Chaplin Conference Oct. 2010
Zanesville, Ohio
Charlie in the Heartland
December 25, 2010
Article and Photos by Linda Wada ©

A mini look back at my conference trip.

October 2010, I went to my second film event, as a presenter. This time I was invited to the Charlie Chaplin International Conference in Zanesville, Ohio.

I recall one of the other presenters invited to the event, asking, "Where's Zanesville?" I admit, I had to look at the map, to drive part of the trip.

Zanesville is located about one hour east of Columbus, Ohio. It is a small town of about 25,000, in Muskingum County. Located on National Road, along the Muskingum River, it is locally known as the town of churches. When I drove in, I could see why, as several impressive church buildings line the downtown skyline.

Edna (and Charlie fan) Cheryl James, from Texas,
with 'guest of honor' of the event.

Why Zanesville? The organizer for the event, Dr. Lisa Stein, teaches at Ohio University-Zanesville. As a Chaplin scholar and fan, Dr. Stein decided to create an event to honor Chaplin's 100th anniversary in America, which started in 1910 with the first of five Karno Tours. Fred Karno gave Chaplin his first big break, in London, where Chaplin worked for Karno for several years. Chaplin's experience working with Karno gave him the comic foundation that Charlie would use throughout his career.

For this event, Dr. Stein invited a wide array of Chaplin authors and experts from Europe, United Kingdom and Japan.The packed program often had three presentations happening at once on the University Campus. Others were held at the Zanesville Art Museum. A special night was held 30 miles south in McConnelsville at the Twin Opera House.

Many Chaplin films were shown ranging from his early work at Keystone (the recently restored versions, with the newly found clip of Chaplin as a Keystone cop) to his first talking film The Great Dictator. Some were with live music, others with the pre-recorded music. There were also a few rarely seen documentaries. Programs started as early as 8 a.m., and contined to late in the evening. So loads of Chaplin over three days, but it wasn't all Charlie Chaplin...

My presentation featured Edna Purviance. I didn't know how it would go over, and not being a professional speaker (only spoke in public twice, in 30 years), I felt lucky to be a small part of the program. The response did tell me, people did really enjoy it, for which I am thankful.

As for the trip, I have never been to Zanesville before, and the few online photos I found, didn't give me a strong indication as to what I would find. But, driving in about 1 p.m., on Wednesday, I discovered a charming town filled wth historic buildings.

Zanesville's historical downtown wasn't full of trendy shops, fake store fronts, or fast food restaurants, thank Heavens! But it did have its share of very interesting buildings from an earlier era. Looking like old postcard albums, were antique shops, several churches, historic homes and businesses, and a beautiful 1880's courthouse!

Every town in America these days has plenty of shopping malls, strip malls and chain stores (and Zanesville has it share tucked into another side of town). But towns are permanently losing what makes them uniquely different from all other towns: the buildings created by the people who once loved and lived in their town in pioneer days. Gone are the buildings that had character, instead of being just another bland box.

It was surprising to hear locals apologizing for their town, as if it were lacking the newest trendy businesses of the big burgs. Take pride, and work to stop any further destruction of your history.

Cities that have preserved their history are prospering from their foresight and vision. There are success stories and examples everywhere.

As for the event, it was so packed, it was impossible to see eveything, but I enjoyed several of the talks, including by David Shepard, Kate Guyonvarch (Roy Export/Association Chaplin), Ben Model, Dr. Frank Scheide, author Ono Hiroyuki, Charles Maland and more.

Three of the events were held off campus:

1) A special exhibit of Charlie Chaplin memorabilia from Dr. Stein, and Leading Ladies showed, for the first time, an exhibit of 15 re-produced photos from Edna's personal memorabilia.

2) An evening at the Twin Opera House theater in McConnelsville, where we saw The Kid.

3) A closing night banquet at the Zanesville Country Club.

It was a great three day event. Special thanks to Dr. Stein for organizing, and a very special thanks to Suzanna Hicks and her son, John, as well as all the students at OU and the Comfort Inn, for being so helpful during my stay. Below are more photos to give you a taste of my three days at the event.

Zanesville, Ohio - Church, courthouse and one of the many downtown businesses.

Left side: Fans and presenters at the University and luncheon.

Video Links about the Chaplin Conference
Chaplin Conference 'Sight and Sounds' | Chaplin Conference 'My Experience' | About the event

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