TIFFIN -- Make no mistake. Market and Washington: In Tiffin's Own Words refers to the 1884 Seneca County Courthouse that once stood at that corner.
But a troupe from Heidelberg University who created a play by that name says the drama is not strictly about the courthouse debate; it's about community.
"Our point is not that the right thing was done or the wrong thing was done," said Chris Tucci, assistant professor of theater and director of the play. "This isn't a play like a Scooby-Doo caper where we figured it out at the end. We wanted to examine the voices of our community -- how we spoke to each other, how we responded to each other -- and what happens to us now."
The 44-minute play premieres today at 7:30 p.m. before Tiffin City Council, which meets in the municipal courtroom. The eight-person troupe, which includes students, faculty, and a community member, also is to perform the play Thursday at 6 p.m. at Trinity United Church of Christ on East Perry Street, Friday at 9 p.m. at the Clover Club on South Washington Street, and Saturday at 1 p.m. at Bailiwick's Coffee Co. on South Washington Street.
Heidelberg senior Ben Jones of Columbus said he and others interviewed a variety of community members, including Seneca County Commissioner Ben Nutter and Tiffin Mayor Aaron Montz, about the courthouse. They read through newspaper articles and talked to people on the street.
County commissioners had wrestled with renovating or demolishing the courthouse since it was vacated by the courts in 2004.
After a lengthy effort by historic preservationists to save the building, commissioners voted 2-1 last year to tear it down. It was razed in January.
Mr. Nutter, who along with Commissioner Jeff Wagner voted for demolition, said he hopes to catch one of the performances this week.
"My impression is they sort of were looking at it from the outside looking in -- their impressions from all of the rhetoric surrounding it and of course I think they gleaned a lot of their information from opinions as opposed to factual information," Mr. Nutter said. "I appreciated the opportunity to give them the information we based our decision on."
Sandy Kimmel, a community member who is part of the play, said the characters are not named, although the audience is likely to recognize them by what they say.
"You just have to kind of figure that out," she said. "We don't say, 'This is Ben Nutter.' "
"We're not making it easy so you can identify your villain and tear them down," Mr. Tucci added. "You have to take the words and what they are."
Mr. Tucci said 99 percent of the dialogue consists of verbatim quotes from interviews, meetings, and newspaper accounts.
The play does not have a traditional plot, Mr. Jones said, but consists of "scenes created through conversations."
"We kind of make the interviews talk to each other," Mr. Jones said. "We make the comments we found from the Advertiser-Tribune, The Blade, and other newspaper sources talk to each other."
Mr. Tucci said he was inspired to find a way "to respond to what's happening in our community, to be a part of the conversation" during a Heidelberg gathering where faculty members were discussing the places they'd rather live than Tiffin. After mulling it over, he issued an open invitation for interested people to come together shortly before spring break to begin brainstorming, improvising, and writing what has become Market and Washington: In Tiffin's Own Words.
Heidelberg student Nick Comer, 20, who also is involved with the production, grew up in Tiffin. He said his family was generally in favor of saving the old courthouse.
"Whenever I talk to my family members about [the play], they're always very interested. The first thing they always ask is, is it for or against the courthouse?" he said. "I always have to explain that the courthouse is the setting for it perhaps, but the real issue is community."
Contact Jennifer Feehan at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6129.