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Published: Tuesday, 5/8/2012

Troupe brings to life debate over demolition of courthouse

BY JENNIFER FEEHAN
BLADE STAFF WRITER
From left, Sandy Kimmel, Ben Jones and Brittany Green act in the play Market and Washington: Tiffin In Its Own Words,  during a Tiffin city council meeting at the Tiffin Municipal Building in Tiffin, Ohio. There were 8 actors from Heidelberg University. From left, Sandy Kimmel, Ben Jones and Brittany Green act in the play Market and Washington: Tiffin In Its Own Words, during a Tiffin city council meeting at the Tiffin Municipal Building in Tiffin, Ohio. There were 8 actors from Heidelberg University.
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TIFFIN -- The audience listened and laughed and squirmed a bit as the many and varied voices heard throughout the years-long debate over the Seneca County courthouse were brought to the stage.

Well, not quite the stage but the Tiffin Municipal courtroom, where city council and about 20 others gathered Monday night for the premiere of "Market and Washington: Tiffin in its Own Words."

The play was the brainchild of Chris Tucci, assistant professor of theater and director of theater at Heidelberg University, who said he wanted to find a way to examine the debate over the now-demolished 1884 courthouse and the way the community dealt with it.

Through snappy dialogue -- much of it direct quotes from newspaper articles and interviews -- the actors took turns telling Seneca County's story, interwoven with personal tales of what brought some of them to town years ago and what their impressions were. They spoke of people who were willing to help their neighbor.

"I'd say the people are what make Tiffin, Tiffin," as actress Sandy Kimmel put it.

During the 45-minute performace, they poked fun at the people who poked fun at elected officials. They overdramatized what to some was an overly dramatic issue.

Seneca County Courthouse supporter Loretta Miller, right, laughs while watching the live play Market and Washington: Tiffin In Its Own Words,  during a Tiffin city council meeting at the Tiffin Municipal Building in Tiffin, Ohio. Eight actors from Heidelberg University put on the play. Seneca County Courthouse supporter Loretta Miller, right, laughs while watching the live play Market and Washington: Tiffin In Its Own Words, during a Tiffin city council meeting at the Tiffin Municipal Building in Tiffin, Ohio. Eight actors from Heidelberg University put on the play.
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Loretta Miller, one of the Seneca County residents who had criticized the decision to tear down the historic courthouse, watched the play with her sister, Marietta Estep, another courthouse supporter.

"I found it very real, very genuine, very authentic," Ms. Miller said.

"It was just a very positive presentation," Mrs. Estep said. "And we need all the positivity we can get."

Seneca County Commissioner Jeff Wagner -- the only one of the three commissioners who attended - admitted he was a little nervous before the play started because he didn't know what to expect.

"I was entertained and uplifted," he said afterward. "It was entertaining the way they portrayed me."

At one point, an actress speaking in an affected British accent, warned, "Jeff Wagner, don't you dare walk in the Heritage parade. You will be heckled."

Holly Stacy, who defeated Commissioner Dave Sauber in the Republican primary and will be on the ballot in November, also attended.

"I think they had a very important message -- the message of cooperation and collaboration being what needs to develop," she said.

Tiffin City Councilman Rich Cline agreed with the performers who spoke about the need for better relations between the campus communities and the city residents.

"My point is: let's do that," he told the troupe. "Whatever that looks like, I'm all for it."

Council President Paul Elchert agreed with the play's other main point.

"We need to move forward, be progressive, and make Tiffin a better community," he said.

The play is to be performed three more times in Tiffin: at 6 p.m. Thursday at Trinity United Church of Christ, at 9 p.m. Friday at the Clover Club, and at 1 p.m. Saturday at Bailiwick's Coffee Co.

Contact Jennifer Feehan at: jfeehan@theblade.com or 419-724-6129.



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