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By Dr. Edward Miggins, George Hrbek, & Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek

Author’s Note: “The Peoples of Cleveland” script is primarily based on oral histories which were collected be the Cleveland Ethnographic Museum. Interviews were collected from the Cleveland Public Library’s Cleveland Heritage Program and students at Cuyahoga Community College were also used. The play helps us understand how and why different nationality groups left their former homes, settled and worked in Cleveland, and created their ethnic neighborhoods. Like many cities, Cleveland became an ethnic mosaic of diverse nationalities and races rather than a melting pot. The slides which accompany the play were made from photographs from Cleveland Public Library, the Cleveland Press collection at Cleveland State University, the Western Reserve Historical Society, and the family albums of the people we interviewed.

I became interested in developing an oral history play after seeing “Baltimore Voices,” a similar program produced by Ted Durr, the head of the Social Studies Department at the University of Maryland. He and a group of social studies teachers has organized the Baltimore Neighborhood Heritage Program which worked with a local theatre to produce an oral history play.

After studying the history of immigrants and neighborhoods with Professor James Shenton at Columbia University during a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, I helped design the Cleveland Heritage Program in 1980. The program developed photographic exhibitions and histries of the Central-Woodland, Near West Side, and Fleet-Broadway neighborhoods. This work has continued in my Community Studies Class at Cuyahoga Community College where students use the Heritage Program’s Guide to Studying Neighborhoods & Resources on Cleveland to create oral and family histories and investigate different neighborhoods in Cleveland.

I have recently received a grant through Dean Gartland’s office at Tri-C to develop an oral history center as a base for collecting and using this kind of material.

Robert Lewis, a former trustee and honorary Scholar-in-Residence at Cuyahoga Community College, was the person who told me the wonderful work of the Near West Side Community Theatre. Stephanie Morrison-Hrbek and her husband, George Hrbek, and I put the script together, but it was the staff and the performers of the Near West Side Community Theatre which brought the concept to life. It has been the most rewarding professional experience of my life.

Finally, this play is dedicated in loving memory to my father, Michael Miggins, who emigrated from Ireland to America in 1924. His laughter, love of life, hard work, and tolerance were the qualities of living which are celebrated in the play." – Dr. Edward M. Miggins


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For information on how to arrange a performance of "The Peoples of Cleveland: Building Community," contact the theatre directly.


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