Ross County OH- The 2020 Tecumseh Outdoor Drama season comes to an end, even before it can begin with this statement from Brandon Smith, CEO of The Scioto Society Inc.
“I’ve always been lucky in the sense that I kind of always knew what I wanted to do. I loved the idea that an experience could transform us to a different place and time through books, movies, sports, shows and music. Those experiences were magical to me. I remember receiving a magic kit for Christmas one year that I’m sure I drug around for ages. My parents took my brother and I to see David Copperfield when we were quite young. I think I still have an autographed headshot somewhere. It was simply a thrilling experience. I remember reading the secret garden as well. There was something that enthralled me about magic places and things hiding in plain sight all around us. I was sure that the Majestic Theatre had magic secrets.
But it wasn’t until I saw Tecumseh! that I knew I had found real magic. How lucky was I to grow up in a town that had this in its backyard? Although at that time I did not put two and two together and realize that this was going to be the world in which I lived the rest of my life, I knew that that experience was going to be important to me somehow.
The performing arts, and all arts generally, are the real magic in the world. Not only do they have the ability to provide a sensory experience, they have the ability to build community. We know that kids who are involved in the arts in school do better, they are better listeners, they score higher in math, they are less likely to be involved in crime, they are more apt to get involved in their communities, and from a capitalistic standpoint…they wind up with more successful careers. These are facts. And even in a time where facts don’t seem to be as important as they used to be, they are still reality. The Outdoor Drama Tecumseh! has provided millions of people with an arts experience. Sometimes it’s even life-changing. Often, it is the only performing arts experience in which a family will take part. It is the first performing arts experience for tens, if not hundreds of thousands of Ohio children.
It is also a major economic force in our community. According to Americans for the Arts, Tecumseh! produces over $2.2 million in economic activity outside the gates of the theater every year. Multiply that by the 47 years in which it has been produced, and you get a massive dollar amount which has been pumped into our counties. Tecumseh! revolutionized the tourism industry here, and today it is one of the largest industries in Ross County. Through our bluegrass series, trunk show, Halloween events, Shakespeare on Sugarloaf and more, we continue to break new ground year after year.
The situation that we find ourselves in now is unprecedented. I have managed organizations through all kinds of difficult situations, 9/11, Y2K, the swine flu, and more. But none of them were as difficult as this one. These are the hardest decisions that I have ever had to make. These are the hardest decisions I have ever had to ask a board to make. It is gut wrenching, heartbreaking, and frustrating. But these are the decisions that must be made.
The number one mission of the Scioto Society board and staff right now is to preserve the organization for future years. We realize that in this moment the number one priority for our community needs to be the health and safety of ourselves and everyone around us. That trumps everything else.
These are not decisions that were made lightly. Nor were they made in a vacuum. We consulted with other outdoor dramas all over the country, and in fact all over the world. We worked closely with the Southeastern Theater Conference and their membership. We were in touch with other tourist attractions around the state. We had direct conversations with the Ross County Health District, the CDC, and the department of health of the State of Ohio.
There is nothing certain about this disease or this outbreak. We ran dozens of scenarios looking at the financial impact of what might possibly happen if…. We considered the health and safety of our company, our patrons, and our community. We also realize that now is the time where all of our resources need to be concentrated on one thing… defeating this outbreak.
Therefore we have made the decision to cancel the 2020 season of Tecumseh!. We will make an announcement at a later date on our fall production, but we have every intention of it going on as scheduled. An announcement was made several days ago that our spring musical production with Brian Clowdus Experiences, The Sound of Music, will be performed in April and May of 2021.
This will have a massive financial impact on the Scioto Society, and the whole of our community. The Scioto Society hires nearly 100 people per season to make Tecumseh! operate. The loss of jobs is heartbreaking. Hotels, restaurants and shops will be the most directly affected. But our suppliers, the vast majority of whom are local will be affected as well. Our marketing partners will be affected. The local coffee shops and gyms who see a surge each summer from our actors will be affected. It will affect YOU.
The support of our community from individuals and businesses will be paramount to being able to open in 2021. We will be coming to ask for your financial support, but not yet.
It is my hope that in the coming months when the call goes out for assistance, our community will answer in an unprecedented manner. The Scioto Society has been there for you for 47 years. We have supported education programs, food drives, disaster recovery operations, and more. The company donates tens of thousands of dollars’ worth of tickets every year to worthy organizations and fundraisers. For the past several years we have given a free ticket to every child in every school in Ross, Pike, and Pickaway Counties. The company has also founded many other important events and organizations including the Scioto Valley Arts Council, the Ross Chillicothe Convention and Visitors Bureau, and The Feast of the Flowering Moon.
We will be asking for your support not because we want to put a play on our stage, but because the work we do is important.
In her book, The Secret Garden, Frances Hodgson Burnett wrote:
“At first people refuse to believe that a strange new thing can be done, then they begin to hope it can be done, then they see it can be done—then it is done and all the world wonders why it was not done centuries ago.” That was certainly true of Tecumseh! when it was founded in the early 70s. This community bound together to create the impossible. It will soon be time to do it again.
I hope you’ll join us.
Please stay safe and healthy. We want nothing more than to see all of you at the theatre in 2021 (tickets are on sale NOW at our website!), and share in the magic with us!
Brandon Smith, CEO
The Scioto Society, Inc.”