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Veteran actor will recreate RFK

By Michael Harrington • Jun 11, 2019 at 9:00 AM

MILAN — Ohio Chautauqua returns to the historic village of Milan today.

Ohio Humanities will host the yearly event, which features reenactments of historical figures in communities across the state and runs through Saturday. The event also will bring lectures and demonstrations to the Milan and Sandusky libraries.

Chautauqua takes place under the big tent in the village square, but if there’s poor weather it will move to the second floor ballroom in the township hall. Each night includes a local musical act at 6:30 p.m. before the reenactment at 7:30 p.m.

Milan first hosted the event in 2017.

This year’s historical reenactments include:

• Tuesday: author Erma Bombeck

• Wednesday: Air Force Gen. Benjamin O. Davis Jr.

• Thursday: chef Julia Child

• Friday: labor leader Cesar Chavez

• Saturday: politician Robert F. Kennedy

The reenactment is broken into three parts. First, the historical figure will deliver a speech. Second, they will answer questions in character and finally the actor will answer questions out of character.

Tandem Media Network spoke with Jeremy Meier, chair of Fine & Performing Arts at Owens Community College. Meier will portray Robert F. Kennedy, a man who could’ve been president if not for an assassin.

Q: How long have you’ve been recreating historical figures for Ohio Humanities?

JM: I’ve been performing with Ohio Humanities or similar organizations since 2001. My background is as an actor in theatre. You always have to do some kind of research for acting, but this takes it to a whole new level because you create the monologue and have to be prepared to answer questions as that person. I’ve developed four historical characters for Ohio Humanities, but my favorite to develop was Robert F. Kennedy.

Q: Why Robert Kennedy?

JM: Robert Kennedy is connected to several big figures and movements from the 1930 to the 1960s. He led his brother’s successful presidential campaign, he served as U.S. Attorney General and U.S. Senate and finally ran for president himself.

He’s a really dynamic character connected to other important figures whether it be Jimmy Hoffa or on the other side of the spectrum Martin Luther King Jr. and his brother President John F. Kennedy.

When he ran his brother’s campaign he was all about getting him elected and got a Reputation as a ruthless negotiator. But when he ran for president himself he had a message of social justice and human rights, which lives on through Robert F. Kennedy Human rights, headed by his daughter Kerry.

Q:  At what point in Kennedy’s life does your performance take place?

JM: I set it at a presidential campaign rally in Oakland, Calif., on May 31, 1968, just a few days before he won the California primary and he was assassinated. I chose this particular point in his life because it gives the vantage point of his whole life.

Q:  What is your favorite Robert Kennedy quote?

JM: “Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a ripple of hope.” I think that was his life and legacy.

Q: Why is Ohio Chautauqua’s theme this year Modern Legends?

JM: One of Ohio Humanities’ missions is to study the past to understand the present. These historical figures are as recent as 50 years ago. There will be people in the audience who remember where they were when Kennedy was killed. Then there will also be people who weren’t alive, but still see the effects of their lives.

A lot of times the past mirrors the present for example today there’s a lot of debate on whether the U.S. Attorney General is more loyal to the president than the law. There was the same discussion when Robert was appointed attorney general by his brother. But as attorney general he advocated for the civil rights movement and went after organized crime.

Q: Why should people attend Ohio Chautauqua in Milan?

JM: It’s a great way to spend a night with free entertainment that is family friend, thought-provoking and dynamic. Often times we have people return for all five nights.

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