Reynoldsburg writer adds amazing American men to show

 Messenger photo by John Matuszak
Performers, from left, India Franklin, as Harriet Tubman; Jane Dickson, as Clara Barton; Carl F. White, as Frederick Douglass; Gaye Suver, as Carrie Nation; and Peg Smith, as Frances Willard, will appear in "Amazing Americana," Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. at Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church, 1636 Graham Road. Written and directed by Reynoldsburg resident Donna Marcum, this is one of her first presentations to include famous men as well as women, and will include a segment of musical compositions.

Since 2000, Reynoldsburg writer and storyteller Donna Marcum and her troupe of thespians have been portraying the lives of "Amazing American Women," and are now ready to let the men have their say.

"It’s amazing women, men and music from our past," Marcum commented on her latest production, "Amazing Americana," which will be presented Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. at Reynoldsburg United Methodist Church, 1636 Graham Road.

In addition to dramatic monologues on the lives of Clara Barton, Harriet Tubman,  Frances Willard and Carrie Nation, the production will feature a portrayal of Frederick Douglass by Carl F. White.

White, a noted vocalist who has performed with Opera Columbus and other companies across the country, will first appear in the rags of a slave and sing "Deep River."

Later, in the impeccable dress of the leading abolitionist, White will join India Franklin, portraying Tubman, in rendering "Amazing Grace."

"I’m excited. I’ve always wanted to sing with him," said Franklin, who also portrays Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Freeman, the first person to challenge the legality of slavery, in the "Amazing American Women" productions.

Marcum’s son, professional musician Mark Potter, and her grandson, Chase Potter,  a member of the Columbus Youth Jazz Workshop, will perform selections by "Amazing American Men Composers."

Her husband, Adam, will recite the Gettysburg Address.

Marcum adapted her scripts from the book "Amazing American Women" by Kendall Haven, relating little-known details about familiar figures such as Betsy Ross and Annie Oakley, and introducing audiences to such characters as Charley Parkhurst, a woman stagecoach driver who posed as a man.

Since its inception, the Forever Friends Drama Group has given more than 200 performances everywhere from "broom closets to country clubs," according to their brochure.

The unifying thread in the stories has been how these women overcame obstacles to have an impact on American history.

Jane Dickson, who portrays Clara Barton, said that it is important for citizens, and particularly young people, to understand what these people had to overcome to give us the freedoms we enjoy today.

The towering figure of Frederick Douglass fits right in with that theme, according to White.

"He’s someone all of us, black and white,  should look up to," White said of the man who escaped from bondage and educated himself to become a leading advocate for the abolition of slavery.

Douglass was also a strong supporter of rights for women, White noted.

Marcum, a member of the Storytellers of Central Ohio, penned the segment on Douglass from her own research.

White said he feels a kinship with Douglass from his own work improving  civil rights and opportunity through his work with the Ohio Fair Housing Congress.

Douglass intoned "What’s possible for me is possible for you," White said.

His appearance is framed by Franklin’s emotional recitation of Tubman’s own flight to freedom and her repeated returns to the South to lead others along the Underground Railroad.

Dickson will dramatize Clara Barton’s efforts to  improve the medical conditions for soldiers, which led to the founding of the American Red Cross, which benefits the victims of natural disasters.

Gaye Suver and Peg Smith will be on stage together as Carrie Nation and Frances Willard, leaders in the 19th century temperance movement.

The axe-wielding Nation, inspired in her quest by her first marriage to an alcoholic, is the better-remembered personage today, Suver noted, but Willard was more widely  known in her day.

Smith admitted that, before taking on the role, she didn’t know anything about Willard, who was also a leading suffragist and the first woman honored with a statue in the U.S. Capitol Rotunda.

Smith, the drama director at Pickerington North High School, is responsible for the costumes worn by the performers.

Marcum said she is "an amazed American woman" that the productions have continued to reach a wide audience.

She is also pleased to have worked with her own group of amazing women – and now, men.

"They are a real dedicated group," she said.

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