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David Henry Thoreau encourages each of us to go on a self-exploration journey

| July 9, 2015

COSHOCTON – The second night of Ohio Chautauqua was cold and rainy, but that didn’t keep away the crowds as they sat enraptured by Mr. Henry David Thoreau, philosopher and American author most famous for his novel, ‘Walden’.

Jerry Weaver never fails to provide good old-fashioned entertainment on his banjo. His performance began at 6:30 p.m. and included a song from Mr. Thoreau’s time in the 1840s, a Russian song entitled, “Dark Eyes”. Weaver ended his performance with his signature song, “Bill Bailey, Won’t You Please Come Home”, which is always a crowd-pleaser.

After a brief intermission, Henry David Thoreau, portrayed by Kevin Radaker, took the stage. Thoreau invited all in attendance to immerse ourselves in nature, finding God in the stillness of a forest rather than in a sanctuary. Thoreau also challenged the audience to go on a journey of self-exploration and to travel internally through thoughts and imagination. He was also an active abolitionist and spoke out against slavery whenever possible.

“When I accepted the challenge of portraying Thoreau back in 1990, I read as broadly and as deeply as I could,” said Radaker. “I couldn’t read every article published about him, but I’ve read about 60 to 70 percent of the books about Henry David Thoreau and I’ve read everything he has ever written. I’ve published four articles over the years. Once I took on this task, I found that this is my niche. There are very few professors in the nation who do this sort of thing. Theatre was my minor in college, so this is a wonderful marry of history and theatre.”

Radaker grew up in Warren, PA, which is surrounded by nature.

“I grew up as a kid spending a lot of time out of doors,” he said. “The first time I read Thoreau as a kid, it was his connection with nature that first interested me. It wasn’t until later that I started studying his deeper philosophy.”

Three women who traveled from Cambridge to hear Thoreau speak came across an ad for Chautauqua in their local newspaper and decided to attend.

“At one time, Chautauqua came to Cambridge and we loved it, and we wanted to see them again,” said Sharon Lewis. “He (Radaker) portrayed Thoreau very well and made it seem like he was really talking.”

The three are planning on returning Saturday night to see Martin Luther King Jr.

“I was really blessed to have a mother who was a history teacher,” said Lewis. “She was a lifelong learner. We didn’t have much money back then, so we always went camping. Once, we went to where Thoreau’s cabin was on Walden pond. Tonight as he was talking, I thought a lot about being in that setting. My mother was a great fan of his. I remember her talking about ‘Walden’ a lot. She taught me so much.”

Tonight, Olive Anne Oatman, white captive of Native Americans, takes the stage at 7:30 p.m. Musical entertainment will be provided by The Lindseys dulcimer music at 6:30 p.m.

Sponsors of Ohio Chautauqua in Coshocton County include Coshocton Foundation, Montgomery Foundation, and the Simpson Family Foundation. Supporters include the Coshocton Library, COTC, Annin, Frontier Power, Habitat for Humanity, Coshocton Village Inn and Suites, REACT, the Sheriff’s Auxiliary, and Boy Scout Troops 402 and 412.


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About the Author ()

I have been employed at the Coshocton County Beacon since September 2009 as a news reporter and assistant graphic artist. I am a 2004 graduate of Newcomerstown High School and a 2008 graduate of Capital University with a bachelor’s degree in Professional Writing. I am married to John Scott and live in Newcomerstown. We have two beautiful daughters, Amelia Grace Scott and Leanna Rose Scott.

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