Third Rail Projects’ performance of “Anthem” showed the history of Fort Ontario and public and private aspects of soldiers’ lives through dance and theater to 300 people Oct. 11 and 12.
“Anthem” aimed to teach Oswego State students and the community about Fort Ontario in a new way.
The Third Rail Projects is a performance group from New York City. In their performance of “Anthem,” they used the area and building in the fort as their stage.
“We drew inspiration directly from the space’s history and architecture”, said Zach Morris, co-artistic director for Third Rail Projects. The theater troupe found out about Fort Ontario when they visited Oswego last spring and were instantly inspired.
There are some Oswego State students who do not know the history of Fort Ontario. “Watching ‘Anthem’ made me more aware of the history of Fort Ontario,” said Nadia Yaqoob, a student at the performance. “I never realized Oswego has so much history. I plan on coming back to the fort soon to learn more.”
The effect that Yaqoob felt is what the fort and performers hoped that the performance would cause.
The performance showed many aspects of soldiers’ lives as well as the buildings in the fort. The performers used parade grounds, the officers’ quarters and underground barracks to show soldiers’ work and personal lives. Each building focused on a different aspect and told a different story that kept the audience interested.
At one point during the performance, one of the performers interacted with a member of the audience. He played catch with a baseball with her and told her what his life was like guarding the fort.
“This fort has seen its fair share of action, just not recently,” one performer said. “We eat, then wait, we perform drills, then wait, waiting, waiting and it’s all we do.”
The performers also used the construction of the buildings to perform various stunts. There was a fight scene between two soldiers, and they used the stone arches to do stunts. This not only made the performance more intense, it also created a beautiful piece of dance choreography. The performers used a cannon as a center point in a dance scene not only to create a beautiful scene but to also remind the audience of the time period and the struggles they faced.
Fort Ontario was first built in Oswego in 1775 and since then has been rebuilt four times. The fort that is currently standing was constructed between the years of 1839 and 1844. The fort was involved in the French and Indian War, Revolutionary War and War of 1812. During World War II, the U.S. Army occupied the fort, and it served as a safe haven for refugees from Nazi Germany. In 1953, the fort was turned into a historic sight.
Ever since Fort Ontario was turned into a historic sight there have been many programs to teach people about its history.
“It is vitally important for college students to learn about the history of the town they study in,” said Paul Lear, a Fort Ontario historian. “Fort Ontario is one of the most historically significant forts in the world.”
Fort Ontario is open to the public to visit and learn about its history. In all of the buildings in the fort there are artifacts and information. The fort has undergone many renovations throughout the years, however historians have tried to keep the buildings as original as possible.