Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama

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The Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama (BOTOD) was an outdoor historical drama held near the site of the Battle of Tippecanoe in Battle Ground, Indiana in the Summers of 1989 and 1990. The drama was held at an amphitheater specially constructed for the drama, renamed the Tippecanoe County Amphitheater after the drama folded in 1991. The amphitheater is located just north of West Lafayette, IN on 166 acres on State Route 43 near the Wabash River, within walking distance of the actual Tippecanoe Battlefield Park.[1]


The drama was written by Purdue University Theatre Faculty Emeritus Dr. Dale E. Miller and Dr. Sam Smiley, a Columbus, Indiana native and feature film writer who was a former Dramatic Writing head at the University of Arizona. Miller was Artistic Director both summers the drama played. Miller began conceiving the drama in 1982 by touring outdoor theatres across the country,[2] although Miller's program bio states that he began working on the drama in 1979.[3]

Sound Design[edit]

Purdue professor Richard K. Thomas composed the sound design,[4] creating an 8-channel surround audio using a Yamaha Rev 7 to master the mix.[5] Thomas' participation was supported by the Indiana Arts Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.[6]

Sounds of the Morning[edit]

Carrie Newcomer, an Indiana folk music composer, wrote an original composition, Sounds of the Morning, for the production, played as a prologue and as patrons left the amphitheater.[7] Sounds of the Morning was included in Newcomer's CD "Visions and Dreams," released in 1995.[8]

Other Artistic credits[edit]

Purdue professor Carol Cunningham-Sigman contributed dance choreography, Kent Shelton contributed fight and stunt choreography, Stan Abbott created scenery and Julie Mack created Lighting for the production.[9]

For the second season, the script was revised to eliminate stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans[10] and more special effects were included.[11]


Dorothy Schneider, in a 2011 Lafayette Journal and Courier article about the 200 year bicentennial of the battle, describes the story: "The fight took place near the confluence of the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers northeast of Lafayette. Thirty-seven American soldiers and an unknown number of Native Americans died in the battle."[12]

Characters in the drama included General and Governor William Henry Harrison, The Prophet, Tecumseh, Harrison's family, townspeople, scouts, Indiana Militia and Dragoons, Kentucky Militia and Dragoons, United States Infantry, both Pro and anti American Indians, and British troops.[13]

Media Coverage[edit]

The Kokomo Tribune archives reveal an article written about the drama after it opened: "Campfires crackled and grey ash floated skyward among the sleeping forces of William Henry Harrison. The crisp November air whispered nothing of what would take place in the next few hours. Over 2,000 Indian warriors from different tribes had come together under Tecumseh, a Shawnee chieftain. Quietly, they maneuvered into position and then for more than two hours, the sides clashed in what would one day become known as The Battle of Tippecanoe. This is their story.[14]

The Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama, with over 90 character portrayals, is not just the story of a battle. It is the story of a conflict between men of different backgrounds: a conflict of cultures. It is the story of one people trying to grow and prosper, and another trying to preserve tradition and the past.

This is your chance to travel back in time nearly 180 years. Hear the blasts of muskets firing; the pounding of horses' hooves; the chanting songs of Indiana braves. Breathe deeply of the evening air filled with the sharp scent of gunpowder. Enjoy the breeze of a star-studded Indiana night.

Outdoor drama is unlike any other stage production because it appeals to all of the senses as it transports the audience into the action."[15]

Box Office[edit]

The Lafayette Rotary Archives describe the activities of 1983-84, which included completing the box office structure: "Interested members formed a Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama Project Committee... The first project was to raise $40,000 for the box office structure, which was accomplished in a fund drive that lasted from December until April."[16]

According to the Pharos Tribune in Logansport, IN, tickets were $12 for adults and $6 for children. The Battle was presented Tuesday through Sunday both summers.[17]

Tippecanoe County Amphitheater[edit]

The Lafayette Journal and Courier recorded the vision to create a performing venue for the drama. "In 1986, the Tippecanoe County Parks board made plans and obtained $3 million in finances to build an amphitheater for performances of the Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama.[18]

The amphitheatre seats 1511 people and includes concession stands, gift shop and restroom facilities under a rain shelter behind the seating area.[19] Performers arriving onstage for Act 2 of the drama could hear a sea of popcorn-crunching from audiences that had visited the concession stand.[20]

Controversy regarding dramatization[edit]

The dramatization of the events of the Battle of Tippecanoe were met with dissent by local Native Americans. A Native American elder woman walked up onstage at the 1989 opening night curtain call of performers to question the truthfulness of the portrayals of Native Americans.[21]

The 1990 program description of the drama addressed the response to this dissent: "Certain artistic liberties have been taken for the sake of providing dramatic impact and in an honest effort to condense a historic period of five years into a two-hour presentation. It is the sincere wish of the authors and producers that we can be historically accurate and authentic in re-enacting this important piece of American history as dramatic and theatrical guidelines will allow. We are honored to add Nita Bruce, Hawk Clan Mother, Upper Kispoko Band, Shawnee Nation of Indiana, and a descendant of Pocahontas, as a consultant to (the drama). Revisions in the script for the drama were made this year following meetings with representatives of the Upper Kispoko Band, Shawnee Nation of Indiana. The changes involve an honest attempt to eliminate stereotypical portrayal of Native Americans."[22]


Attendance at the amphitheater was disappointing in its short 3-year/2 season lifespan, and an infusion of tax money could not sustain the expensive project. "$178,000 in unused innkeeper tax funds (were used) to bail out the financially ailing Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama, and allow it to perform in 1990."[23]

In Spring of 1991, after the second season, the drama board voted to dissolve the operation. The amphitheater is used today for concerts and other community events.[24]

The authors of the 2005 book Creating Historical Drama: A Guide for Communities, Theatre Groups, and Playwrights interviewed Miller to understand what had happened, and teach from what Miller learned from the laborious project in Lafayette: "When a cooperative community effort has been lacking, historical drama frequently fails. In the summer of 1989, near Lafayette, Indiana, the outdoor historical drama The Battle of Tippecanoe opens, but almost immediately there is a public controversy over the historical accuracy of the script. Local critics object to what they say is sufficient manipulation of history that the play ought to be labeled fiction. Author Dale Miller responds that the drama is 'a selective look at history,' but the objections grew, the public is cautious, and the drama struggles to find an audience until, in 1991, it closes after having played to only 19 percent capacity that summer. To make matters worse, the county of Tippecanoe built the $3 million theatre used for the production with a 3 percent local hotel-occupancy tax. The Wall Street Journal reports on March 14, 1991 that 'hotel guests will be paying off the bonds for the theatre until 1999.' Public sentiment for this play is at first strong, but it fails by opening night. It dooms the entire operation.”[25]

Another large Indiana event has taken the demise of BOTOD to heart: In 2006, nearby Cass County's 'Chief Logan's Port of Living History Festival at France Park' was struggling in its second year. "Cass County parks officials deserve credit for pushing this concept forward and committing to it for at least another year. That is not always an easy thing to do. In Tippecanoe County, a much larger community built the Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama Theater to tell the story of the era portrayed here this weekend. It flopped. That facility is now used for more modern purposes."[26] The Cass County festival is still in operation in 2011.[27]


  1. ^ The Amphitheatre, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir program, Summer 1990.
  2. ^ The Amphitheater, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir Tour Program, Summer 1990.
  3. ^ Production Staff, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir Program, Summer 1990.
  4. ^ Technical Staff, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir program, Summer 1990.
  5. ^ Steve Hoffman Music Forums, "Mastering from a 1" 8-track", Audio Hardware, SH Forums,
  6. ^ Technical Staff, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir program, Summer 1990.
  7. ^ Technical Staff, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir program, Summer 1990.
  8. ^ CD Review: Regulars and Refugees, Carrie Newcomer, Carrie Newcomer, Music, Home,, accessed October 12, 2011.
  9. ^ Technical Staff, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir program, Summer 1990.
  10. ^ Welcome Page, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir Program, Summer 1990.
  11. ^ Welcome page, The Battle of Tippecanoe 1990 Souvenir Program, Summer 1990. .
  12. ^ Dorothy Schneider,"Re-enactors mark Battle of Tippecanoe bicentennial," Communities, Lafayette Journal and Courier, November 1, 2011,
  13. ^ Cast of Characters, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir program, Summer 1990.
  14. ^
  15. ^ "Drama Tells story of battle," Special Places, Kokomo Tribune, Thursday, September 6, 1990,, accessed October 8, 2011.
  16. ^ 1983-84, Lafayette Rotary archives, "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-04-25. Retrieved 2011-10-08. 
  17. ^ For Your Entertainment, Pharos-Tribune, August 18, 1989,, accessed, October 8, 2011.
  18. ^
  19. ^ Welcome page, Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir Program, Summer 1990.
  20. ^ Donald Stikeleather, performer, personal interview, October 8, 2011.
  21. ^ Donald Stikeleather, original cast, personal interview, October 8, 2011.
  22. ^ "the Drama", Battle of Tippecanoe Outdoor Drama 1990 Souvenir Program, Summer 1990.
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ Christian Hollis Moe, Scott J. Parker, George McCalmon. Creating Historical Drama: A Guide for Communities, Theatre Groups, and Playwrights. Carbondale, IL: SIU Press, 2005, 30.
  26. ^[permanent dead link]
  27. ^ "Chief Logan's Port of Living History Festival", Cass County Calendar,, accessed October 11, 2011.