History & Mission

In May 1970, The Scioto Society was incorporated as a tax exempt, non-profit corporation. It dedicated itself to the cultural, historical, educational, and economic development of the tri-county area. These counties were, Ross, Pickaway, and Pike; as well as the state of Ohio in general.

The principal impact area was designated as Ross County. The Society’s major goal was to help restore regional and national awareness to the area surrounding Chillicothe, so that the area could assume its’ rightful place in the early history of the United States. The Northwest Territory was in the particular thought of this process.

The first stage of that goal was realized when the premiere performance of the outdoor drama Tecumseh! was held in the summer of 1973, at the newly constructed Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre. Its 206-acre location was purchased by the Society and its 1689 seats continue to fill to capacity each summer.

The drama has grown in popularity worldwide over the years. It has been selected, as one of the top 100 attractions in North America by the American Bus Association, and it has received local, state, regional, and even national acclaim.

It has drawn well over 3 million visitors to Chillicothe during the past 52 years. Along with serving economically, and culturally to the area, Tecumseh! serves as a tradition to many families and is the first live arts experience for many children in Ohio.

Along with producing Tecumseh! the Society has undertaken many subsidiary programs over the years that have benefited the community. Along with playing a key role in developing the Scioto Valley Arts Council, and the Ross-Chillicothe Convention and Visitors Bureau, the organization has additionally sponsored concerts ranging from Symphony, Folk, Country, or Rock; as well as Community and Children’s Theatre, Statehood Day celebrations, and Bicentennial events.

On an educational standpoint, the organization has given lectures and talks to service clubs at the local, state, and national level. The continuance of offering college credit in undergraduate and apprenticeship programs draws young actors and technicians to the area. All offerings are done with the idea that the arts and humanities can and do serve as economic stimuli.

The Society directly serves the citizens of Ross, Pickaway, and Pike counties through its offer of employment and direct economic impact via Tecumseh! This impact is easily measured in the tens of millions each year.

The corporation operates at over a 90% earned income level through the operation of the drama and supplements its budget by receiving contributions, sponsorships, and grants from various sources on the local, state, and federal level. In 2015, Tecumseh! experienced an uptick in attendance with over 43,000 people attending the drama.

Mission: The mission of The Scioto Society is to advance and promote the artistic, recreational, industrial, economic, commercial and civic development of Chillicothe Ohio and the surrounding geographical areas comprised of Ross, Pickaway and Pike counties.  The Society’s primary focus is the annual presentation of the historical drama Tecumseh! and also any additional activities that drive, support and promote the development, stability and prosperity of the area, its history, its residents and its visitors

Amphitheatre Construction 1972.

Dr. David Weiss (director), Allan W. Eckert (playwright), Rusty Mundell (founder), Bob Evans (founding board member) opening night 1973.

Ohio Rep. Myrl Shoemaker & Arthur Rolette (Chief, Absentee Shawnee Nation), opening night 1973.

Members of The Scioto Society board receiving the 2019 Grand Pineapple Award from the Ross-Chillicothe CVB.

A Note From the Producer

Is This A True Story?

There is a great history of portraying military action and communal resistance on the stage.  In fact, the first play which we have recorded history of was by a writer named Aeschylus and it is called The Persians.  Like our play, it was written from the point of view of the defeated, and takes place in one of the capitols of the Persian Empire.  It opens with the Queen Mother, Atossa, as she awaits news of her son King Xerxes’ military aggression and attempted extermination of the Greeks.  An exhausted messenger arrives, and offers graphic description of the Battle of Salamis and Xerxes’ defeat.  “On, sons of Greece! Set free your fatherland, set free your children, wives, places of your ancestral gods and tombs of your ancestors! Forward for all!”  A lovely speech, likely not word for word of what was actually said!

In interpreting history through the arts, details are often skipped over.  How else would one fit 20 years of history or more into a two hour play or film?  However, we attempt to portray our story in a dramatic and entertaining way while working in as much historical accuracy as possible.  Many hours are spent in designing costumes and props to ensure historical accuracy (ask me about that guitar you’ll see on stage tonight!)  Years of reading and research went into writing the script.  Even so, new information comes to light constantly, informing our understanding of events and the people who shaped them.  Our playwright, Allan W. Eckert, writes in the prologue of his massive biography of Tecumseh (A Sorrow In Our Heart, 1991)  “Research for The Frontiersmen took seven years, yet in the interval since that initial research began in 1958 considerable new material has come to light.  In a few cases the author made use of material that later research proved to be either in error or exaggerated.”

While there have not been any revelatory discoveries since Tecumseh! premiered 52 years ago that fundamentally change the story, the people or our understanding of either…sensibilities and social norms certainly have had.  The way that we feel about the people and events in the story might be different now that they were in 1973, or 1920…or 1797.  It is the goal of the producers to present the story as written, without judgement, in an attempt to create a deeper understanding and desire to learn more in the viewer.  Perhaps most importantly, to keep the dream of Tecumseh alive….”teach my white brothers and sisters, that when you send the dawn, you sent it for all.”

So yes, it’s a true story: interpreted through the lens of history and drama.  It is a dramatization of historical events and people.  Outdoor Historical Drama follows in the footsteps of the Greeks and Shakespeare in this way.  We are not historians, and our play should not be taken as the definitive historical record.  We produce a drama based in historical events and featuring historical characters.

It is not our intent nor is it possible for us to give you an in-depth depiction of the events in Tecumseh’s life in one evening.  However, it is our hope that by seeing the drama, the viewer might be interested to learn more about Tecumseh, the Shawnee people, and the history of our state.

But even more than that…we hope that you enjoy the opportunity to gather with others from all 50 states and around the world for an evening of theatre, thought, history and entertainment.

Lastly, we hope that it ignites conversation both at the theatre and beyond.  Gathering with each other and talking is an important idea, perhaps more important than ever.

Thank you for gathering with us.

-Brandon Smith, Producer