The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri

Experience a Chautauqua at the Library April 22-25

April 16, 2010 — Free live music, history, religion and humor for the whole family will come together “under the tent” April 22 through 25 at the Library Center.

Famous figures from the 1930s will take the stage each day in a revival of the old traveling summer entertainment called “chautauqua” (shaw-TAW-kwa).   

Visitors on chairs under the tent will be treated to the music of Woody Guthrie and performances by actor/scholars portraying car maker Henry Ford, President Franklin Roosevelt, evangelist Aimee Semple McPherson and humorist/actor Will Rogers.  

“Doing the Best They Could: National and Local Voices from the 1930s” is a partnership with the Missouri Humanities Council, and with support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Friends of the Library.

Mark Bilyeu, of the local band Big Smith, kicks it off at 7 p.m. Thursday with the music of Woody Guthrie, the “Dust Bowl Troubadour.”

The chautauqua is part of the Library’s month-long Big Read celebration, when we encourage the community to read the same book to inspire reading and literacy. This year’s book selection is Richard Peck’s “A Long Way from Chicago,” set in the 1930s like our chautauqua.

The historical characters will speak of the events, economy, social and religious issues of their days. But the actors say their messages are relevant for audiences today.
Paul Vickery sees Henry Ford as that era’s Bill Gates. Ford is on after live music by Evangel University musicians at 6:30 p.m. Friday.

Patrick McGinnis, portraying FDR after live music at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, finds parallels between the controversial social programs of FDR’s days and those today.  

Aimee Semple McPherson’s message resonates today as it did in the 30s, says actor/scholar Tonia Compton. She performs at 2 p.m. Sunday with 30s gospel music by Bob and Connie Bilyeu. The evangelist urged people to turn to their faith for strength during the Depression, and believed the church should provide for the basic physical needs of those in need – much the way Americans are responding to the recent economic crisis, Compton says.

And Will Rogers? “A lot of what he had to say about politics and economics, his common sense, are still pretty on the mark,” says actor/scholar Doug Watson.

We hope you’ll join us for all the days’ events.


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

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