Leading up to its final production of the 2018 Chautauqua season, Chautauqua Opera Company, along with the entire Department of Performing and Visual Arts, will host a community day to further the discussions about inclusion at the Institution.
The “As One Community Day” will be held all day Sunday, Aug. 5, at various locations.
As One is a contemporary American opera and coming-of-age story about a transgender woman. Steven Osgood, general and artistic director of Chautauqua Opera, conducted the first production of Laura Kaminsky’s As One, with libretto by Kimberly Reed and Mark Campbell, in September 2014. Before he became the director of Chautauqua Opera in 2016, Osgood started a plan to bring the piece to Western New York.
Originally, Osgood had talked to American Opera Projects, which produced the work, about making As One a traveling opera. The idea was to start that in the surrounding areas of Chautauqua, including Buffalo.
Then Osgood thought: “Why shouldn’t Chautauqua Opera be the place that’s producing it?”
To reach the people outside of Chautauqua, Osgood, Vice President of PAVA Deborah Sunya Moore and other community leaders decided to dedicate a day’s worth of programming to discussing the ideas in the opera.
The day will feature people across all disciplines, including the literary arts, theater and religion. The first event will begin at 12:30 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 5, at Chautauqua Cinema with a screening of As One co-librettist Reed’s film “Prodigal Sons.” The film is an autobiographical account of Reed returning to her hometown for a high school reunion after her transition and explores her familial relationships. There will be a talkback with Reed following the movie.
Reed will also be a part of a panel at 3:30 p.m. Sunday in Hurlbut Church. The Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor, will moderate the panel, which will feature Campbell, co-librettist for As One; writer-in-residence Darren Canaday, who will be leading a weekend intensive for Chautauqua Writers’ Center; and Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, winner of the 2018 Chautauqua Prize.
By including different voices, Moore said it makes the programming less about the opera and more about Chautauqua’s welcoming of all people.
“To me, it’s really about diversifying and broadening who we are as a community, and that is not done through just the opera company; that is not done through just the literary arts; it’s not done through just the visual arts,” Moore said.
The programming falls on a Sunday, when the Institution is open to the public free of charge. As One will be performed at 4 p.m. Tuesday in Norton Hall, but an open rehearsal will be held at 2:45 p.m. Sunday in Norton Hall to give people an opportunity to see a portion of the opera.
“There has been a big effort to make sure that people within every community that might be drawn to a day like this knows about it,” Osgood said.
One of Chautauqua Institution’s priorities is diversity and inclusion; not just internally, but with outside communities as well. Moore hopes everyone who comes to the grounds will feel like they belong.
“They don’t have to be of one background or be a particular type of person for Chautauqua to suit them,” Moore said. “Chautauqua is one-size-fits-all.Chautauqua is striving to be open enough and welcoming enough and hospitable enough that whether you are a returning Chautauquan or a new Chautauquan, we hope you can feel a part of this community very quickly.”
When he talks about the impact of As One, Osgood is often left speechless. He said it’s hard to believe that this opera has flourished and has become the most-produced contemporary American opera since its premiere, and that it is now being produced at Chautauqua.
“My place in (the queer) community is by association. It’s hard to put words on it. It’s moving,” Osgood said. “I am not ‘L.’ I am not ‘B.’ I’m not ‘G.’ I’m not ‘T’ and I’m not ‘Q,’ but what the piece does is talk and clarify how those are just subsets of everybody. I’m part of it because I’m part of everybody, and I’m part of it because I got to conduct (As One).”