“Don’t give up the ship!”
Did you know these words were not originally uttered by Oliver Hazard Perry? How about the controversy surrounding the Flagship Niagara, or Commander James Elliot?
In addition to Erie’s Perry 200 Celebration and the Tall Ships Festival, attendees of the original play “Fortunate Victory” were treated to a historical re-enactment of the Flagship Niagara construction and the Battle of Lake Erie, and discovered the answers to these questions and more.
Students from Gannon University impersonated famous figures such as Daniel Dobbins and Commodore Perry in a 40-minute production of the work by Gannon alumnus, Alex Clemente, at the Blasco Library Sept. 6 through 8. Just like the story itself, the origin of the play is tied to Erie history as well.
Alex Clemente, father to Erie Playhouse Executive Director Almitra Clerkin, and father-in-law to Gannon Associate Professor Rev. Shawn Clerkin, was a local playwright and patron of the arts.
Rev. Clerkin adapted Clemente’s original script after he passed away in 1992, finishing the play for its premiere at the Erie Playhouse in 1995. Running three hours and 20 minutes long and featuring over 100 cast members, the play was mounted for another celebration of Commodore Perry and the Battle of Lake Erie.
Although it hadn’t been seen since its original premiere in 1995, the latest production was well received by over 700 attendees. This time around, viewers could go right from the show to visiting recreations of the Flagship Niagara and Lawrence just a few feet away.
The curtain has fallen, the ships have sailed, and the Perry 200 Celebration has come to an end, but the spirit of Commodore Perry lives on in the minds of Erie citizens; and in the words of Alex Clemente – “Until they come together once more.”