Between April 13-29, 1996, a 19th century river expedition will be recreated aboard the museum's working replica of the packet boat "Pine Knot," which will carry a volunteer crew and performers in period dress to thirteen riverbend communities along the waterway.
Richard Pawling, educational and interpretive specialist and owner of History Alive was commissioned by the Venango Museum, with funds contributed by the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission and GTE, to create an original drama and train living history performers to provide a theatrical performance to be presented in thirteen Western Pennsylvania towns hosting the historical drama in their communities in the evening.
The 60 minute show known as "Oil On The Brain" highlights the historical development of Pennsylvania's Oil Region from the first discovery of oil by Seneca Indians to the "Boom and Bust" period to the present and future aspirations of the area. This drama will act as an avenue to promote the historical significance of the Oil Region as well as act as an agent to preserve the unique culture of the area.
"This endeavor has been a real challenge," notes museum director Barbara Perlstein, who conceived the project and has enjoyed the responsibility of managing every aspect of the downriver trip and performance. "It has required an incredible amount of time and attention to detail, such as insuring that there is sufficient water in the Allegheny in April, to locating performers, overseeing the design of the period costumes, selecting a crew, arranging for a tow upriver once the journey is complete and making sure that insurance certificates and docking permits are secured when necessary. I'm proud of this project and thrilled with the support and assistance provided by all those in Western Pennsylvania, who located performance and docking sites, booked lodgings and provided food and transportation for the crew and performers at no cost to the museum. These organizations and individuals helped with every aspect of this river celebration. It could not have occurred without them!"
"Oil On The Brain" is the first traveling show of its kind to offer the history of the Oil Region in a highly entertaining, folksy format. Three characters, P.C. Boyle, Mother (Madame) Wood and William Phillips, captivate the crowd with stories that are largely unknown outside of the Oil Region.
P.C. arrives in Pithole in the spring of 1865, fresh from service in the Civil War to seek his fortune. This legendary, true life and colorful character, who worked as a driller, sold supplies and machinery and had his eyes opened to "the pulse of the oil fields" when he became an oil scout who spied on mystery wells. He went on to become a newspaper correspondent, a publisher and president of a number of newspapers (1918).
William Phillips (1867), a river boat man and rather pithy character, recounts his success in the oil business, boasting that it is he who transported his first oil to Pittsburgh on the steamboat "Venango."
An over the hill but still flirtatious Mother (Madame) Wood (1874) brings the house down with one liners that could have come straight from the mouth of Mae West as she relates tales of the soiled doves who prospered at Petroleum Center during the time that Ben Hogan and French Kate flourished there.
Performers in this historical drama include Sean Miller of Oil City, Pa; Lew and Paula Weingard of Tionesta, Pa; Joann Holloway and Ken Hall of Oil City, Pa.
"Oil On The Brain" will be presented in the thirteen communitiesalong the river. If you would like additional information about these performances, call the Venango Museum at (814) 676-2007.