Next month, Dayton will celebrate the centennial of the greatest natural disaster to hit Ohio – the great Dayton flood of 1913. I’ve read the stories. I’ve watched documentaries. I’ve looked through countless pictures. I’ve walked along downtown streets to see the water line markers.
Back in the 1990’s, playwright director W. Stuart McDowell, and my friend, Timothy Nevits, wrote 1913: THE GREAT DAYTON FLOOD. Unfortunately, I did not get to attend that production. Tonight, I was blessed to see the newest production of 1913, and was quite moved. I knew the story of the flood, and was quite eager to see this production.
My son, who knew some of the history, was also taken with the production, and commented how much he cared for the characters – especially knowing that they had walked the same streets we’ve traipsed up and down. Often, Quintin leaned forward in his seat, absorbing the unfolding drama of the disaster. Several times he whispered questions in my ear, wanting to know more about the natural gas explosions that compounded the devastation, and hampered the rescue mission.
Stuart McDowell, chair of WSU’s fantastic theatre, dance and motion picture department, molded an absolutely breath-taking production, weaving various stories and individuals – several known to history, others foreign. John Patterson, one of Dayton’s giants during the golden years, ran one of the most incredible missions from his headquarters at National Cash Register, more commonly known today as, NCR. One thing I love about Stuart’s work as a director: he has the students thoroughly research! In this, I think Stuart and I were separated at birth.
One of the neatest elements, for me, was hearing the voices of Dayton’s own, Martin Sheen, Ruby Dee, and her husband, the late Ossie Davis. What a wonderful touch!
Reviews of the production: