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Historical Figures to Make an Appearance in Springfield

You may be surprised to see people like Will Rogers or Henry Ford walking down the streets of Springfield this later this week. But don’t be alarmed, these actors are visiting as popular historical figures from the 1930s to educate folks in the Ozarks about what life was like 80 years ago. KSMU’s Royal Yates has more.

This weekend Springfield will be hosting an event to educate people in the area about how life was different in the 1930s. Former U.S. president Franklin Deleanor Roosevelt will be present as well as historical icons Henry Ford, Will Rogers, and Aimee Semple McPherson.

Events that use actors to educate more mature audiences about historical events are often called Chautauquas. Chautauquas became extremely popular as traveling actors began entertaining the masses in the late 1800s. Theodore Roosevelt said Chautauquas are "the most American thing in America,” and actors seem very happy to be involved in such a historically patriotic event.

Dr. Tonia Compton, who will be playing depression-era evangelist Aimee McPherson, says she really enjoys getting to educate people through her role.

“For me, the Chautauqua is a very unique way to do that. It brings history to life in a way that a lecture on Aimee Semple McPherson never could. Being able to see the character and envision them as they would have appeared, and hear their words brought to life really teaches history in a spectacular way.”

Those who attend the event will be able to ask the characters questions about how things were different when they were alive as well as how they would react to modern day situations. Compton says this is the time when she best connects with the audience.

“It’s fun to sit in the audience and watch the performance, and to hear the questions they ask. That’s when we really see that audience members aren’t just enjoying themselves, but they’re learning and they’re processing what they’ve learned. They’re making connections between the past and the present,” she says.

The Chautauqua will take place under a tent at the Library Center at 4653 S. Campbell Avenue in Springfield April 22-25. For more information about the many performances that will be taking place during the event, you can visit thelibrary.org.

For KSMU News, I’m Royal Yates.