Rev. Jacqui Lewis to discuss why we should take care of our neighbors


Wearing a hoodie is a simple act. However, the day that all of the members of Middle Collegiate Church in New York City wore hoodies to Sunday service in solidarity after George Zimmerman’s acquittal is the day that the Rev. Jacqui Lewis is most proud of in her fight for social justice.

Lewis will talk about the power of the individual members of her church choosing to stand together during her lecture, “Speaking Truth to Power When the World’s on Fire!,” at 2 p.m. Thursday in the Hall of Philosophy. As part of Week Five’s theme, “The Supreme Court and Religious Communities: Holding America Accountable?,” Lewis said she will explain why individuals must hold institutions accountable to achieve justice for all.

“I think that’s deeply biblical and deeply unselfish, to imagine that each of us and the product of our belief is responsible for the neighbor,” said Lewis, senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church.

Lewis said the Martin Luther King Jr. quote that frames this week’s Interfaith Lecture Series — “the conscience of the country must be both the Supreme Court and the religious communities” — inspired her, but she has had doubts about the church at large since the presidential election.

As a result, she’s come to interpret the meaning of King’s idea as the conscience residing in individual justices or clergy members.

If the individual members of institutions, like justices and clergy, hold themselves to high moral standards, Lewis said, then the institutions will be held accountable. Lewis said she will be clear during her lecture Thursday that every person in the Hall of Philosophy has the ability to do this, too, in their own spheres of influence.

“I’m not saying we are only accountable for ourselves,” Lewis said. “I’m saying we are individually accountable for each other.”

This idea could be crucial in the fight for social justice, which Lewis is heavily involved in, as exemplified by Middle Church’s solidarity in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death. Lewis said individuals with “moral vision” need to focus on bringing race-related issues, like mass incarceration and police brutality, to the courts to push momentum forward.

Middle Church is the realization of Lewis’ moral vision, which she developed at the age of 9 after the violence that followed King’s assassination. She has since devoted herself to fighting for racial equality, becoming the first woman and the first African-American to be called as a senior minister in the historic Collegiate Churches of New York in 2005.

Following in the steps of her predecessor, the Rev. Gordon Dragt, Lewis said she worked to make the already multiracial Middle Church a more radically political congregation that supports the poor and the LGBTQ community. Lewis said that in areas where the congregation was once non-committal, they are now fighting for change.

Lewis recognizes how Chautauqua Institution is also a place for radical new ideas and said she is excited to visit for her first time.

“I am bringing with me my highest vision and so much hope that what we can do together is recreate a dream for all Americans,” Lewis said. “Not the American dream, but a dream for all Americans.”

Law scholar Akhil Reed Amar to discuss upcoming challenges for the Bill of Rights


Although Akhil Reed Amar is a constitutional originalist, he recognizes that change will happen.

Amar will talk about the future of a major aspect of the Constitution — the Bill of Rights — at 10:45 a.m. Thursday in the Amphitheater as part of Week Five’s morning lecture theme, “The Supreme Court: At a Tipping Point?” Amar, who is Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University, is one of the United States’ five most-cited legal scholars under the age of 60.

“The Bill of Rights stands as the high temple of our constitutional order — America’s Parthenon — and yet we lack a clear view of it,” Amar wrote in his book The Bill of Rights: Creation and Reconstruction.


As an originalist, Amar believes that constitutional interpreters should build on the Constitution as it was originally understood when drafted and ratified, he wrote in a March 18 article in The New York Times.

His book recognizes, though, that the modern understanding of the Bill of Rights was really created in the 1860s during Reconstruction. He will explore how the set of amendments might be interpreted for the modern era during his lecture Thursday.

Amar has repeatedly said that Americans are not as familiar with the Constitution as they should be. In an Aug. 25, 2016, interview with Time magazine, he said the average American doesn’t understand the Constitution “at all,” which is “a shame” because it was meant to be read by the people.

Despite this negative outlook, Amar hasn’t stopped trying to help people understand the Constitution. He teaches an extremely popular undergraduate course on constitutional law at Yale, and can frequently be found with multiple copies of the Constitution in his pocket so he can give them away.

This passion and effort have led to a significant body of scholarly work — including seven books — and recognition for Amar. Supreme Court justices of varying ideologies have also favorably cited his ideas in more than 30 cases.

Amar’s work hasn’t escaped the notice of Chautauqua Institution. Sherra Babcock, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education, said her department knew they wanted to book Amar as soon as they decided they wanted to address the Bill of Rights because he knows it best. He also delivered the Robert H. Jackson Lecture on the Supreme Court of the United States in 2014.

The department, in partnership with the National Constitution Center, chose to address the Bill of Rights because it is set to be heavily debated in the coming years, Babcock said. She added that they asked Amar and the other speakers to talk about these challenges in the short term because the Supreme Court is at a tipping point right now due to the death of Antonin Scalia and the potential retirement of a few other justices.

Babcock said Amar is squeezing in his lecture between classes at Yale this summer. She said he is driving from New Haven, Connecticut, immediately following a class and will drive back for another right after his lecture Thursday.

“He’s really making the effort to be here and we’re just thrilled because he was our No. 1 choice for this topic,” Babcock said.

Minneapolis’ Rhythmic Circus hoofers to bring family fun to Amp

Photographer: Alexis Buatti-Ramos

brightly colored, toe-tapping jamboree makes its way to Chautauqua Institution Wednesday by way of Minneapolis group Rhythmic Circus.

The artist-owned collective of hoofers and musicians will perform their signature show, “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!,” at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Amphitheater as part of the Family Entertainment Series. Expect funky costumes, a big brass band and, of course, lots of tap shoes in a show fit for all ages.

“The overall general message is that anything is possible if you believe and put your heart into it, and I think that our group is an example of that,” said Rhythmic Circus co-creator and executive director Nick Bowman. “We’re friends who wanted to get together and create something.”

The multi-member percussive dance and musical ensemble officially formed in 2007, but the troupe’s core members have been choreographing and performing together since 2000. “Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!” played for an extended run in New York City in fall 2013, and the group has been touring nationally and internationally since.

The name of the show comes from an old New Orleans chant dating back to the early 1900s, Bowman said. The show is meant to remind audiences there’s “always a reason to get up, let go and dance.”

“When we first adopted it as a show title, it was really trying to encompass that rallying cry of ‘Let’s do this,’ ” Bowman said.

“Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!” premiered in August 2008 at the Ritz Theatre in Minneapolis. The resulting show featured “rapid-fire tap dancing” and a variety of musical genres, from blues to jazz and rock ’n’ roll.

Since then, the show has been fine-tuned and changed, Bowman said, in an effort to keep the performance exciting for dancers and audience members alike. The show includes moments of ensemble work, as well as times when individual performers have the spotlight.

Over the years, Rhythmic Circus’ artistic roster has grown to include 25 artists, with members rotating in based on schedule. In several reviews of the show, beatboxer Aaron “Heatbox” Heaton has been singled out as a performer to watch.

“Heaton’s innovative beatboxing adds an extra layer of rhythmic enthusiasm,” Tony Lacy-Thompson wrote in a recent review of a Rhythmic Circus performance in Palo Alto, California, for the Mercury News. “When beatboxing started in the 1980s, it was just imitating drum sounds, but Heaton — who has opened for top-class acts such as Cee-Lo and George Clinton — is one of the best of the new generation of beatboxers.”

The Rhythmic Circus performers share a long history with of performing with each other. The dancers first met as youngsters in the Twin Cities’ dance competition scene. Similarly, the band’s core musicians were on the same elementary school bus route.

The core dancers first noticed the musicians who would one day join the group at the 1998 Minnesota State Fair Amateur Talent Competition. Other band members joined after meeting during the group’s college years.

Rhythmic Circus’ theatrical style of blending dance with music and story has brought comparisons to Blue Man Group, Stomp and Riverdance. In addition to gaining attention through performances at such venues as the Kennedy Center, Rhythmic Circus also found the national spotlight by appearing on the reality TV competition show “America’s Got Talent” in 2015.

“Feet Don’t Fail Me Now!” has received positive reviews and awards, including a Spirit of the Fringe Award — Edinburgh Festival Fringe’s top theatrical award — in 2012. At the time, arts journalist Kelly Apter wrote in a review for The Scotsman that everything in the show arrived “with a bang” – from the dancers to the musicians.

“This loud and lively coming-together of musicians and dancers is unusual in that nobody has top billing,” Apter wrote. “Every cog in this wheel is just as important, and is given the chance to show what they’re made of.”

Hot Chauts get past Belles in Chautauqua Women’s softball league


High temperatures, scorching sun and a hungry Belles team couldn’t stop the Hot Chauts as they won 7-3 last Thursday at Sharpe Field.

Brandy Ecklund led the way for the Hot Chauts with three hits and two runs. The team took command early with a four-run first inning, giving them a 4-0 lead.

The Belles broke the drought in the second inning, scoring a run to make it 4-1.

The Hot Chauts wouldn’t give the Belles any chance to dig themselves out of the early hole, scoring two more runs to increase the lead, 6-1. After a scoreless third inning from both teams, the Belles battled back, notching two runs.

With the gap starting to close, the Hot Chauts’ Paula Kaus put the game out of reach, knocking a double deep into left-center field, setting herself up to score her second run of the day.

After five innings, the Hot Chauts cruised to a 7-3 victory, giving them their third win of the season.

A relatively new team in the Chautauqua women’s softball league, the Hot Chauts have only been active in the league for three years, but have made their mark quickly, winning the championship last year.

Belles team captain and women’s softball commissioner Carrie Zachry describes the Hot Chauts as an athletic and experienced ball club. With a mix of Chautauqua summer vacationers and locals from Mayville, Bemus Point and other surrounding areas, the team bring a diverse set of players to the league. Some players even bring prior softball experience, including coaching.

On the bench, the coaching tendencies and intensity shines through.

At-bats are filled with cheers, encouragement and batting stance adjustments. Meanwhile, there’s silence on the bench except to discuss game strategy.

Hot Chauts team captain Jen Tarr said the team loves playing in the league.

“We enjoy playing everybody,” Tarr said. “They’re all good and competitive.”

The Belles may be the Hot Chauts’ polar opposite. They haven’t won a game in over a year. They consist of friends and family who play casually to have fun. Every run scored is a celebration. When a teammate gets frustrated, every player on the squad helps raise the morale. On the bench, they joke around and laugh about the random things that occur in the game.

“We just pull a team together and have fun every week,” Zachry said.

But regardless of each team’s game approach, once the competition’s over, members from both teams hang out with no hard feelings.

The score matters, but in the end, the goal is to have fun, something Zachry said has been apparent this season.

“It’s been a fun and successful season,” Zachry said. “Lots of people have enjoyed taking in Chautauqua softball.”

Bishop Gene Robinson to discuss how Supreme Court influences morals of secular society


One of the most classic symbols of the United States is the highway.

On Wednesday, the Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson will use it to represent the path of the country’s morals.

At 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Hall of Philosophy, Robinson will look at how the Supreme Court has influenced this path during his lecture, titled “On America’s Moral Highway, Does the Supreme Court Provide Guardrails or an Off-ramp?” Robinson, who was the first openly gay priest to be elected bishop in historic Christendom, will discuss the issue in light of the major cases on religious liberty that the court will soon be deciding.


“The Supreme Court is going to be deciding where your religion ends and mine begins,” Robinson said.

Robinson, who is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, will make his remarks as part of Week Five’s theme, “The Supreme Court and Religious Communities: Holding America Accountable?” He said he will use the highway metaphor to analyze whether the Supreme Court is helpful, like a guardrail, or like an off-ramp when it comes to moral guidance.

This guidance could be influential at this time of divisive conflict. As Chautauquans learned earlier in the summer from Robert Jones, founder and CEO of Public Religion Research Institute, young people are leaving organized religion over its stance on LGBTQ rights, which Robinson said religious conservatives have exacerbated.

“I think that the religious right has overstepped its bounds because instead of simply being guardrails for those who belong to that particular community of faith, they have moved from that to advocating that others be made to follow,” Robinson said.

Although the Supreme Court is supposed to be a moral guardrail for secular culture, Robinson said he will explore how religion can influence the public sphere as organized religion and the courts come to clash.

Robinson said he is also concerned about how much the courts still have left to do in regard to LGBTQ rights. In the majority of states, people can still be fired or kicked out of housing for being gay, which he said many people in liberal areas do not realize. He added that he thinks the LGBTQ community must continue to stand up for everyone who is denied their civil rights.

“We need to defend and protect the most vulnerable among us,” Robinson said. “Our job is to see the intersection between our own experience of discrimination and the discrimination being experienced by others.”

Despite the fight ahead, Robinson said he does think much progress has been made since his controversial consecration in 2003. He noted, though, that while some made it seem like it broke the Episcopalian church in two, only 5 percent of members left over the issue, and many have since returned. This may be a sign that the conflict isn’t as entrenched as it is made out to be.

Wednesday’s lecture will also be a good opportunity for Chautauquans to learn more about Robinson, who will become the vice president and senior pastor at Chautauqua Institution on Sept. 1. Robinson said the creation of his position will increase the status of religion as a pillar of Chautauqua, and the circumstances his lecture touches on illustrate why that is important.

While Robinson is well-known for being liberal, he wants Chautauquans to know he is interested in a variety of viewpoints, just as he hopes the LGBTQ community stands up and fights for the rights of others.

“We will have a wide spectrum of faith perspectives under my leadership,” Robinson said.

National Constitution Center’s Jeffrey Rosen says consider both sides of constitutional questions


Jeffrey Rosen may be president and CEO of the National Constitution Center – the only institution in America chartered by Congress “to disseminate information about the United States Constitution on a non-partisan basis” – but there’s a title he holds in greater regard.

“I think there’s no higher calling than being privileged to be a teacher, and to excite others about lifelong learning,” said Rosen, whose many titles also include professor at The George Washington University Law School, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution and contributing editor for The Atlantic.


Having previously visited Chautauqua Institution in 2014 to talk on “The Ethics of Privacy,” Rosen returns this week for discussion on the future of the Supreme Court. He will speak at 10:45 a.m. Wednesday in the Amphitheater and at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Hall of Philosophy. Also this week, the National Constitution Center orchestrated a series of interactive master classes through special studies, with the final one, titled “The Future of the Media in a Post-Truth Society,” coming Thursday.

Rosen said he is eager to introduce Chautauquans to the National Constitution Center’s Interactive Constitution resource. Launched in 2015, the Interactive Constitution website and app allows citizens to explore the Constitution clause-by-clause, with top liberal and conservative American scholars describing where they agree and disagree.

“Chautauquans can educate themselves about these difficult and fascinating issues and make up their own minds,” Rosen said, adding the Interactive Constitution is “designed for lifelong learners from 8 to 80.”

Now based in Philadelphia with the National Constitution Center, Rosen has received degrees from Harvard College, Oxford University and Yale Law School.

Rosen said he became interested in English and history at a young age, and fondly recalls visiting the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., for the first time. After high school, he began thinking more and more about finding a job that merged his interests of history, literature and government.

Having become a recognized academic and commentator, Rosen was once called “the nation’s most widely read and influential legal commentator” in The Los Angeles Times. His work has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, The Atlantic Monthly, on National Public Radio and in The New Yorker, where he was a staff writer.

As he has gotten older, Rosen said he’s learned to do more listening, especially as a teacher. He recalled a recent conversation with one of his former teachers, Yale Law School Sterling Professor Emeritus Owen Fiss, who advised him a teacher is at times more like an emcee.

“A great teacher is a moderator more than a lecturer, and is encouraging conversation rather than trying to impart any particular point of view,” Rosen said.

Rosen said he is looking forward to a combination of listening, teaching and moderating while at Chautauqua. His 3:30 p.m. Heritage Lecture will focus on Justice Louis Brandeis, who served on the Supreme Court from 1916 to 1939, and what Brandeis might think of current challenges involving the future of privacy and free speech.

“Whenever I have a hard constitutional question, I ask, ‘WWBD? What would Brandeis do?’ ” said Rosen, who is the author of a number of books, including Louis Brandeis: American Prophet.

Rosen noted some current constitutional questions range from “Is partisan gerrymandering unconstitutional?” to “Can the president ban people from his Twitter feed?” and “How do we think about the future of privacy and free speech in the age of Google and Facebook?”

“There’s a new constitutional question in the news every day, so it’s remarkable how intense the interest is in the Constitution and how quickly the questions change,” Rosen said.

Rosen said there’s no way to have a rich understanding of a constitutional question unless someone listens to arguments on both sides.

“Just because you feel strongly about an issue doesn’t mean the Constitution necessarily supports your conclusions,” Rosen said. “Be open-minded enough and have enough civic humility to listen respectfully to the arguments on all sides, and be open to the possibility of changing your mind after you’ve heard those arguments.”

Linda Greenhouse explores the ‘trend lines and warning signs’ hinting at the Supreme Court’s future


Linda Greenhouse might say some controversial things, but the title of her Monday morning Amphitheater lecture — “The Supreme Court In Troubled Times” — is not one of them.

“We are indeed in troubled times,” Greenhouse said. “But that itself is not so new.”

The Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence at Yale Law School and a former Supreme Court reporter for The New York Times, Greenhouse opened Week Five’s theme “The Supreme Court: At a Tipping Point?” with that disclaimer.

Then, diving into a story of Guantanamo Bay prisoners and America’s post-9/11 political climate, she made good on her promise to wade into troubled waters.

“(Circa fall 2003) the makeshift prison at the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was filling up as fast as the military could build cells to hold … (men) described by Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, as ‘the worst of the worst,’ ” Greenhouse said. “Housed on foreign soil, cut off from any kind of legal process, far from the reach of federal courts, regarded as unprivileged belligerents who were unprotected by prisoner-of-war status under the Geneva Conventions; these were the inhabitants of the legal black hole the Bush administration had established.”

With Guantanamo’s extrajudicial legal status rooted in World War II-era precedent, few people expected the Supreme Court to get involved; that was left to civil liberties lawyers working at the district court level.

But then Chief Justice William Rehnquist surprised the skeptics.

“The Supreme Court … agreed to hear the detainees’ appeal,” Greenhouse said. “The case was Rasul v. Bush. The court found that Guantanamo … was functionally part of U.S. territory, and that federal courts had jurisdiction over it through the habeas corpus statute.”

The court took up the Rasul case not only for the importance of its content with regard to rule of law and the separation of powers, but also for the symbolic significance it held, she added.

“I suspect that many of the justices, perhaps most, didn’t know how they would rule,” Greenhouse said. “But what they did know was that the ruling had to come from the Supreme Court; that whatever the answers to the profound questions at the heart of that case, the answers lay in law, and the Supreme Court was called … to deliver them.”

The Guantanamo petition was accompanied by an amicus curiae brief from Fred Korematsu, the eponymous petitioner in the 1944 Korematsu v. United States ruling that upheld America’s Japanese internment program as constitutional, Greenhouse said.

Sixty years later, Greenhouse said, Korematsu’s amicus brief was meant to send the justices a simple message: “You made a mistake in my case … and I’m begging you, don’t make that mistake again.”

“Fred Korematsu died in 2005,” Greenhouse said, “a year after the court vindicated him.”

This legal saga, of prisoners held outside the Constitution and a Supreme Court that took action to bring them back under its protection, exemplifies the central crisis at the heart of Greenhouse’s address.

“My question is this: What do we have the right to expect from our Supreme Court?” Greenhouse asked.

Her short answer? “Something very much like the Guantanamo decision.”

Of the six justices who ruled against the sitting Republican president in Rasul v. Bush, four had been appointed to the court by a Republican president.

“The public could not have concluded that the Supreme Court was in the hands of any one party or any one president,” Greenhouse said. “Clearly the justices were not functioning as politicians in robes.”

In working to maintain the rule of law, she added, there are certain functions the Supreme Court must fulfill: explaining decisions in understandable terms; acting within the bounds of social precedent without perpetuating unfair systems; and treating the Constitution as what Justice Anthony Kennedy called a “covenant with the future.”

I suspect that many of the justices, perhaps most, didn’t know how they would rule,” Linda Greenhouse said. “But what they did know was that the ruling had to come from the Supreme Court; that whatever the answers to the profound questions at the heart of that case, the answers lay in law, and the Supreme Court was called … to deliver them.”

That last one stands in contrast to the legal theory of originalism, which interprets the Constitution in the historical context of its 18th-century creation.

“(This is) what Justice (Clarence) Thomas would call ‘first principles,’ while many of us, the rest of us, might call it simply ‘going backward,’ ” Greenhouse said.

So, too, do people have a right to expect from the court a dedication to democracy and coherence between the “basic commitments” of the justices and those of the larger populace.

This sort of integrity is so important because of the reverence with which the Supreme Court, as an institution, is regarded.

As evidence, Greenhouse pointed to a sociological experiment wherein subjects were shown the results of the Hazelwood School District v. Kuhlmeier ruling, with some told it was made by the court and others told it was made by a local school board. Those who attributed the decision to the court supported it far more than those who thought the same policy came from the school board.

“This legitimation function, as the social scientists call it, has been one of the court’s great strengths,” Greenhouse said.

Threatening this respectability, however, is public perception of the Supreme Court as being politically motivated. For instance, Chief Justice John Roberts’ upholding of the Affordable Care Act was perhaps “not to save Obamacare from its enemies, but to save the Supreme Court from its friends.”

“I think the court today is in a moment of real institutional peril … (because) what is historically unusual is how precisely the ideological polarization maps onto the party identification of the president who appointed each justice,” Greenhouse said.

Historically, presidents have appointed various justices who significantly diverged from them ideologically. Further, there tended to be several moderate justices on the bench at any time, which starkly contrasts with the current situation, which finds four justices on either side with Kennedy alone in the middle.

Though this isn’t a “legitimacy crisis,” at least not yet, there are “trend lines and warning signs.”

How, then, can legitimacy be maintained?

Pointing to legal scholar Richard Fallon’s distinction between legal legitimacy and sociological legitimacy, Greenhouse noted that the latter can be degraded even if the former is maintained.

“I think it’s possible to describe Citizens United (v. FEC) as a decision that possessed legal legitimacy … but where (it) failed was in the court’s obtuseness to the real-world consequences of unleashing unlimited corporate money into politics,” Greenhouse said. Which is to say, “Citizens United was a failure of sociological legitimacy.”

Implicit in that dichotomy is the recurring question of court politicization.

“I think the conservative justices who control the court today have been reckless when they need to be wary,” Greenhouse said. “They have to control their appetite for pushing change.”

That such an appetite exists is not a question for her. More important is how the right-wing political agenda, from abortion to school prayer to affirmative action, have thus far “remained elusive” despite more than three-quarters of appointments since the end of the Warren Court having been made by Republican presidents.

With Justice Neil Gorsuch on the rise and Kennedy rumored to be leaving the bench soon, that “grand project” may finally be within reach.

“The question (is) how eagerly to reach for it,” Greenhouse said.

Case in point: the “highjacking of the First Amendment as a tool of deregulation” with regard to right-to-work policies that neuter the “agency fees” used by unions to fund collective bargaining.

The Supreme Court was poised to rule on this issue, overturning the lower court’s decision and supporting right-to-work legislation, when Justice Antonin Scalia died. Without him, the court tied 4-4, therefore deferring to precedent and protecting the agency fees.

I think the court today is in a moment of real institutional peril … (because) what is historically unusual is how precisely the ideological polarization maps onto the party identification of the president who appointed each justice,” Greenhouse said.

There is now another right-to-work case set to be ruled on, and with the right-leaning Gorsuch now on the bench, “the eventual outcome … is not in doubt.”

“(This case) well illustrates the danger the court faces if it’s perceived as giving itself over to the particular political agenda,” Greenhouse said. And with states actively writing right-to-work policies into law, “a legislative route is available to accomplish this goal.”

The question, then, remains: What can Americans reasonably expect from the Supreme Court?

To answer, Greenhouse ended where she began: the legal fallout of Sept. 11, 2001.

The court heard a case last month, Ziglar v. Abbasi, concerning undocumented, mostly Arab immigrants detained in the wake of 9/11 despite no demonstrated affiliation with terrorism. Some of the detainees sought damages from the Department of Justice for violations of their constitutional rights, but the court’s majority decision rejected their claims.

“Never before had federal law enforcement agents rounded up hundreds of men based on their ethnicity and held them without charge for significant periods of time,” Greenhouse said. “It was, by definition, a new context.”

Yet the court deferred to precedent all the same, and rejected the claims to damages.

“So what should we expect from the Supreme Court?” Greenhouse asked. “Better, I would argue, than we got in this revelatory case.”

Though the Supreme Court has always existed “In Troubled Times” in some sense, she noted that it will be “tested severely” in the weeks and months ahead.

“I hope in future years … Abassi, the plaintiff in the Ziglar case, will not have the occasion to file a brief warning the court, as Fred Korematsu did, against making another historic error,” Greenhouse said. “But if that should come to pass, and Mr. Abassi does seek to send such a message to the justices, I hope we have, at that time, a Supreme Court that will listen.”

Pianist Aldo López Gavilán and conductor Daiana García to perform with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra


Aldo López-Gavilán was immersed in music before he was even born. His father is a conductor, his mother is a concert pianist, and his older brother is a violinist. So it’s no surprise that he showed musical ability from a very early age. López-Gavilán’s parents wanted him to be a cellist.

“I gave up on that,” López-Gavilán said. Instead, he took up the piano.

At 8:15 p.m. Tuesday in the Amphitheater, López-Gavilán will join the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra to perform a full program of his own music in the second of the season’s “Into the Music” series, appropriately titled “Cuban Night.”

López-Gavilán was born in Cuba where, thanks to massive investments from the revolutionary government, music education is still far more rigorous than it is in other parts of the world, including the United States. According to López-Gavilán, Cuban children typically begin their musical studies around the age of 7. They spend seven years studying solfège and harmony, singing in choirs, and taking practical exams. As teenagers, they graduate to a four-year conservatory, and then spend another five years preparing for professional careers in the vaulted halls of the Instituto Superior de Arte.

“It’s very good for the kids. It’s very demanding,” he said. “The level of education, especially in the early years, is quite strong in Cuba.”

While López-Gavilán was being trained in the classical conservatory tradition, he was inevitably absorbing the sounds of Havana as well.

“I was surrounded by Cuban music all the time, so it was not difficult to get immersed in it,” he said.

Throughout his childhood, López-Gavilán listened to Cuban jazz and popular music, but he never had a formal jazz education. With the full support of his parents and brother, López-Gavilán taught himself to compose and improvise.

“My brother was a very big factor,” López-Gavilán said. “When I was a teenager, he always reminded me to keep composing and doing my own musical language.”

Given the convergence of styles that made up López-Gavilán’s formative years, it’s no surprise he names a whole list of Cuban as well as 20th-century European composers as influences.

Interestingly, Tania León, whose name is synonymous with Cuban classical music in the United States, isn’t on the list.

“We don’t know much about Tania León because she left Cuba a long time ago and we kind of missed the connection with her career,” López-Gavilán said. “In the island there are lot of good composers and conductors who have done great work.”

López-Gavilán lists composers like Leo Brouwer and Carlos Fariñas as role models, as well as European giants like Claude Debussy, Igor Stravinsky and György Ligeti. And, of course, “all the jazz masters.”

I was surrounded by Cuban music all the time, so it was not difficult to get immersed in it,” Aldo López-Gavilán said.

When he was in his early 20s, López-Gavilán was invited to perform in Boston along with the rest of his musical family. According to López-Gavilán, it was “before anyone was thinking about cultural exchanges between Cuba and the U.S.” López-Gavilán’s father conducted the New England Conservatory of Music orchestra in a performance of a double concerto López-Gavilán composed for the occasion.

“It was the very first time I played in the United States,” he said.

With the recent thaw in diplomatic relations between the United States and Cuba in 2015, López-Gavilán said it’s not only helped his career, but his music as well.

“Every time I have experiences with musicians of all kinds, it always adds knowledge and experience,” he said.

Last year, López-Gavilán performed with Joshua Bell and the Chamber Orchestra of Havana at Lincoln Center. The concert aired on PBS’ “Live from Lincoln Center” later that year.

“Joshua Bell is a virtuoso and very experienced,” López-Gavilán said. “He’s also very open-minded.”

It wasn’t the first time Bell crossed over into other genres. He’s recorded albums with artists like Chris Botti, Regina Spektor and Sting. When it came to performing Cuban music, López-Gavilán said Bell picked it up right away.

“He loved it from the very beginning,” López-Gavilán said. “It’s not common that classical musicians are willing or able to play improvised music.”

On the podium that evening at Lincoln Center was the orchestra’s up-and-coming conductor Daiana García, who will conduct the CSO Tuestday at the Amp. García is also López-Gavilán’s wife.

Both López-Gavilán and García still live in Havana.

“I’ve been very lucky, to be honest,” López-Gavilán said. “Not every Cuban musician has the opportunity to have these exchanges with musicians from all over the world, and especially from the U.S.”

Even with López-Gavilán’s busy international touring schedule, the suggestion that he might be a cultural ambassador between the United States and Cuba caught him off guard.

“Yes, why not?” he said, laughing. “Thank you for the title!”

Lawyer Melissa Rogers to discuss safeguarding religious freedom for the sake of morals


As much as the Constitution protects the government from religion, it also protects religions from government influence and control.

Melissa Rogers, a nonresident senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution, will discuss why this is important during her lecture titled, “The ‘Conscience of the State’: Religion’s Role as an Independent Check on Government,” at 2 p.m. Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy. She will explain how protecting religious liberty safeguards morals as part of Week Five’s interfaith theme, “The Supreme Court and Religious Communities: Holding America Accountable?”

“When it’s independent, faith communities and leaders can sometimes call our nation to what Abraham Lincoln called ‘the better angels of our nature,’ ” Rogers said.

Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson

Rogers will focus her lecture on the rights and liberties protected by the First Amendment, she said, which prevents government from establishing a religion or hindering the free exercise of it.

In a January blog post on the Brookings website, Rogers advised the new administration to remember these features of the Constitution as they craft policy. She also included a powerful quote from the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in the blog post as well: the church “is not the master or the servant of the state, but rather the conscience of the state.”

Rogers said this can only happen if the separation between church and state is vital and authentic. When that is the case, then communities and leaders can step up and be an independent voice speaking to and working with government. Rogers said one of the areas in which they are taking a stand, which she will discuss in her lecture, is with issues of immigration and refugees.

“I think religious leaders of many different faiths and political stripes are raising their voices and calling for us to continue this proud tradition of welcoming refugees to the United States,” Rogers said.

Rogers’ Baptist upbringing — her father was a minister — made her interested in religious liberty from an early age. She said there is a strong tradition of church-state separation and religious liberty in the Baptist church.

In college, she wanted to study some combination of religion and law but wasn’t sure she would be able to find a job.

Happily for Rogers, she found scholars and lawyers studying the First Amendment, as she has done herself ever since. She recently served as executive director of the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships during President Barack Obama’s administration; she was surprised at how often religion came up in a wide variety of topics.

“It manifests itself in almost all walks of life and thus almost every issue,” Rogers said.

Early in her career, Rogers also found it was important to fight for these protections for all faiths as part of the Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty. This laid the foundation for her interfaith work in the White House.

“It’s a Baptist belief that every person must have the freedom to respond to God voluntarily, or just respond to their conscience voluntarily, and if they don’t have that freedom then they can’t make commitments that are actually authentic,” Rogers said.

Annette Gordon-Reed returns to Chautauqua to discuss history of Supreme Court


Week Five’s theme at Chautauqua Institution is “The Supreme Court: At a Tipping Point?”

Law and history scholar Annette Gordon-Reed is interested in how the court has possibly arrived there.

“It’s about continuity and change: the hope for what the court would be, and the reality of what it turned out to be,” Gordon-Reed said.

Annette Gordon-Reed

Gordon-Reed is a renowned legal scholar and teaches American legal history at Harvard Law School. She’ll put her expertise to use when she discusses the the Supreme Court’s origins and role at 10:45 a.m. Tuesday in the Amphitheater as part of Week Five’s morning lecture programming.

Gordon-Reed said she’d like to explore Alexander Hamilton’s understanding about the judiciary that he sets forth in The Federalist Papers: The Supreme Court is the “least dangerous branch” of government.

“He meant that because it didn’t have the power of the purse, which Congress has, and it didn’t have a military, which the executive branch controls — it was basically about law and reason,” Gordon-Reed said. “And of course, the court has become much, much more than that.”

Gordon-Reed said the Founding Fathers would be “somewhat surprised” at how much the Supreme Court’s role has grown and evolved over the years.

“So that’s what I’m going to be talking about: linking up the past to the present, and looking at how things have changed over time,” Gordon-Reed said.

That link between the past and present becomes even more essential when considering today’s political climate.

Gordon-Reed said the Supreme Court’s role in tumultuous times is “to hold fast to the law” and to be a “bulwark against encroachments upon the Constitution.”

“All of the branches are supposed to be the guardians of the Constitution, but the way this has worked out over the years is that the court is seen as the main bulwark,” Gordon-Reed said. “So I think their main duty is to put partisanship and politics aside and do what they think is best to preserve the Constitution. This is the document we all rely upon and live by.”

Gordon-Reed said the Supreme Court is essential to “maintaining the integrity of the Constitution and preserving the union,” but the United States does not have to abide by every single one of the ideas of the Founding Fathers.

“We’re not bound to what they thought, but it’s a useful guide for trying to explain why America is different from other countries,” Gordon-Reed said. “And we thought ‘different’ in a way that is good.”

Her work is dedicated to maintaining the “sense of hopefulness and optimism” that the Founding Fathers had, Gordon-Reed said. It’s essential when it comes to the American experiment and its future.

“We want people to think or believe that it’s worth continuing,” Gordon-Reed said. “The mistakes people made and the good things they did in the past can be guideposts for us as we continue with the experiment.”

Gordon-Reed is the author of six books. Her biography The Hemingses of Monticello won a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award and an Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and it was a Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection in 2009. Her most recent work is 2016’s “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination, which she co-wrote with Peter S. Onuf.

She and Onuf will present the book as part of the Heritage Lecture Series at 3:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Hall of Philosophy.

Gordon-Reed said she and Onuf will discuss Jefferson and what his ideas offer contemporary politics — and what they don’t offer.

“What does Jefferson mean to us today?” Gordon-Reed said. “He’s always in the news, and always controversial.”

After her discussions of Hamilton, Jefferson and the Supreme Court, Gordon-Reed said, she hopes people will be reminded of “the importance of history, and the importance of knowing history and making connections to the past.”

“We have a story that’s worth knowing,” Gordon-Reed said.

Thinking about that story can illuminate how to move forward, she said.

“If people are hopeless or feel that it’s all over — things were bleak in the past, and we overcame it,” Gordon-Reed said. “What I want people to think is that we’re part of a continuing process. This is an experiment — an ongoing experiment — and it’s a worthwhile one.”

Music School Festival Orchestra performs with Festival Dancers in evening performance

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The first time Earl Lee conducted an orchestra to perform with live dancers was three years ago on the Amphitheater stage.

The former David Effron Conducting Fellow has returned to guest conduct the Music School Festival Orchestra at 8:15 p.m. Monday in the Amp as they perform with the Chautauqua Festival Dancers.

“When I was here in 2014 as a fellow, it was an unforgettable experience collaborating with the dancers,” Lee said. “Ever since, I’ve wanted to do more.”

The MSFO will begin the program with Alexander Konstantinovich Glazunov’s “Raymonda Variations,” a special piece for Lee since he first conducted it as a fellow in 2014. Lee said the “beautiful score” follows a classic ballet story line. It’s about a wanderer who seduces a girl, but her fiancé shows up to save her in time.

Patricia McBride, master teacher in the School of Dance, staged the piece, which was choreographed by George Balanchine.

“It’s a joy and a pleasure to stage this work,” McBride said.

Though the Festival dancers performed it at the July 16 Student Gala, they’ve continued to work with McBride to perfect the piece, which features eight solos.

“Using the classical vocabulary, you have to be so pure,” McBride said. “There’s no hiding when you wear a tutu and pink tights. It’s so revealing, so it has to be really very precise.”

In addition to the Glazunov, Lee will lead the MSFO in Sergei Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No. 1. featuring soloist Rixang Huang According to Lee, there’s a strange connection between the two composers: Prokofiev composed his concerto as a student in St. Petersburg for a competition where Glazunov was a judge. Glazunov hated the piece, Lee said, but went with the majority and Prokofiev won the prize.

“It’s a short concerto (with) no stop,” Lee said. “It’s 17 minutes, but packed with incredible journey and musical episodes.”

Earl Lee, the 2014 David Effron Conducting Fellow leads the Chautauqua Music School Festival Orchestra as it performs Ottorino Respighi’s Fontane di Roma Monday July 7, 2014 at the Amp. MATT BURKHARTT/DAILY FILE PHOTO

Mark Diamond, resident choreographer at the School of Dance, originally choreographed this piece in the early 1990s for a company of professional dancers at the Institution called the Chautauqua Ballet, then a few years later with both the Charlotte Ballet and students in the School of Dance.

“It has a more mature feel to the choreography because it’s challenging and has a lot of style,” Diamond said.

He described the piece as “neoclassical,” which he said differs from contemporary ballets because of the types of movements.

“Neoclassical is sort of what you might call a lot of Balanchine, a lot of twists and movements away from pure classical arms and things,” Diamond said.

According to Diamond, the piece is “purely built around the structure of the piano concerto.” Two lead couples dressed in red and amber begin the piece, and are followed by a series of dancers and motifs throughout. At one point, Diamond said, it’s as if the men are running through a forest, dashing after each other.

Another section focuses on subtle yet sharp, intentional movements of the shoulders, elbows and wrists of the women. Another couple enters the piece dressed in amber and yellow for a section that Diamond described as “abstract and simple,” yet challenging because of “very delicate” movements that require focus and balance.

“It’s just really exciting,” Diamond said. “You don’t really know all the risks that the dancers and pianist are taking but it seems like it’s just all taking place, it’s like a big happening.”

Lee will also conduct the orchestra to Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 and Symphony No. 38. He will share the orchestra with Rebecca Tong, the 2017 David Effron Conducting Fellow, who will lead the students in Jean Françaix’s “Le Roi Nu.”

“When you have the element of live music, it adds another dimension to it,” said Michael Vernon, resident faculty member and choreographer for the piece.

The choreography, which Vernon debuted at last Sunday’s Student Gala, is inspired by a French cabaret.

“As you create the ballet, you see the dancers improve and then as the dancers improve, the ballet improves,” Vernon said.

It features eight sections that Vernon said are unrelated, even though the same dancers perform throughout the piece.

“I wanted it to be more like revue, like the old-fashioned revue than a ballet per se,” Vernon said.

Elements like the costumes, which Vernon said draw from both French and Japanese elements of chic, and the wigs, create a “theatrical atmosphere.”

“What I like to do here in Chautauqua is give them a ballet where they can really learn how to be part of an ensemble and also perform on their own,” Vernon said.

For Vernon, creating new choreography is an “enjoyable, creative” experience.

“Playground Teasers,” choreographed by the School of Dance’s Director of Contemporary Studies Sasha Janes, will also return to the stage tonight but with another section. In its full form, the piece has five sections.

Elijah Spies, a violist, said although there’s a lot of music to rehearse for tonight’s program, he’s enjoying Lee’s detailed and focused approach.

While tonight’s performance is an opportunity for the young artists to collaborate, it also presents challenges for the young musicians. Spies said tonight’s performance offers less room for flexibility than last week’s MSFO performance of Debussy’s “La Mer” since the dancers are used to performing with a recording.

“That offers a little bit of difficulty in terms of tempo,” Spies said. “It’s a challenge, but I think it will be interesting and I’m excited to work with them.”

Guest Critic: CTC’s ‘Detroit ’67’ delivers timely history lesson and ‘honors Morisseau’s genius’


Nervous and suspicious, two black men carry the covered body of an unconscious white woman down the stairs of a dark Detroit basement. They step gingerly so as not to bump their heads or drop their quarry.

It’s the kind of scene that’s sure to ratchet up the fear factor in TV crime dramas, often attended by sirens and gunshots. But the provocative sequence takes place not onscreen but onstage in Detroit ’67, playwright Dominique Morisseau’s poetic exploration of dreams and budding love against a backdrop of urban unrest. And the scene, like the play itself, upends both expectations and stereotypes.

Detroit ’67 opened over the weekend in Steve H. Broadnax III’s affecting and absorbing production at Chautauqua Theater Company, nearly 50 years to the day of the July 23, 1967, riots that set Morisseau’s hometown alight.

The action, set in the lead-up to those historical events, revolves around two siblings, Chelle (Moses Ingram) and Lank (Micah Peoples), who are dealing with an inheritance from their parents even as they make ends meet by hosting house parties. Lank wants to go legit and to use his part of the inheritance to open a bar with his friend Sly (Andy Lucien). Chelle wants to go legit as well, but questions if selling liquor is the way to honor their parents.

The play also involves Chelle’s friend, Bunny (Stori Ayers), who provides comic relief, and Caroline (Jennifer Apple), the mystery woman conveyed down the stairs.

Director Broadnax grounds the play squarely in history, expanding Michael Carnahan’s single and evocative set with a variety of multimedia tools, including videos and radio broadcasts (Katherine Freer designed the projections).

But the production stands out because of its sterling cast, which savors the language and honors Morisseau’s genius, as well as the music (Curtis Craig designed the sound, which includes a liberal offering of Motown soul by the likes of The Temptations, Martha Reeves and the Vandellas, The Four Tops, among others).

Jennifer Apple as Caroline, left, and Micah Peoples as Lank connect through Motown music during a dress rehearsal of “Detroit ’67.” PAULA OSPINA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

True, Broadnax’s choices are a touch broad in couple of places, including Lank’s overwrought tumbling down the stairs and another bit in which Lank and Bunny dance erotically a tad too long. But those are relative nits in an otherwise lyrical production with strong performances.

Ingram’s Chelle is beautifully inviting and open. Honest, sweet and full of motherly wit, she shows us her heart and world, allowing us to cheer her on. And when she dances at the end of the show, a solo turn that veers between crying and celebration, we feel every bit of her bittersweet joy.

Ingram is surrounded by equal talent. In fact, her Chelle and Lucien’s Sly flirt with each other throughout the show. The two actors play a romantic scene in which Sly uses Chelle’s words to seduce her, like a master class in seduction.

Lucien, too, delivers a performance with inviting, ordinary majesty. It is that nobility that makes his fate so heartbreaking.

Ayers’ Bunny is a flirty woman of big appetites and lots of loving. Her interactions with Lank are something of a physical mismatch, but the humor is not at the expense of their characters or either actor. And their romantic joshing is tinged with sweetness.

Peoples’ Lank is something of an innocent. It is he, and Lucien’s Sly, who carry an unconscious woman down the stairs, with all that implies about their wisdom, or lack thereof, and their hearts. His character may not be as deep as, say, Chelle or his sparring partner Sly, but the actor shows us his goodness.

Apple, who plays the carried woman, maintains an air of mystery throughout the show, stringing us along as we try to figure her out. But questions linger, those about her and those spurred by the play itself.

Morisseau uses a historical crucible to talk about our progress. In fact, one of the leitmotifs of Detroit ’67 involves a broken record-player, the same one that stops the sweet songs of Motown as Chelle grooves while doing chores. The metaphor suggests that 50 years on and with reports of police brutality and unrest it draws in cities big and small, we may not have moved too far away from that fiery past.

Rohan Preston has been a theater critic for The Star Tribune in Minneapolis since 1998 and has served on the Pulitzer Prize jury for drama. He can be reached at

Linda Greenhouse to dissect Supreme Court’s actions in current political climate


What should we be able to expect from our Supreme Court?

That’s the question Linda Greenhouse plans to answer at 10:45 a.m. Monday in the Amphitheater. Currently, Greenhouse is the Joseph Goldstein Lecturer in Law and Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence at Yale Law School. She’s also a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist who spent 30 years covering the Supreme Court for The New York Times, beginning in 1978. Her lecture is titled “The Supreme Court in Troubled Times.”

In her lecture, Greenhouse will put forth “exemplary cases” that she thinks “boost and answer” that question. According to her, it’s a talk that’s both “very optimistic” and “quite a sober one.”

It’s been nearly a decade since Greenhouse last spoke at Chautauqua Institution, but she still has an understanding of its audience.

“I know that it’s a very smart and engaged audience. They don’t need a dumbed-down civics lesson,” Greenhouse said. “People bring a lot of knowledge about the country and the world when they come to Chautauqua, so I try to pitch in. They’re an informed bunch of citizens who are interested and concerned in what’s going on in the word.”

When it comes to the current political climate, Greenhouse said she’s troubled by the polarization “both in our politics and reflected in the Supreme Court.”

“From my Supreme Court-focused point of view, it is particularly dangerous that we have a Supreme Court where the ideology of the justices match … the ideology of the party of the president who appointed them,” Greenhouse said. “That is a historic anomaly, that’s not been the pattern in our country.”

With the Supreme Court, “there’s always been a crossover,” according to Greenhouse. She referenced former President Dwight Eisenhower’s appointment of Earl Warren, the then-governor of California, to the Supreme Court.

“(Warren) became the leader of the liberal (wing),” Greenhouse said. “So we’ve had liberal justices appointed by Republican presidents, we’ve had conservative justices appointed by Democratic presidents.”

She also points to a lack of transparency and accountability with regard to the Supreme Court. According to Greenhouse, it’s not the case that “these are nine people who are acting as judges and doing the best they can to resolve the disputes that reach them according to the law as they understand it.” Instead, she said, they’re “fulfilling somebody’s agenda.”

“I think it’s increasingly difficult for the public today to look at the court and walk away with that comforting notion,” Greenhouse said. “I think that polarization puts the court in a very tricky spot in terms of maintaining its institutional legitimacy.”

Greenhouse said she’s also concerned about the Supreme Court in the area of religion and the “increasingly pluralistic society in the United States.”

“I think the court is privileging a particularly conventional form of religious exercise that doesn’t reflect the diversity of our country,” Greenhouse said.

Greenhouse said her Heritage Lecture at 3:30 p.m. Monday in the Hall of Philosophy will be more informal, serving more as a follow-up to her book signing for The Burger Court and the Rise of the Judicial Right, which she co-authored with Michael J. Graetz in 2016. There will be an opportunity for people to ask questions and engage in dialogue about “the courts’ turn to the right a generation ago.”

Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush to explain why U.S. is an incomplete project


Interfaith justice is not just the focus of the Rev. Paul Brandeis Raushenbush’s work — it’s his legacy.

The work of Raushenbush’s famous great-grandfathers, Louis Brandeis and Walter Rauschenbusch, will also inform his lecture Monday, titled “Prophetic Witness in the Progress towards America.” Raushenbush will open Week Five’s Interfaith Lecture Series, themed, “The Supreme Court and Religious Communities: Holding America Accountable?,” at 2 p.m. Monday in the Hall of Philosophy, where he will discuss how religion and the courts are guiding America toward the promise of the Declaration of Independence.

“The Supreme Court’s role is to enshrine in law this moral vision and it is the prophetic role to ensure that that vision is being lifted up,” Raushenbush said.

Raushenbush, who is an ordained Baptist minister, has a bit of both the Supreme Court and organized religion in him from Brandeis and the elder Rauschenbusch. Brandeis was the first Jewish Supreme Court justice, and Walter Rauschenbusch was an influential figure in the Social Gospel movement during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.


Faith and justice were intertwined for both men, Raushenbush said, who were “prophetic” in their respective fields.

In that sense, they helped to make progress in America, which Raushenbush defines as making the country better reflect the Declaration of Independence.

In his lecture, Raushenbush said he will be considering how, since his great-grandfathers’ era, religion and the Supreme Court have continued to work toward the promises of the Declaration.

While he said the language of the Declaration was noble and ideal, it was not true even when the document was written because it didn’t apply to women, slaves and other American citizens. Raushenbush himself, as a gay man, is still not completely equal in the eyes of the law.

“This idea that you can go back to a time where everything was perfect is a myth, and not a myth in a good way. It’s a fallacy,” Raushenbush said. “The prophetic look forward with a clear eye toward the present and toward the past.”

As for who can hold prophetic witness — or who can uphold the ultimate goal of justice and righteousness — Raushenbush said it could be anyone, as prophets are rarely in power. Raushenbush worked to provide a platform for the voices of those he considered prophetic witnesses as executive editor of global spirituality and religion for The Huffington Post’s religion section from 2009 to 2015.

In the vein of his great-grandfather Brandeis, Raushenbush also fights for social justice as his way of upholding prophetic righteousness. He is now senior vice president and editor of Voices at Auburn Seminary, where he and other interfaith leaders teach and advocate for important social issues such as an end to racial violence.

While Raushenbush is now a Baptist minister, he grew up very close to his Jewish cousins on the other side of the family, he said. They would spend every summer together and grew up seeing each other’s faiths as equal. Raushenbush said this helped him develop an interfaith framework for his ideas early on.

“The way we all understood religion was a deep integration of interfaith relations into what it meant to be spiritual or religious,” Raushenbush said. “So, I say I have an interfaith heart.”

Derek Bermel and Sandra Cisneros collaboration receives its premiere through ‘Mango Suite’


Chautauqua Institution has a history of combining its professional and student companies in multipronged, collaborative efforts.

“While these projects were wildly successful artistically, they did not have a life after Chautauqua,” said Vice President and Director of Programming Deborah Sunya Moore.

So this year, the Inter-Arts collaboration aimed to produce a work of art that will live on outside the Institution gates and beyond the nine-week season. The collaboration also has a distinctly literary inspiration: Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street.

At 8:15 p.m. Saturday in the Amphitheater, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will open the evening with Leonard Bernstein’s rarely heard score to the Jerome Robbins ballet “Fancy Free.” Then, the CSO, Chautauqua Theater Company, the Charlotte Ballet and the Chautauqua Voice Program combine their artistic efforts for the world premiere of Derek Bermel’s “Mango Suite.”

The project’s central component is Bermel’s brand new score. The piece was commissioned by Chautauquans Francis and Cindy Letro, in honor of Tom and Jane Becker for their dedication to inter-arts programming, along with two other orchestras led by CSO Music Director Rossen Milanov — the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and the Princeton Symphony.

Wherever Bermel’s music goes after tonight, audiences will know it was first performed at, and partially paid for by, Chautauquans.

“Deborah (Sunya Moore) called me, and we spoke for a while about what kinds of projects would be most interesting to Chautauqua and to me,” Bermel said.

Bermel set about looking for a text that had personal appeal and could work across multiple art forms. Early on in his search, he found Cisneros’ novel, which is the Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle selection for Week Four. But Bermel set it aside, thinking a more poetic style of writing would work better with music. He spent several months reading epic poems by contemporary American Latino poets. In the end, he came back to Cisneros.

“I came back to The House on Mango Street because there was something so compelling about the story, and it started calling me,” Bermel said.

He started toward the end of the book and found a chapter in which Esperanza, the narrator throughout the novel, describes her ideal house.

“I thought this could be a beautiful song,” Bermel said. “As I started writing it I thought, ‘OK, this is good.’ ”

Bermel contacted Cisneros to see if she would let him write music based on excerpts from the novel. Cisneros agreed.

“What really sold me was listening to Derek’s music,” Cisneros said. “It just opened up a different range of emotions that I thought would match my story.”

In each of the vignettes that make up the roughly 50-minute piece, Esperanza will be portrayed by dancers, actors and vocalists.

“Understanding Esperanza was definitely a challenge because she isn’t a ‘Plain Jane,’ ” said vocalist Lindsey Reynolds. “She is a complex and strong character.”

CTC conservatory actor Isabel Pask will portray Esperanza in dramatic form. CTC conservatory members Siddiq Saunderson, Emily Daly and Jules Latimer comprise a theatrical ensemble in Pask’s scenes, while the CSO provides the musical backdrop.

“The character is a writer and she likes to tell stories, so in this production her imagination is so alive,” Pask said.

The House on Mango Street consists of 44 self-contained episodes which relate Esperanza’s struggles with assimilating and being marginalized at the same time. As a Puerto Rican woman, Pask said she feels a kinship with Esperanza. Yet, she recognizes the two have different stories. Pask grew up in Dallas, Texas, while Esperanza is a young Mexican-American girl growing up in Chicago.

Other parts of the story will be told through choreography by Charlotte Ballet Associate Artistic Director and Resident Choreographer Sasha Janes. He worked closely with CTC Artistic Director Andrew Borba to coordinate all of the movement that will be happening on the Amp stage.

“It’s a true collaboration,” Janes said. “We have to be very careful about making sure we don’t get siloed.”

Janes’ choreography, which he developed in a short period of time, integrates various styles of dance, including a lyrical ballad and a pas de deux performed en pointe. The dancers spent more than a week working on their moves. Along with learning and developing the choreography, dancer Juwan Alston said they’ve been trying to figure out how to mesh with everything else happening onstage.

“We were trying to figure out how we can really interact with each other,” Alston said.

Janes said projects like “Mango Suite” cultivate an appreciation for other arts not only in the audience, but also in the artists themselves.

“It’s great for dancers to sit down and see a really great actor deliver a monologue,” Janes said. “It’s also mind-blowing for an actor to see what these dancers can do with their bodies.”

Alston agreed.

“We’re all truly growing and gaining well-rounded knowledge about the arts,” Alston said.

To make a piece that is both true to Cisneros’ story and practical in performance, Bermel chose a total of 12 vignettes from the book as source material.

“A full dramatic realization of the text would have taken several hours to perform,” Bermel said. “Everything goes much slower when you sing it.”

Typically, when composers are inspired by literature, the result is either a tone poem or, if they want to use singers and dancers and scenery, an opera. Bermel’s “Mango Suite” includes aspects of both. It’s an orchestral suite that incorporates other elements, which future productions by other orchestras can omit. Making an evening-length opera would have required heavily adapting and shortening Cisneros’ book into a libretto so it could be sung within a few hours.

“It would have really required trying to recast the story,” Bermel said. “I didn’t even know if Sandra would grant me the rights for the piece in the first place.”

After he wrote some of the music, Bermel visited Cisneros at her San Antonio home.

“He presented what he was working on to me,” Cisneros said. “He wanted to know if he was on the right track, and I thought he did a marvelous job.”

Bermel was especially taken by the understated way Cisneros addressed white flight, alienation and assimilation. In a chapter called “Cathy Queen of Cats,” a girl who claims to be descended from French royalty says she can be friends with Esperanza, but only until the following Tuesday because the neighborhood is “getting bad” and Cathy is moving away.

“Cathy’s father will have to fly to France one day and find her great great distant grand cousin on her father’s side and inherit the family house,” Esperanza says in the book. “In the meantime they’ll just have to move a little farther north from Mango Street, a little farther away every time people like us keep moving in.”

According to Bermel, the story’s specificity is, paradoxically, what makes it so universal.

“It speaks to anybody who feels marginalized,” Bermel said.

The brief vignettes that make up Cisneros’ novel also challenge the old metaphor of America as a melting pot. To Bermel, America is more like “a stew that has some problems mixing. We don’t all melt together. Things don’t quite work like that.”

Cisneros’ childhood was itself paradoxical. She grew up in a house of nine, yet feels she had a boring and “very solitary” life. As a child, Cisneros imagined characters and cultivated a vibrant inner world, complete with its own music.

“I always imagined my life with a soundtrack,” Cisneros said. “Don’t you? Doesn’t everybody?”

Staff writers Rebecca Klar, Ryan Lindsay, Dara McBride and Ryan Pait contributed to this report.

CTC hopes to incite change, conversation with Dominique Morisseau’s ‘Detroit ‘67’


Detroit, Michigan, is just over 300 miles from Chautauqua Institution. But inside Bratton Theater, a furnished basement bar from the city’s Virginia Park neighborhood is bringing Detroit and its history closer.

Chautauqua Theater Company’s production of Dominique Morisseau’s historic drama Detroit ’67 opened Friday and continues its run with shows at 2:15 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2:15 p.m. Sunday in Bratton Theater. The weekend coincides with the 50th anniversary of the five days of civil unrest that reached a boiling point in the summer of 1967.

CTC is not alone in recognizing the play and the city’s history this summer, as period crime drama “Detroit” will hit movie theaters in August and venues throughout the Motor City are marking the anniversary. The Detroit Historical Society recently launched the multi-year community project and exhibit, “Detroit 67: Perspectives,” to educate and start discussion.

The Detroit-based project is themed “looking back to move forward,” and it could be said the cast and crew of CTC’s Detroit ’67 share that goal.

“I’m hoping that people can see what happened, see that it’s still happening, and want to initiate and incite change,” said director Steve H. Broadnax III.

Unfolding on the eve of what are commonly called the Detroit riots — although there’s a growing movement to call the event a rebellion or uprising — Detroit ’67 tells the story of a brother and sister at odds over the family home and business. A Motown soundtrack helps guide and enliven the story, which also deals with interracial romance.

Although the play centers on an explosive moment in Detroit’s history, the story is not city-specific, said Broadnax, who is associate director of Pennsylvania Centre Stage and a professor of acting at Penn State University. Broadnax is familiar with Morisseau and her work, and the two spoke before the Chautauqua production got underway.

“Our playwright, Dominique, is so passionate about the city and her community and it’s an honor to help tell that story,” Broadnax said. “I’m not from Detroit, but I feel like I am now.”

At the start of rehearsal, Broadnax shared a list of themes he discussed with Morisseau. That list included community and family, brother-sister relationships, freedom and dreaming. Change, as well as how the historic events relate to current events, were major themes for both director and playwright, Broadnax said.

“Unless we examine our past and history, we will continue to repeat it,” Broadnax said, adding Detroit’s history is a shared history with other U.S. cities and the nation as a whole. “I do have an urge to tell this story because it’s still happening.”

In 1960s Detroit, 12th Street was the center of the city’s predominantly African-American inner city, as well as a center of nightlife. Nationally, the city was viewed as a leader in race relations, but locally, there were growing tensions, as many African Americans were dissatisfied with social conditions and progress.

I’m hoping that people can see what happened, see that it’s still happening, and want to initiate and incite change,” said director Steve H. Broadnax III.

When a police vice squad raided an after-hours club on 12th Street, which was hosting a celebration for the return of two Vietnam veterans, early in the morning of July 23, 1967, tensions reached a breaking point. Both black and white residents reacted, and arson and looting occurred over the next few days. Police, firemen, the National Guard and paratroopers responded, and dozens were killed and more than a thousand wounded.

As part of the CTC production’s dramaturgy, cast and crew received a 65-page packet covering everything from the history to music of the time. Included in the section on the history of the time was a quote from Carole Morisseau, the playwright’s aunt, who was in high school at the time.

“The spark could’ve been anything because people, black people who had fought and died in wars, who wanted in on the American dream, were fed up with being second-class citizens,” Carole Morisseau told the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 2015. “What we lost in the burning was innocence, naiveté, social order. What we gained was a sense of empowerment and a sense of how to change things. It was scary and energizing at the same time.”

When Detroit ’67 made its Detroit debut in 2016 at Detroit Public Theatre, where CTC Managing Director Sarah Clare Corporandy is also a co-producing artistic director, local critic John Monaghan called it “must-see theater” in the Detroit Free Press.

Detroit ’67 effectively captures a community coming to grips with its history and its future,” Monaghan wrote. “Its view of race relations is still timely, especially as the city debates the current hot topic of gentrification.”

Although deeply connected to the city in its title, the play opened in New York in 2013. Detroit ’67 is the first in Morisseau’s three-play cycle about her hometown and received the 2014 Kennedy Prize for Drama Inspired by American History. This summer, the play’s life in the Motor City will continue as Detroit Public Theatre hosts a series of free, public stagings of the show as part of a citywide initiative.

Now a few years old, Detroit ’67 has made the rounds on such major stages as the Public Theater and Baltimore Center Stage. A well-regarded and challenging play, Detroit ’67 naturally fits into CTC’s lineup. At the same time, CTC leaders and performers said they are interested in seeing how the show is received at Chautauqua, especially since it is usually performed in more metropolitan areas.

“I’m curious to see what it’s like to tell this story in Detroit, to sit in the audience in Detroit and watch the story, and sit in the audience with a non-Detroit audience,” Corporandy said. “I saw it in Baltimore, and that is a city that has also gone through similar things as Detroit. Chautauqua has not.”

Helping facilitate discussion at Chautauqua will be a series of talk-backs programmed after each performance of Detroit ’67. Corporandy, who will also travel to see performances of Detroit ’67 in Detroit this summer, said the company felt strongly about giving audiences the chance to respond — or sit back and listen — to continued discussion of the play.

Visiting actor Stori Ayers said she is curious to see how the audience at Chautauqua responds. Ayers, who also works as a personal assistant to Morisseau and will direct another of the playwright’s works this fall, has seen multiple productions of the play around the country. She also read the play six or seven times after being cast in CTC’s production.

She described her character of Bunny as bringing the culture of the 1960s to the storyline in the play.

Andy Lucien as Sly, left, sings to Moses Ingram as Chelle “Reach out I’ll be there” by the Four Top during a dress rehearsal of Detroit ’67. PAULA OSPINA / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

“The play, for me, is infused with so much black culture,” she said. “I have seen predominantly white audiences and predominantly black audiences respond drastically different to the play because when there’s something that’s really familiar and you grew up with it and you know it, it resonates with you differently.”

Marlowe Stoudamire, a Detroit native and director of the Detroit Historical Society’s ’67 Project, suggested theatergoers do their own research into what happened that summer to better understand and absorb the message of the play.

“I think they need to understand the trajectory of where Detroit was before that fatal week in 1967,” Stoudamire said. “They need to understand the history of where we have been, they need to understand that it wasn’t a race riot, they need some history, they need some facts.”

Stoudamire saw Detroit ’67 when the play premiered in Detroit, and said he and playwright Morisseau attended high school together. He started working on the historical society’s exhibit, which will run through 2019, more than two years ago. The exhibit, which has received national attention, includes “a lot of storytelling” and drew on interviews.

That exhibit has already created both disagreement and conversation, Stoudamire said. Thinking about the Chautauqua production happening hundreds of miles away from Detroit, he encouraged viewers to consider how they fit into the Detroit storyline, which is an ongoing narrative.

“The audience, you need to ask them where do they see themselves,” Stoudamire said. “Or where do they see America today within this narrative? How does this intersect with their world? Because the key is, you want to figure out why this matters to somebody who didn’t live there and who wasn’t from there. Why would it matter to them?”

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