April 12, 2010 —
(To Media: Chautauqua actors are available for interviews earlier by phone or during their visits. Please call for help arranging interviews and photos.)
The public is invited to meet four memorable leaders of the 1930s at an old-time, outdoor chautauqua April 22-26 at the Library Center, 4653 S. Campbell Ave. All events are free and open to the public. If it rains, performances move indoors.
Actor/scholars will portray Henry Ford, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Will Rogers and Aimee Semple McPherson “under the tent” in the style of the popular turn-of-the-century venue. Big Smith band member Mark Bilyeu will open the series with the music of “Dust Bowl Troubadour” Woody Guthrie on April 22.
“Doing the Best They Could: National and Local Voices from the 1930s” will feature these scholars of history, politics and religion in a lecture format much like the first chautauquas that drew crowds in Lake Chautauqua, N.Y. in the 1800s.
The chautauqua is part of the library’s April Big Read celebration, the “one book, one community” project to inspire reading through a shared book experience. The chautauqua echoes the storytelling and 1930s themes of Big Read programs this month, and in the featured book, “A Long Way from Chicago,” by Richard Peck.
What is a chautauqua?
Chautauqua began as a religious training program for Sunday school teachers in 1874 at Lake Chautauqua, N.Y. It evolved to include education and entertainment, with speeches by orators and entertainers to large crowds. By 1900 the chautauqua became a popular form of entertainment under the tent on a warm summer evening. It became a traveling event, delivering lectures, music and social interaction to hundreds of small communities around the country. It faded after the Roaring Twenties, but re-emerged in the Midwest about 25 years ago, offering citizens a glimpse into history and the characters who shaped it.
Chautauqua schedule for April 22-25:
Two lectures with chautauqua scholars planned April 24 and 26
The Springfield-Greene County Library District is sponsoring the chautauqua in partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council and with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Friends of the Springfield-Greene County Library District.
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