The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri

Voices of the 1930s Highlight Chautauqua April 22-25 at the Library Center: Two Guest Lectures Also Planned April 24 and 26

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:

  • “The Music of Woody Guthrie,” performed by Mark Bilyeu of local band Big Smith, 7 p.m. Thursday, April 22, the Library Center. For details call 882-0714.
  • “Henry Ford,” by actor/scholar Paul Vickery, 6:30 p.m. Friday, April 23, the Library Center. Ford will discuss labor and economic recovery. Actor/scholar Patrick McGinnis, as Franklin Delano Roosevelt, will join Ford. Evangel University music instructor Christopher Lair and Evangel musicians will perform music by émigré composers. For details call 882-0714.
  •  “Franklin D. Roosevelt,” by actor/scholar Patrick McGinnis, will reflect on how he faced the task of alleviating widespread suffering in the Great Depression, and began restoration of the nation’s economy.  Will Rogers, by actor/scholar Doug Watson, will reflect on the politics of FDR,  6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 24, the Library Center. Evangel University music instructor Christopher Lair and Evangel musicians will perform the music of Aaron Copeland. For details call 882-0714.
  • “Sister Aimee Semple McPherson” and “Will Rogers” -- Actor/scholar Tonia Compton will portray the evangelist at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 25, the Library Center. Local performers will provide gospel music of the 1930s. “Will Rogers,” by actor/scholar Doug Watson, will then perform with his signature humor and social commentary. For details call 882-0714.

 Two lectures with chautauqua scholars planned April 24 and 26  

  • A workshop on the role of radio during the Great Depression will feature  scholar/actor Tonia Compton, 2 p.m. Saturday, April 24, at the Brentwood Branch Library, 2214 Brentwood Blvd. For details call 883-1974.
  • Will Rogers’ Film Career, a talk at 2 p.m. Monday, April 26, in Library Center auditorium will feature actor/scholar Doug Watson talking about Rogers’ film career of the 20s and 30s. For details call 882-0714.

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.


Kathleen O'Dell
Community Relations Director
(417) 616-0564
Sarah Jane Rosendahl
(417) 616-0566

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