A local opera inspired by the 1913 Franklinton flood and the most recent Columbus Award recipient share a certain creative, thoughtful energy.
I grew up here in Columbus, and sometimes I like to explore the city as a tourist might. It’s easy to find wonderful surprises with all that’s going on, and when I miss an exhibition or a festival I might have liked, I feel a twinge of regret.
It was a delight to make it to the Southern Theatre Feb. 10 for the world premiere of the opera The Flood, a first-of-its kind collaboration between Opera Columbus and ProMusica Chamber Orchestra set in Franklinton.
The story itself is far from a delight. It’s heart-wrenching and uncomfortable, examining issues of generational trauma, natural disaster and the destruction of our shared sense of reality, as families and as a community. The Flood of 1913 devastated the low-lying areas along the Scioto River west of Downtown, sending a wall of water 17 feet high rushing through Franklinton. Buildings were upended, 4,000 homes were destroyed and more than 90 people died.
The opera transported the audience directly into those chaotic moments. If you’ve never imagined what it’s like to witness a flood or to be caught up in one, I do not recommend it. But I do recommend seeing The Flood if it ever returns to the stage. It chronicles the intersection of four timelines, showing how one terrible day—March 25, 1913—left indelible marks on the people of Columbus even 100 years later.
That continuing devastation is evident in Franklinton today, more than a decade since a floodwall was built to prevent such natural disasters from recurring. In spite of the challenges, or maybe because of them, the area is being reborn as a vibrant neighborhood through creativity, collaboration and kindness. We at Columbus CEO were touched by the energy and the commitment of Trent Smith, the executive director of the Franklinton Board of Trade, to lift Franklinton up and to help people in need there. You can see what he’s been up to on page 18.
Speaking of people who make Columbus great, I must mention—I must thank—Cathy Lyttle. This year’s Columbus Award recipient in her acceptance remarks at the Columbus Chamber Annual Meeting Feb. 7 shared one of the greatest descriptions of this town I may have heard, ever. Now senior vice president and chief human resources officer for Worthington Industries holding a knockout resume filled with community and board service, Lyttle shared her story of showing up here in the “big city” from a small Ohio River town, ready to go after broadcasting jobs with her one suit.
“The weight of this honor to join the amazing community of Columbus Award recipients took me back,” Lyttle told a packed ballroom at the Greater Columbus Convention Center. “It took me back to that young, wide-eyed, naïve, energetic, ready-for-anything young woman with one suit. I’m proud to say in retrospect that my focus wasn’t on what I didn’t have, although I distinctly recall not having the appropriate shoes to cover news on wintry Columbus streets. Instead, my focus was on the opportunity I had been given.
“Columbus is a show up and raise your hand city,” Lyttle says. “You can absolutely be a part of important things that over time come to define us as a community.”
Well said, Cathy. I would add creativity, collaboration and kindness. That’s how I think of Columbus.