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War Finds A Way: Fairfield 1813, at the Capitol Theatre

While the Battle of the Thames is most remembered as the battle in which Indian Chief Tecumseh was killed, there is another story that is seldom told.

For that reason, Theatre Kent and St. Clair College have partnered to bring that piece of local history to the stage.

War Finds A Way: Fairfield 1813, will be presented at the St. Clair College Capitol Theatre from Thursday, Oct. 3 to Saturday, October 5 at 8 p.m. each evening.

The play has been written by local playwright Karen Robinet, and features a large cast ranging in age from five to over 80.

Robinet said she began researching the play several years ago and became intrigued with the story of the peaceful Moravian mission at Fairfield.

The Indian mission was home to about 150 people, with the leader determined to keep their people out of the War of 1812. However, as the war inched ever closer, that became impossible. By early October of 1813, British General Henry Procter was on the retreat and having a difficult time convincing his Indian warriors, led by Tecumseh, to stay with the British.

As the Americans continued their unrelenting advance, the mission and its people were drawn into a war they had tried hard to avoid.

“I could see that the potential was there for a very interesting story,” said Robinet in a news release. “The most challenging part was trying to separate the many myths and fictions surrounding Tecumseh and the battle itself from the truth.”

Virtually all the characters in the play are based on real men, women and children, many of whom lived at the mission. The show focuses on the last four days at the mission, which finds its fate caught up in the tragic events of the day.

Robinet said that between writing the third and fourth versions of the script, she came across the transcript of Procter’s trial. Long painted as a fool and blamed for the British loss, Procter has been treated harshly by historians.

However, in War Finds A Way, Procter has his day in court, literally. Robinet, who is also directing the play, said this is the first opportunity Theatre Kent has had to present a play at the Capitol.

She said the cast and crew are looking forward to the experience and said the large stage can be used to good advantage in this production.

Theatre manager Lesley Grand said the college is excited about the partnership. “Theatre Kent has a reputation for providing high quality entertainment for the community and this show is no different,” she said. “It will be a testament to the commitment of this volunteer organization as well as one of the highlights of the War of 1812 Celebration weekend. The St. Clair College Capitol Theatre staff are proud to be partnering with Theatre Kent on this important piece.”

Cast members include Michael Dick as missionary Johann Schnall, Lawrene Denkers as his wife, and Aislynn King and Brynn Larkin as their children. The local Dolson family are portrayed by Tim Luimes, Crystal Horst, Chantelle Legere and Bryden Larkin.

Procter is portrayed by Keith Burnett, while Tom Coatsworth appears as American General William Harrison and Emery Ball is American Commodore Oliver Perry.

Tecumseh is being brought to life by Bill Craven, while the fictitious role of Hostile American Soldier is being handled by Bill Tye. Jan Holt appears as another American, Angry Woman.

Other key actors include Samuel Hodges, Ethan Crow, Emma Vandermeer, Nasha McLay, Eric Bristow and Michael Slade.

“We also have another dozen or so actors who appear in various roles throughout the show,” Robinet said.

The show will also feature the Chatham-Kent Children’s Chorus under the direction of Rachel Schwarz.

The show is part of the week-long Cultural Odyssey being presented in conjunction with the Battle of the Thames re-enactment event.