COLUMBIA — Mary Barile has been writing plays for more than four years. As a theater history doctoral student at MU and the director of the Missouri History in Performance Theatre, Barile finds ways to tell interesting stories by unfolding history.
For the 200th anniversary of the Missouri Gazette, the first newspaper in the state, the Missouri Press Association, the State Historical Society and Friends of Historic Boonville are teaming up to sponsor a performance of one of Barile’s plays put on by the Missouri History in Performance Theatre.
The play, titled “The Editor is Absent: Tribulation & Triumph in Missouri’s Pioneer Press,” is based on old news articles published across Missouri between 1808 and 1858. However, the play is not simply a reading of articles, but the history of Missouri newspapers told in a story.
Thespian Hall in Boonville will open its doors on Saturday as Barile’s story of Joseph Charless, the founder of the Missouri Gazette, is told by Missouri journalists and MU students and staff.
Carole Sue DeLaite, development officer for the State Historical Society, said that it was fitting that this performance would take place in the hometown of Walter Williams, the founder of the MU School of Journalism.
“Thespian Hall was finished in 1857, so it’s just a spectacular historical structure and the acoustics are truly amazing,” DeLaite said. “I think when they were looking for a spot to do this program, Thespian Hall seemed like a really great place to do it.”
“Although we used material from original news articles, they are placed in context, along with some humor,” Barile said.
The papers from which she drew, she said, show that 19th century Missourian readers were “sophisticated, opinionated and engaged.”
“It’s also clear that readers needed to be familiar with literature, politics, history — as much, if not more so, than readers do today,” Barile said.
Cathy Barton and Dave Para, traditional musicians and music historians of Boonville, will also incorporate music from the 19th century into the play.
Darren Hellwege of KBIA will read the part of Joseph Charless, the founder of the Missouri Gazette. He said that the piece is written in a fun and interesting way.
“This (play) manages to actually present itself in a way that is going to be very universally felt,” Hellwege said.
Other readers include Gloria Dossett of the MU Theatre Department and Ben Friesen, an associate producer for MU’s Academic Support Service; Missouri journalists Jim Robertson of the Columbia Daily Tribune, Jim Steele of the Fayette Advertiser and the Democrat-Leader, and Bob Priddy of Missourinet and the radio series “Across Our Wide Missouri.”
Overall, Barile said she hopes those who come to see the performance will understand that history is more than a book full of dates, but a connection with those from the past.
“Missouri history goes far beyond dates and battles and elections,” Barile said. “History is made by people with whom we still have a great deal in common.”