Bringing History to Life Through Storytelling

Bringing History to Life Through Storytelling Image
Bringing History to Life Through Storytelling April 18, 2022

Bette Lou Higgins (M.Ed. ’03) proves that history is not just a thing of the past.

Remember falling asleep at your desk in history class as your teacher droned on about yet another historical event? Thanks to Eden Valley Enterprises (EVE) and founding member Bette Lou Higgins (M.Ed. ’03), history just might be your favorite subject now.  

Higgins is the artistic director of EVE, where she helps unite the past with the present in a theatrical fashion.

“At EVE, we specialize in creating programs about historical figures and events that are not the usual ones that you learn about in history class,” she said. “So many people think of history and historical events as something dead, but through theatrical presentations (like storytelling programs, living history programs, first-person character presentations, plays, musical events, documentaries) you can bring those stories to life.”

EVE started in 1977 with a living history program for the Cuyahoga Valley National Recreation Area called Johnnycake Village, where audiences journeyed back in time to a mythical village in the 1820’s and were immersed in the townspeople’s explosive debate of the construction of the Erie Canal. The village closed in 1979, but EVE continued.

“Since then, we have put together more than 40 programs on everything from the discovery of iron ore in Michigan, which led to Cleveland’s prominence in the shipping industry, to the story of Emma Gatewood – the first woman to solo thru-hike the 2,050-mile Appalachian Trail in 1955!” Higgins said. “We are currently working on a book about Cleveland Browns Hall-Of-Famer, Dante Lavelli, and a documentary about Ohioan Victoria Woodhull – first woman to run for president in 1872.”

“We strip away the formality of studying history,” Higgins said. “As one audience member put it: ‘This isn’t the way I remember history classes in high school!’”

EVE recently created a companion program for Higgins’ new book entitled “Lost Restaurants of Downtown Cleveland,” which takes readers on a historical tour of the restaurants that shaped Cleveland’s food scene.

But don’t be mistaken, it’s not just another monotonous walk through history.

“This book includes personal memories of Clevelanders who were gracious enough to share stories of their experiences at some of these memorable restaurants,” Higgins said. “It makes the history a bit more personal and adds to the fun of reading these stories.”

This personal touch is what helps keep history alive, which is exactly what Higgins aspires to do not only through her book, but through her work with EVE and the book’s accompanying storytelling program.

“A Tour of Cleveland Restaurants In 30 Minutes – More or Less” transports guests back in time to visit the lost eateries featured in Higgins’ book.

“It tells the story in the specific time period for the ‘visit’ – visiting the Theatrical in 1987 or the Mayfair Casino in 1936 for instance. It brings the stories of each restaurant to life by presenting it as if you were there at that time.”

Think of it as a front-row seat to history. Just the way Higgins likes it.

“Lost Restaurants of Downtown Cleveland” is available for purchase at most local bookstores, on Amazon, and on Arcadia Press. It is also available at most local libraries. Learn about upcoming EVE programing at

Photo credits to Lindsay Yost Bott.