MANSFIELD, Ohio – The classic tale of Ceely Rose will be presented in a brand-new way the first two weekends in October, hosted where the story began at Malabar Farm State Park.
In a fresh new show, “The Ghost of Ceely Rose,” the chilling story will be presented in a multimedia format including music, storytelling, historic photos, and acting in a Chautauqua-style performance. The evening will be capped off by stories of Ceely ghost sightings.
For those familiar to the traditional Ceely Rose performance, director Mark Jordan assures this is not the Ceely Rose play as performed in previous years.
“This is something new we devised where we will be combining my storytelling with projections of historical images of the original people and places involved, which most people have never seen,” said Jordan. “People get to come face-to-face with the original people through the photographs; it’s a rich way of telling the story.”
Jordan was first introduced to the story of Ceely Rose as a child. As an adult, he is most drawn to the story as a vivid study of human nature, and of a small, compact society where everything that can go wrong does go wrong.
“That the whole situation ultimately degenerated into murder is astonishing, because Ceely Rose was – in the analysis of most people who lived around her, dealt with her and knew her throughout her entire life – described as happy, cheerful, even silly,” said Jordan. “But it’s because she was mentally slow that a lot of people didn’t take her seriously as a real human being with real human emotions.”
When these emotions were blocked by way of Ceely’s parents telling her to stop obsessing over her crush on a neighbor boy, the consequences were devastating. But Jordan maintains that Ceely Rose was not an evil person at her core.
“She never stopped loving the very people that she killed; she simply did not understand that she was erasing these people from existence,” said Jordan. “She was quoted later saying that she expected to see her folks again someday and she wanted things to go back to the way they were, and she never understood why that didn’t happen.”
Jordan’s new presentation of the Ceely Rose story is supplemented by thousands of original documents he’s gathered over the years. The documents come most in handy when executing Chautauqua-style storytelling, which Jordan described as “living history.”
“It’s where a person portrays a historical figure but talks in the first person,” he explained. “It’ll be like having some of the people involved in the story talking directly to you in the audience.”
Buried in the historical documents connected to Ceely Rose are clues that tell the actors something about the personalities of the people they’re portraying. Jordan stated in one newspaper report, a friend of the Rose family is quoted talking about something Ceely’s father, David Rose, once said, and a long blank line is written to indicate an expletive was used.
“That tells you David Rose was a little bit rough and ready,” said Jordan. “You gather all of those little clues to help you create the characters and bring it all to life, which is an amazing thing to be able to put it on right where it all happened.”
“The Ghost of Ceely Rose” will be performed outdoors in the barn at Malabar Farm State Park on Oct. 2, 3, 9 and 10. The show itself begins at 7 p.m. but guests may come at 6 p.m. for dinner at an extra cost. Tickets are $20 per performance and $15 per meal, and can be purchased online at mansfieldtickets.com or by calling Victoria Cochran at 419-892-2929.
Even after telling the Ceely Rose story hundreds of time and numerous performances at Malabar Farm State Park, Jordan’s interest in the tale never tires. He said ultimately, his fascination with the Ceely Rose story comes from his studies into the mind of Ceely Rose.
“She was just sharp enough to be able to create incredible destruction with the things she did without ever being able to understand the consequences of it; she fell right in the strange gray area between sanity and insanity,” he said. “It’s one of the classic examples of human behavior. It’s a story that has resonance, it moves people and shakes people up.”
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