her husband had traveled the world over, bringing home more than 200 exotic treasures to display at the museum–including several Egyptian mummies.
Mrs. Libbey served as trustee and vice president of the museum. During the Great Depression, she financed construction of the music wings, including the Peristyle, thus employing some 3,000 persons.
She left her estate to various interests, most notably the Toledo Museum of Art and a perpetual endowment to the Scott High School library.
Alex, the son of Erik and Joy Chiarelott, has been involved with the RHS drama club for four shows, including a lead role in “Fantastic Mr. Fox.”
He will portray Rossford’s founder, Edward Ford.
In 1898, Mr. Ford (1843-1920) purchased 173 acres of farmland on the Maumee River to build a plate glass factory, thereby establishing the roots of Rossford.
Construction began on the factory, as well as the many needed homes for the workers who would follow him from Ford City, Pennsylvania.
Known as a kind and generous man, he personally paid for or donated toward many projects in the community, including schools and the public library.
He also built the Ford Club near the plant as a place for employees to gather with fellow workers and their families.
The name “Rossford” is a combination of his last name and that of his second wife, Carrie Ross.
Active in the community, Mr. Ford served as a director of Second National Bank of Toledo, Dime Savings Bank of Detroit and the Toledo & Ohio Central Railroad, as well as a trustee of the Toledo Chamber of Commerce.
In 1916, the Libbey-Owens Sheet Glass Co. was formed and, in 1930, merged with the Edward Ford Plate Glass Co. to form the Libbey Owens-Ford Co. (L-O-F).
This merger helped to create Toledo’s reputation as “the Glass Capital of the World.”
The company was producing roughly one fifth of all the plate glass in the U.S. by the time of Edward’s death in 1920. He operated the factory until passing away.
Nolan, the son of Karen and Marty McHugh, has been involved in the RHS drama club for three years, acting in nine productions. In the summer he assists the City of Rossford recreation department’s youth theater program.
He will portray inventor, oil man, factory owner and Toledo mayor Samuel “Golden Rule” Jones (1846-1904), who is perhaps best remembered for his positive attitude in treating others.
Born in Northern Wales, he came to the United States in 1850, starting to work at the age of 14, and eventually moving to Lima, where he drilled the first large oil well in Ohio.
In 1893, he invented a “sucker rod” that permitted deep-well drilling. Securing a patent, he began to manufacture the device and founded the Acme Sucker Rod Co. in Toledo.
The city was in the midst of a depression, where crime, prostitution and public graft were thriving.
But with personal experience being poor, unemployed and underpaid, he decided to operate his factory to benefit workers. His only rule of employment was posted on a factory wall: “Do unto others as you would do unto yourself.”
Mr. Jones paid workers well, never used time clocks offered bonuses and profit-sharing, and limited the workday to eight hours instead of the usual 12.
The Republican Party nominated him for mayor in 1897. He opened free kindergartens, built parks and reformed city government.
Loved by the average citizens, unions, churches and more, he was elected again in 1899, 1901 and 1903, preaching “principle before party.”
Mr. Jones died in office before his fourth term expired in 1904, at the age of 57. More than 55,000 citizens attended his funeral.
The student Chautauqua performances will take place from 2 to 3 p.m. on Sunday, July 23, under the red-and-white-striped tent at Veterans Memorial Park.