The return of Trumpet in the Land
by Denise Daliege-Pierce
Twilight fell in New Philadelphia, and the ghosts of Tuscarawas County’s rich history re-emerged within the confines of Schoenbrunn Amphitheatre, as Trumpet in the Land opened for its 43rd season on Friday, June 15.
Penned by Pulitzer Prize winner Paul Green, the play describes the formation of Schoenbrunn and the hardships that befell the community as it strove to remain neutral during the Revolutionary War. Performances are held every Monday through Saturday—with the exception of Wednesday—at 8:30 p.m., through August 25.
With pyrotechnics and a cast and crew numbering more than 50 to oversee, Margaret Bonamico, general manager of the Ohio Outdoor Historical Drama Association, works almost ceaselessly to ensure that each evening’s performance is flawless. “Let’s put it this way,” she said. “Yesterday, I went to work at 6 a.m. and went home at 4 a.m.”
Longtime cast member Joe Bonamico, of New Philadelphia, returns as Simon Girty, a part he’s portrayed for more than 20 years; Dover residents Bart Herman and Kami Stanley reprise their roles as David Zeisberger and Sister Susan, respectively.
While the hours are long and the material familiar, with 85 percent of this year’s performers new to the play, Bonamico has little trouble viewing the production from a fresh perspective. “Sometimes, you get a different person playing that character, they add different nuances to the role,” she explained.
“You can’t change the story. The story is history, but you can change the presentation,” Bonamico added.
It’s that story that has, according to Bonamico, enabled Trumpet in the Land to endure—and to help sustain Tuscarawas County financially. “It’s a good, viable piece of performance art,” she remarked. “It’s good for tourism. It’s good for the economic development of the county, but it’s also good for the history of the county.”
With less than three weeks’ rehearsal time to memorize lines, polish musical numbers, and adjust to working with firearms and animals, one might think that Bonamico would have ample details to improve upon. Concerning this year’s cast, Bonamico’s notes were few, numbering two pages, compared to the usual six. The general manager was quick to credit her entire troupe for its abilities. “The show cannot go on without one of those people, from the person who plays David Zeisberger, to the smallest child.”
Trumpet in the Land remains a popular tourist attraction. In 2011, residents from every state in the nation and each of Ohio’s 88 counties, as well as 15 foreign countries, attended the production. Despite the economic benefit to the area—after all, visitors need to have a place to sleep or grab a bite to eat—Bonamico believes that the play is for Tuscarawas County natives, too. “I think it’s for everybody,” she stated. “As far as the story itself, I feel it’s geared toward local people. It’s their story, and it’s geared more toward them.”
Bonamico has her own opinion as to what turns a Trumpet in the Land viewer into a repeat attendee, likening it to rereading a novel or viewing differing versions of a favorite movie. She noted that people attend year after year because they like to see the little differences in the performance.
The Schoenbrunn Amphitheatre will also host The White Savage. The production, centered on the life of Simon Girty, returns on Saturday, July 7, with limited performances through Saturday, August 18. All Shook Up, a musical inspired by—and featuring—Elvis Presley’s music, opens on Saturday, July 28, with shows August 3, August 9 and August 17.
Ticket prices for Trumpet in the Land are $17 for adults, $15 for seniors and $8 for children ages 12 and under. Reduced rates are offered for performances on Monday and Tuesday. Group discounts are also available. For additional information, or to purchase tickets by phone, contact the Schoenbrunn Amphitheatre box office at 330-339-1132.