By Linda Dillman
Student actors from Canal Winchester High School are helping the local historical society bring history to life this month with the 15th annual Historic Ghost Tour on Oct. 22 and 23.
“The Canal Winchester Historical Society approached me about incorporating the high school drama department in the tours in 2019,” said Abbey Phillips, Canal Winchester High School arts/drama manager. “We participated in the tours that year filling the spots at three of the tour stops and creating some fun surprise moments in between stops.”
This year, high school actors are filling four of the tour stops and adding interactive improvisational moments between stops. They are portraying Mike and Jeff Hockman at the Hockman Mill, Goldie and Elwood Shaw of Universal Motors, George Bareis at the former Bareis Lumberyard, and Frances Steube at the Community Center.
“For our first year, we had 10 students involved in the tours,”said Phillips. “We also were lucky enough to have two graduates of the program who happened to still be around town and were available to come back and participate as well. This year we anticipate having about 15 students involved in the tour as well as a few graduates who would like to return again.”
Phillips works with the Canal Winchester Area Historical Society starting in the spring to determine which sites will be featured in the fall event. Once locations are determined, previous scripts are updated and rewritten for a pair of actors instead of just one and new ones created. Once the scripts are complete, students are brought into the process.
Rehearsals are held once a week the month prior to the tour.
“The students who get a tour stop are in charge of conducting their own research to understand everything in the script and really know who their character was,” Phillips said. “The students who are playing our ‘surprise characters’ on the other hand, are given the history of a building they will be placed near and have to develop a character who fits the time period and location. We are lucky enough to have a fairly comprehensive costume collection within the department. When we start the costuming portion of the process, we bring each student in and show the options we have. From there, they are able to personalize a little and decide for instance what kind of tie or hat or prop their character might have worn.”
High school junior Audrey Taft participated in the Ghost Tour her freshman year. It was her first experience with Canal Winchester drama. She made many lasting friendships and had a great experience seeing people scared when they saw actors playing in the yard as dead school children.
“I was also very educated about the history of our town,” said Taft. “I think this is a great experience to act in, and just to watch in general.”
Ghost Tour actor Jonathan Pauwels said his previous experience with the tour was amazing because he was able to expand his skills as an actor and performer while learning about the town’s history.
“Telling people about the town of Winchester in character is much more fun than just reading it online,” said Pauwels.
Event goers are guided by lantern-carrying volunteers along the way as they are entertained by the actors depicting people from Canal Winchester’s past. Tours last approximately 90 minutes and start at 7 p.m. each night, with the last tour departing at 7:30 p.m.
All tours depart from the Canal Winchester Historical Complex at 10 W. Oak St. Tickets are available each evening of the tour beginning at 6:30 p.m., or any time online for pick up at will call (25 cent transaction fee). Tickets are $10 per adult and $5 per student ages 6-18; children five and under are admitted free of charge. Please leave pets at home.