|The Complete Chautauquan
The Great Plains Chautauqua
By Jeffrey Scott Maxwell
Great Plains Starts 2001 Chautauqua Season
06/22/01 Diane and I went to see The Great Plains Chautauqua Society on Monday, June 18, during their first week of the season at Government Springs Park in Enid, Oklahoma. The evening began with the classical guitar music of Edgar Cruz. A native of Oklahoma City, Cruz is well known throughout Oklahoma as an accomplished guitarist of 25 years experience, who can play just about any kind of music that has been played on a acoustic guitar -- including (my favorite) his arrangement of rock group Queen's hit Bohemian Rhapsody. We heard reports from other audience members in attendance that night that the music on the other nights at Enid were also outstanding. Kudos to the Enid Chautauqua Board on bringing such fine music to the Chautauqua platform.
Chief Chautauquan Ruth Ann Alexander was present, as she starts what might possibly be her last year on tour with the Great Plains Chautauqua Society. Professor Alexander has worked as a scholar portraying characters on the Chautauqua platform for many years. This will be her fourth year as the Chief Chautauquan, a role in which she acts as narrator to set the scene for the theme of the Chautauqua week. Then, when the scholar has completed his or her monologue in character, Alexander serves as moderator for the question and answer sessions, the first with the scholar in character, answering as the historic figure, and second with the scholar answering questions out of character as the scholar.
Alexander introduced Andrew Carnegie, portrayed by Professor Jeffrey E. Smith of Lindenwood University in Missouri. Smith is a capable performer as well as a scholar. Diane and I agree that he is one of the most comfortable platform performers that we have seen in awhile. Smith handled his character very well even when an audience member sharply questioned Carnegie about his part in 1892, when the Homestead mill in Pittsburgh owned by Carnegie Steel Company was the scene of a bitter industrial dispute that resulted in the deaths of 16 people and delivered a severe blow to the labor unions. The format of Chautauqua allows for multiple approaches to a single topic -- as seen when the scholar Smith came back in the third part of the event when he addressed some of the comments he made in character as Carnegie.
This is the last year for the theme "Behold Our New Century: Early 20th Century Visions of America." Other scholars in summer residency in The Great Plains Chautauqua Society this year are Charles Everett Pace of Centre Collage in Kentucky who portrays Booker T. Washington; Jerome Kills Small from the University of South Dakota who portrays Ohiyesa (Charles Eastman); Helen Marie Lewis from Western Iowa Tech in Sioux City who portrays Jane Addams; and John C. Lehman from Emporia State University in Kansas who portrays Theodore Roosevelt, whom we saw last year in Independence, Kansas.
Diane and I were greeted warmly by the community members we met, and the committee members of the Enid Chautauqua were very kind to put some of our fliers advertising The Complete Chautauquan Website out on their tables. We did have a flat tire on the way to Chautauqua this year. This is the second Great Plains Chautauqua event in a row that we have been to when we had a flat travelling to or from the event. I just hope it is not an omen for future events, because we plan to go to Ottawa, Kansas, on Monday, June 25, to see Jerome Kills Small as Ohiyesa. (We heard that there is also a library display on the original Ottawa Assembly that we hope to get a look at while we are there.)
The Great Plains Chautauqua -- Enid in 2001
Featured Evening Programs to be Held in June 2001
Booker T. Washington portrayed by Charles Everett Pace
Jane Addams portrayed by Helen Lewis
Theodore Roosevelt portrayed by John Lehman
Andrew Carnegie portrayed by Jeffrey Smith
Charles A. Eastman portrayed by Jerome Kills Small
Here is the schedule for the Great Plains Enid Chautauqua in 2001
Thursday, June 13
Friday, June 14
Saturday, June 15
Sunday, June 17
Monday, June 18
Tuesday, June 19
The Great Plains Chautauqua -- Independence Day 2000
Diane and I had the great fortune of being able to go to Independence, Kansas, on Independence Day, July 4, 2000, to see the Great Plains Chautauqua Society again. We had seen three nights of the Great Plains Chautauqua when it appeared in McAlester, Oklahoma, in 1984 -- that year the theme was "The Guided Age." Independence Day was a good opportunity for us to catch up with them again. This year, the theme is "Behold Our New Century: Early 20th Century Visions of America."
Here are some pictures. The first is Chief Chautauquan Ruth Ann Alexander, Professor Emeritus of South Dakota State University. I read that she has portrayed Chautauqua characters, including Elizabeth Cady Stanton, social reformer and women's suffrage leader, and children's writer Laura Ingalls Wilder. It is the job of the Chief Chautauquan to place the time and setting for the historic figure who is being portrayed on any given night, then she serves as the moderator after the monologue, to ask questions and repeat those offered by the audience. In the previous chautauqua events that we have seen, there was no Chief Chautauquan. Then, one of the characters of the event was the moderator. Our weekend in McAlester, Oklahoma, in 1984 was hosted by George Frien as Mark Twain.
These pictures are of Dr. John C. Lehman, Emporia State University (Kansas) professor, portraying Theodore Roosevelt, the 26th president of the United States (1901-9). Dr. Lehman has portrayed TR in hundreds of venues, including the campus of Oklahoma State University-Tulsa where I work. Dr. Lehman has also portrayed Frederic Remington and "Buffalo" Jones.
Other characters portrayed in this chautauqua that we hope to be able to see in future events are Booker T. Washington, portrayed by Centre College (Kentucky) Professor Charles Everett Pace (whom Diane and I have previously seen in character as W.E.B. Du Boise); Andrew Carnegie, portrayed by Linwood University (Missouri) Professor Jeffrey E. Smith; Ohiyesa, portrayed by University of South Dakota Professor Jerome Kills Small; and Jane Addams, portrayed by Western Iowa Tech Professor Helen M. Lewis.
It was a great afternoon for a road trip on the Fourth of July. And the event was well worth the two-hour drive. Perhaps one of the most fascinating things I have seen, and I'm not sure why I hadn't seen it before, was when, within thirty minutes of the end of the program, the community of Independence had that tent and all 350 chairs taken down, packed up and loaded on the truck. Did I say within thirty minutes? I think it was something more like 25 minutes. Only minutes passed between the time that the event was over and the tent was down and they were ready to fold it up.
The tent, the chairs and all of the equipment needed for chautauqua is carried on the big Great Plains Chautauqua truck. On the left, all the chairs have been removed and a group of people take apart the speaker's platform. The next four shots were taken within just a couple of minutes. Diane was told that the same person is in charge of putting the tent up and taking it down, so that way it is always done the same way and goes pretty quickly.
I didn't let Diane take any pictures of me changing the flat tire on our pickup after we got just outside of Independence, Kansas, to head home to Oklahoma. I wondered if it might be my punishment for standing around taking pictures while other people did all the work, but then I decided that it was more likely my punishment for not buying new tires for the pickup before taking a road trip.