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Vacha, John 1938–

Vacha, John 1938–

(J.E. Vacha, John E. Vacha)


Born September 18, 1938, in Cleveland, OH; son of Edward O. (a monotype compositor) and Norma Smely (a homemaker and bookkeeper) Vacha; married Ruda Dadzitis (in communications), 1961. Ethnicity: "Czech-American." Education: Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University), B.A., 1960, M.A., 1967. Hobbies and other interests: "Theater and concert-going."


Home— Lakewood, OH. E-mail— [email protected]


Educator, historian, and writer. West High School, Cleveland, OH, teacher, 1960-70; Lincoln-West High School, Cleveland, teacher, 1970-1990; Cleveland State University, Cleveland, teacher educator, 1981-1990; History Day in Ohio, District 3 coordinator, 1997-2007. Cuyahoga Community College, Cleveland, part-time instructor, 1968-1985; Northeast District representative for the Ohio Council for the Social Studies; consultant for curriculum units and coauthor of various curriculum guides.


Case History Associates (secretary, board of directors), Lakewood Historical Society (board of trustees), Ohio Historical Society.


Pi Delta Epsilon, 1960; distinguished service award, Greater Cleveland Council for the Social Studies, 1986, 1990; Gold Key Award, Columbia Scholastic Press Association of New York, 1981; Herrick Memorial Award, Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve, 2002, for Showtime in Cleveland: The Rise of a Regional Theater Center.


(With Rarick Witchey)Fine Arts in Cleveland: An Illustrated History, Indiana University Press (Bloomington, IN), 1994.

Showtime in Cleveland: The Rise of a Regional Theater Center, Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 2001.

The Music Went 'Round and Around: The Story of Musicarnival, Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 2004.

(With David Van Tassel)"Behind Bayonets": The Civil War in Northern Ohio, Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 2006.

From Broadway to Cleveland: A History of the Hanna Theatre, Kent State University Press (Kent, OH), 2007.

Contributor to periodicals, including American Heritage, Opera News, American Quarterly, South Atlantic Quarterly, Journal of Popular Culture, New York History, Ohio History, Timeline, American National Biography, Cleveland Magazine, Gamut, Northeast Ohio Avenues, Northern Ohio Live, Ohio Magazine, Social Education, Washington Journalism Review, Plain Dealer Magazine, and the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Associate editor of Encyclopedia of Cleveland History and Dictionary of Cleveland Biography,1993-96. Newsletter editor of the Greater Cleveland Council for the Social Studies.


John Vacha is an American historian, educator, and writer who began his book-writing career in 1991. With Rarick Witchey, he authored Fine Arts in Cleveland: An Illustrated History in 1994. This was followed in 2001 with Showtime in Cleveland: The Rise of a Regional Theater Center. For his efforts with this book, the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve gave him the Herrick Memorial Award.

Vacha followed his prize-winning book with The Music Went 'Round and Around: The Story of Musicarnival in 2004. Musicarnival was considered to be the last commercially legitimate theater in Cleveland. Created by John Pierce, Jr., in the 1950s, this popular tent theater produced up to a dozen shows each summer for a crowd of nearly 2,500 people. A contributor to Bookwatch commented that Vacha's telling of Musicarnival's story "comes to life in a vivid recollection." In 2006 Vacha collaborated with David Van Tassel to write "Behind Bayonets": The Civil War in Northern Ohio. His 2007 publication,From Broadway to Cleveland: A History of the Hanna Theatre.

John Vacha told CA: "Throughout a thirty-year teaching career, I always bristled at the quip ‘those who can, do; those who can't, teach.’ So almost from the beginning, I wanted to produce (i.e., write) history as well as teach it. I also happened to teach journalism along with history for two-thirds of those years, which ultimately led me to writing history for an audience of general readers rather than other historians. My chief models or influences, therefore, include some of the great popular writers of American history: Frederick Lewis Allen, Bruce Catton, Van Wyck Brooks, Gene Smith, David McCullough.

"As a historian, of course, I begin by collecting information in the form of notes (full-page, not index cards) and Xerox copies, liberally highlighted (one form of technology I thoroughly benefit from). Generally I accumulate much more than needed, mentally paring and outlining as I go. Then come the final outline, first draft, and fair copy, all in longhand; finally the typewritten copy and, if required, a search for someone to transfer it to disc.

"A strong interest in music and theater has steered me towards specialization in performance history. Some years ago I was invited to give a talk on ‘Cleveland's Theatrical Heritage,’ in preparing for which I became aware of a dearth of published material. I began collecting material myself and eventually wrote Showtime in Cleveland, the first full-length account of theater in my native city. Upon its appearance the publisher, Kent State University Press, invited me to follow up with a series of histories of individual theaters."



Bookwatch, January, 2006, review of The Music Went 'Round and Around: The Story of Musicarnival.

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