Outdoor Drama Is Popular with Central Ohioans

Attending a production of “Tecumseh!” is a history lesson within a history lesson.

The play that introduces viewers to Tecumseh, a legendary Shawnee leader with a fascinating role in Ohio history, is presented outdoors like early Greek theater. “While the idea of outdoor drama may be new to some people, it's an idea that's very, very steeped in the arts,” said producer Brandon Smith.

The crew of The Scioto Society, which produces the annual outdoor drama, works hard to create a production that offers the true account of Tecumseh and his people, Smith said. The show, which has been seen by more than 2.5 million people since it began in 1973, was written by historical novelist and Emmy award-winning “Wild Kingdom” writer Allan W. Eckert. “We stick as close to history as we can,” Smith said. “The author of the play spent a lifetime researching Tecumseh. He was very knowledgeable about the Shawnee.”

Presented on the outdoor stage at Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre near Chillicothe in Ross County, the play tells the story of Tecumseh's struggle to defend his Ohio homeland during the late 1770s. Great care is given to ensure that the speech, clothing and sets are as historically accurate as possible, Smith said.

The story is told under the stars with the aid of a herd of horses, live military cannons and choreographed battle sequences, Smith said. Due to the noise and drama of the show, he typically recommends it for children ages 6 and older.

He also suggests taking children on the backstage tour prior to the show to prepare them for the commotion of the battle scenes. “They get to meet the actors and learn how the fights are staged,” he said. “That can be very helpful for some kids.”

The drama is particularly impactful because it is staged in the general area where Tecumseh grew up. The region was home to many Native Americans, Smith said. The production highlights some of the local history at its Prehistoric Indian Mini-Museum, which displays artifacts from the Scioto Valley.

The performance and the extra attractions add up to an educational outing that kids really enjoy, he said. “It's absolutely a family evening of entertainment and learning.”