Martin makes changes as cafes, Plaza Market supervisor


Renee Martin is ready.

The new operations supervisor of the cafes and Plaza Market around Bestor Plaza throws off sparks of energy when she talks about her new position.

“I’ve had a lot of experience in various facets of the hospitality business,” Martin said during a rare break in preparations for another busy season in the Brick Walk Cafe. “I have owned and operated a bar/restaurant and worked for a number of years in the corporate world. It’s different here in Chautauqua. There is such a strong sense of family and tradition. My impression is that this is a place of fundamental values.”

Martin is committed to the Institution’s priorities of service and positive guest experience.

“I feel that I have a good opportunity in this position to build on what was accomplished last year and move things ahead with positive change,” she said.

Martin oversees the Brick Walk Cafe, Afterwords Café, the Plaza Market and the café at Fowler-Kellogg Art Center.

She has jumped right in and implemented a change in perhaps the most noticeable area of her entire operation: Perennially popular ice cream will be sold differently at the Brick Walk Cafe this season.

“We are going to change the way people line up for ice cream at busy times at the Brick Walk Cafe,” Martin said.

The plan is for customers to line up through the main front door of the cafe and place their order, paying at a terminal at the head of the ice cream counter, which will feature 24 flavors. A display board outside will announce the flavors available on a given day.

The attendant who takes the order will move to fill the order personally. Martin said there is room for as many as seven attendants behind the reworked counter, and the new plan should facilitate customer flow through the area. There is a greater selection of cones available, and customers will be free to choose their own as they pass along in front of the counter.

Martin also said the Brick Walk Cafe will be offering a different single-origin coffee each week. Jamestown’s Crown Street Roasting Company will be a partner this year. An Ethiopian coffee is featured during Week One.

A believer in careful training and development of her employees, Martin brought in cafe managers beginning in March, and some of her nearly 100 staff members have been working in the various venues since Memorial Day.

“I like to set up a predictable system and give employees a chance to get accustomed to it before we go live when the season really starts,” she said.

Having first seen the Institution 20 years ago on a bus tour for donors to a public radio station in Pittsburgh, Martin returned to the area to help open the Olive Garden restaurant on Fairmont Avenue in Lakewood. She and her husband live on Lake Erie west of Westfield.

Foundation director Connolly honored with vic gelb award

  • Jack Connolly is awarded the first Vic Gelb Heart of Chautauqua Service Award during a Chautauqua Foundation Dinner in the Athenaeum Hotel Parlor, Friday, June 22, 2018. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Every year, the Chautauqua Foundation holds a welcome dinner to celebrate past and present members of its board of directors and the Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees, whom current foundation chair Cathy Bonner describes as “the beating heart” of Chautauqua Institution. Members of those groups volunteer their time and resources to aid the longevity of the Chautauqua experience.

This year, the groups gathered on June 22 at the Athenaeum Hotel to look ahead to the 2018 season. Among those recognized were former chair of the foundation Dick Miller, former Institution president Tom Becker, and former vice chair of the foundation vic gelb, who passed away on May 21.

Subsequent speakers at the dinner, including vice chair of the foundation board Karen Goodell, former chair Steve Percy, the foundation’s chief executive officer Geof Follansbee and Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill reflected on gelb’s contributions on and off the grounds.

“I believe those who worked with vic would agree that he was the most elegant and solid voice of reason at every table,” Goodell said. “He backed his thoughts up with substance, and he always made us go back to our mission and think about what we were actually doing in relationship to that.”

At the Institution, gelb served as a director of the Chautauqua Foundation from 1995 to 2011. He also chaired the five-year-long Idea Campaign in the early 2000s that raised $53 million. In his hometown of Cleveland, he was awarded the Charles Eisenman Award in 1997, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland’s highest civic honor. He also served as national president of Big Brothers of America, board chair of Mount Sinai Healthcare Foundation and in a number of other philanthropic positions.

“He showed us that it’s an honor and a privilege to give back,” Goodell said. “He was passionate about his causes and beliefs, and shared them openly.”

Gelb cared deeply for Chautauqua Institution and its continuation. In honor of his service throughout the years, Hill and Follansbee surprised the audience with a new award in his memory, the vic gelb Heart of Chautauqua Service Award, to be given in honor of dedicated volunteerism to Chautauqua and to the larger community.

“It’s my great honor tonight to present the first vic gelb Heart of Chautauqua Service Award to a gentleman whose service over truly a lifetime to the Institution follows in vic’s footsteps,” Follansbee said, “and in some cases, actually created footsteps for vic to follow in.”

Follansbee awarded the first Vic Gelb Heart of Chautauqua Service Award to Jack Connolly.

Connolly has served as president of Chautauqua Golf Club’s Board of Governors, volunteer of the Chautauqua Challenge Campaign, an Institution trustee until 2006, co-chair of the Chautauqua Fund from 2002 to 2006, member of the Idea Campaign cabinet from 2002 to 2007, and continues to serve on the foundation’s board.

He is also known for his philanthropy to Chautauqua’s opera program, including his funding of the Connolly Residence Hall. Because of Connolly’s love for opera, the dinner concluded with three performances from members of the Chautauqua Opera Company.

“I’ve tried to be as philanthropically helpful as I can,” said Connolly, who has been connected to the Institution for the majority of his life and continues to volunteer to maintain the legacy of Chautauqua.

“I’m truly delighted and honored to be named a recipient (of this award),” Connolly said.

Connolly described gelb as someone he admired and saw as a mentor in many ways.

“We’re thrilled to give (this award) to you,” Follansbee said to Connolly. “I couldn’t imagine anyone who deserves it more than you do.”

CTC to take accessible ‘As You Like It’ to Jamestown

  • Bob Gerwin holds up an umbrella while watching a performance of "As You Like it" on Bestor Plaza by Chautauqua Theater Company, Sunday, June 24, 2018. BRIAN HAYES/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Andrew Borba believes Shakespeare, much like spinach, has developed a bad rap.

Chautauqua Theater Company is on a mission this summer to make Shakespeare’s work as accessible as possible so more people have the opportunity to understand what the Bard is really about.

Free Will: Shakespeare in the Park will bring As You Like It to outdoor venues across Chautauqua County, exposing the poet to audiences old and new. Every performance is free of charge, including the one at 7 p.m. Thursday, June 28, in Jamestown as part of the Allen Park Bandshell Performance Series.

The play’s accessibility extends to the language, Borba said. Those new to Shakespeare plays have no reason to fear losing the plot through his Elizabethan verse, as the meaning behind unfamiliar words can be picked up from the actors’ intentions and body language.

“First and foremost, I think that if you, as an audience member, are not understanding a Shakespeare play, that is our fault,” said Borba, CTC’s artistic director. “It’s English.”

The 90-minute production ditches the thick British accents that have become associated with Shakespeare’s plays, opting for American pronunciations instead.

Eight CTC conservatory actors play 14 roles, meaning some double and triple casting was required. Elijah Jones, who plays Oliver, Corin and William, said that the different physicality of each character aids with the storytelling and will help audience members tell them apart.

As for Shakespeare’s stereotypical doublets and hosen, Rosalind and company will instead be dressed like ’60s hippies, complete with fringed vests and floral prints. Borba’s choice to make the Forest of Arden resemble the Woodstock Festival was rooted in the play’s focus on love and freedom.

This choice extends to the show’s musical numbers. Borba said he hopes that older audiences will find familiarity in Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco” and other songs that anchor the play in the selected era.

Although this incarnation of As You Like It is set in a more modern time, the production keeps the original text intact. Borba said the conservatory actors bring freshness to monologues like the melancholic Jaques’ “All the world’s a stage” speech that have become iconic over the last 400 years.

“Even in a play where every word is spoken exactly as written, there’s always an element of improvisation,” Borba said. “You must be playing what’s happening right now in the imaginative world as if it’s happening right now for the first time.”

Between four seasons with the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and 13 with CTC, Borba’s directing credits include everything from Macbeth and Twelfth Night to The Taming of the Shrew. He also played the titular role in Richard III at the Shakespeare Festival of St. Louis.

Although he admits that some of Shakespeare’s scripts have glaring imperfections,  Borba said his stories contain truth and beauty that stands the test of time.

“They’re extraordinary and profound, and they investigate the human spirit as well or better than any plays ever written” Borba said.

Jones said he loves how Shakespeare’s language plays with sound and that he is excited to see contemporary audiences connect with the 16th-century text.

As You Like It specifically has to do with love, whether its self-love or love of someone else,” Jones said. “Whatever type of love it may be, the message of As You Like It is simply that you can have love as you like it.”

New IT service center to open for the season, will provide accessible tech support to Chautauquans


Chautauquans are in store for a tech-savvy upgrade.

A new tech service center opened Monday in the basement of the Colonnade. Chq Tech Squad is an effort to address an increasing need for tech support at Chautauqua Institution, according to Cindy Mando, director of information technology.

“People are always coming and forgetting their cords, they don’t know how to set-up their television, their computer is failing or they get a virus, so there’s been that perpetual need.” Mando said. “It just made sense.”

Mando described Chq Tech Squad as a venture aimed to help streamline and make technology more accessible for Chautauquans.

“We couldn’t say, ‘Oh, drive all the way to Lakewood or Erie, Pennsylvania, for basic things,’” she said.

Services range from hardware repairs, software support — including virus removal, data backup and transfers — to Wifi, DirecTV Now and streaming device set-up. Chq Tech Squad also sells laptops, desktop computers, TVs and tech accessories.

The brick-and-mortar store is open 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Customers can also request house calls from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., according to Mando and Sam Nelson, help desk and hardware administrator.

However, the location of the service center is cumbersome, according to Mando.

“It’s not accessible — you go down those awful steps,” she said. “We do make house calls, so if somebody just needs to call us and they can’t make it to the Colonnade, that’s fine. We’ll get back to them, or we will answer the phone and get them on the schedule.”

Outside of its hours, the service center is available via phone call or voicemail at 716-357-6426, by email at, or

“Even on Sundays — or whenever — we will have voicemail, and we welcome people to leave messages for us if we’re not in the store and we will get back to them as soon as we can,” Mando said.

Chq Tech Squad’s services are not free — the fee is $80 per hour, with a half-hour minimum.

Because of its recent conception and uncertainty about the volume of people who will use the service, services are restricted to the Institution for its inaugural season; those outside of the grounds are not able to request house calls.

“I have absolutely no idea how well received this will be, but I know over the course of time people ask for (off-grounds house calls) so we’re going to see how well we do with that,” Mando said.

McMaster, Baker Michalak, commence BTG’s Garden, Eco Garden Walk series


Since its founding in 1913, Chautauqua’s Bird, Tree & Garden Club has worked to preserve and recognize the many gardens and parks around the grounds. One of BTG’s main focuses has always been providing education, said Angela James, BTG president.

“Being beautiful is no longer enough,” James said. “We’re trying to create habitats.”

One of the ways BTG is trying to accomplish this is through their Garden Walk series.

The Garden Walk series will take place at 4:15 p.m. every Tuesday, beginning today on the lake side of Smith Wilkes Hall. The series is hosted by Joe McMaster, a certified arborist who grew up in the Chautauqua community and has worked on the grounds as a landscaper.

Joe McMaster

McMaster will lead participants through the grounds, helping identify different plants, shrubs, trees and flowers. The routes will vary week by week depending on McMaster’s preferences and topics. Questions are encouraged.

“I have a well-rounded perspective of what’s going on here,” McMaster said. “I had purposefully not been on the grounds yet this year because I like to be surprised each year.”

McMaster worked for three years with the Peace Corps on an agricultural stay. He received a bachelor of arts degree in comparative literature, and started a landscaping company in Denver before returning to Chautauqua County.

McMaster will share his knowledge of the varying trees and plants around the area with visitors that might be unfamiliar with them.

“His level of knowledge and the way he’s observed those gardens change over the years; that’s why he has 40-75 people coming each week,” James said.

An updated part of BTG programming in recent years is the Eco Garden Walk series. These walks will take place at 9:15 a.m. every Wednesday this season. The walks, hosted by Sara Baker Michalak, will begin at Fletcher Music Hall and conclude at the Amphitheater in time for participants to make it to the 10:45 a.m. lecture at the same location.

Baker Michalak

“The eco gardens were conceived of a few years ago, really at the cusp of the idea of gardening for the environment rather than just for the eye candy aspect,” Baker Michalak said.

The series will introduce participants to some of the ecological gardening practices and techniques related to water conservation and run-off management. Baker Michalak will inform people on the use of native plants in gardens and the practice of planting rain gardens to protect against these issues.

A main focus will be planting the “right plant in the right place,” she said, to invite pollinators and natural wildlife into your garden.

“Native plants, in particular, have existed in the geological and climatic environment for hundreds of years, so therefore they’re very well adapted to the timing of the season, the animals that are here,” Baker Michalak said. “There’s really a symbiotic relationship that exists.”

Baker Michalak has carried her creative process through a career in the visual arts. She draws heavily from nature for her subject matter and developed an increased focus on the native plant species while studying nature and culture at SUNY Fredonia.

Baker Michalak’s writing has appeared in numerous publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, Upstate Gardeners Journal, Nature Photographer Magazine and Buffalo Spree. She currently owns and operates Canadaway Wildflowers in Fredonia near Canadaway Creek where she lives with her family. She maintains her garden as well as operating her own art studio.

Jobs, infrastructure focus for Dems in NY-23 primary


It’s an important day, and not just because it’s Week One of the 2018 season. On Monday, June 25, voters across New York are heading to the polls to cast their votes in the Democratic congressional primary. In Chautauqua County, five Democrats are vying for their party’s nomination and the chance to represent New York’s 23rd District in the House of Representatives, which extends from Chautauqua County to the Finger Lakes. Registered members of the Democratic Party who live on or nearby the grounds of the Institution can vote from noon to 9 p.m. today at Lakeside Community Center in Mayville.

Today’s Democratic primary is the first one held in the district since 2012. The winner goes on to challenge U.S. Rep. Tom Reed in the Nov. 4 general election, who has held the seat for eight years. Reed has no challengers within his own party, so there is no Republican primary this year.

A common theme among all the candidates is a strong emphasis on job creation and infrastructure, two issues of particular interest to Chautauqua Institution.

“Chautauqua Institution is intricately tied to Chautauqua County,” said Linda Andrei, one of the candidates. “Anything that elevates the standard of living for (Chautauqua County) residents and attracts a stable increase in the population benefits the Institution.”

A former cardiologist hailing from Ithaca, Andrei is prioritizing regional infrastructure improvements as a “basis for economic independence and security” in Chautauqua County. Although the Institution already has its own plan for campus-wide Wifi in the works, Andrei said offering similar services on a wider scale — like “fixing our roads and bridges, clean energy jobs, high speed internet access, public transportation in rural areas, public art and attention to recreation facilities” — is a “critical investment” for future prosperity.

Another candidate, former educator and cybersecurity expert Tracy Mitrano, believes the first step to economic opportunity is ensuring access to affordable health care. Healthy people mean a healthy workforce, and Mitrano said she will also work to make higher education, including vocational school, “affordable and accessible.”


“At the end of the day, everyone wants the same basic things — happy families, good jobs, healthy lives and opportunities,” Mitrano said. “This election is an opportunity to come together and choose a better future for NY-23.”

Small-business owner Ian Golden said his values are in line with those of Chautauqua County and the Institution. His infrastructure plans for improving internet access would allow people more freedom to enjoy Chautauqua while also staying on top of their jobs, and he supports a “federal jobs guarantee and minimum wage increase” that would give more people the means to experience the Institution.

“I think that crafting and supporting legislation that actually benefits the majority of Americans will give people some breathing room at the least, but hopefully a fairer shot at economic comfort and stability,” Golden said. “I also believe the arts are under threat, generally, and art is a crucial expression and reflection of the human experience. We all need a better insight into others’ experiences and humanity.”

Eddie Sundquist, a Jamestown attorney, said many Chautauquans have been negatively affected by the GOP’s 2017 tax plan, which eliminated full state and local tax deductions. Along with pledging to reverse the plan, Sundquist said he will implement a jobs plan to create a “much stronger pool of local, Chautauqua County workers for the Institution to draw from.”

“My plan focuses on investment in infrastructure, retraining displaced workers and encouraging the younger generation to take less traditional career paths, to take on high-skill manufacturing and trade,” he said.

Sundquist is also the only candidate in the primary to specifically mention Chautauqua Lake in his environmental plan. He cited the current debate over herbicide use as one of the lake’s most pressing issues, and said federal funding should be used to research “a solution for the restoration of the lake.”

The final candidate, Max Della Pia, is stressing his public service record as proof of his ability to bring change to Chautauqua County. An Air Force veteran, Della Pia has said his main goal is to give the people of the 23rd District “a fair shake.” And he’ll work across the political aisle to do so.

“We can work together to do something good for your district,” Della Pia told the Olean Times Herald. “That’s what I think the American people deserve and expect.”

Della Pia supports increasing the minimum wage to a “living wage,” and plans to invest in “energy, transportation, tech and manufacturing” to boost the regional economy, according to his website.

Many of the candidates believe the Institution has a vital role to play in helping future plans come to fruition. Mitrano said the Institution’s ability to bring people with different views together will aid “civil discourse” regarding plans for the county’s prosperity.

“At this time in our country when we seem so polarized and divided, we need to work on ways to bring people together and have reasonable, educated discussions about how we solve the problems in our community,” Mitrano said.

Sundquist said that the various experts who visit the Institution each year are valuable resources for “develop(ing) legislation that will help the Institution, the county, the district and the country as a whole.”

Although many Chautauquans don’t reside in the area year-round, the candidates said that their concerns and interests are still represented by the NY-23 representative. Golden said he plans to be “extremely accountable” to voters and said he welcomed conversations from Chautauquans. Andrei said she plans to use platforms like Facebook and Twitter to share information and stay engaged with seasonal residents.

“I have talked with many seasonal residents, and I know that they have a strong bond to the area and share a sense of community with surrounding Chautauqua County,” Sundquist said. “We can work together using the Institution’s national reach to improve the lives of all.”


  • Those Chautauquans going to the polls may wonder why their ballots are smaller than usual. Although congressional candidates appear on the June 26 ballot, state and local candidates will be voted on in a separate primary Sept. 13. This rule was established in 2012 to allow military voters enough time to receive and send in their absentee ballots.
  • Although New York state is considered a Democratic stronghold, Chautauqua County is one of the few in the state with Republican leadership. A county Board of Elections tally of active registered voters in April found that Republicans outnumber Democrats in the county for the first time since 2008. It’s still close — 34 percent identified as Republicans and 33 percent identified as Democrats.

The Essence of Chautauqua: Stories of Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow


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Editor’s Note: These are the prepared remarks for Chautauqua Institution President Michael E. Hill’s annual Three Taps of the Gavel address, delivered at Sunday’s morning worship service in the Amphitheater.

Good morning, and welcome home to Chautauqua.

A special thank you to Jim Pardo and our entire board of trustees, to the staff of Chautauqua Institution which has worked tirelessly to shake the grounds from its winter slumber to prepare for this new season of exploration, and to each of you for your presence today, whether here in our beautiful Amphitheater or joining us online. Chautauqua is first and foremost a community, and so it follows that we simply could not do what we do without each of you.

On a personal note, I also want to welcome the family of my partner, Peter. Peter’s brother, Michael, his sister-in-law, Katherine, and his nephews, Jackson and Andrew, are joining us at Chautauqua for the first time. May this week be the start of your own love affair with this very special place.

Our winter months have been used preparing to welcome you all back. We recently launched a new guest service initiative with our staff, where we defined our service promise and asked each department to articulate and own the ways in which they distinctively play a role in delivering on it.

The ethos of our service promise centers on our commitment to curating memorable and meaningful experiences for Chautauquans of all ages, and we’ve been using the metaphor “setting the stage” as the core purpose of all who work here. Our job is to provide a framework. You do the real work by engaging with topics, with experiences, with all those who assemble in some form here.

At the President’s Office, we defined our role in this effort as serving as the “caretakers of community.” A daunting charge, to be certain, but it got me to thinking about the ways that we are called to care not just for community today, but for yesterday and for tomorrow.

So, as we gather together today at the beginning of our 145th Assembly, and learning the lessons of my inaugural Three Taps, please allow me to share with you three short stories of yesterday, today and tomorrow.

A Story of Yesterday

First, a story of yesterday.

Saint Augustine of Hippo defines the soul as “an assemblage of reasonable beings bound together by a common agreement as to the objects of their love.” The story of Chautauqua’s “yesterday” reads like a “who’s who” of luminaries who worked tirelessly to ensure that an idea that started in 1874 would be around far after the first tents were assembled in what we now call Miller Park. There are so many characters in our historic narrative that made Chautauqua the “object of their love,” but I’m struck that we begin this assembly on the heels of losing vic gelb.

vic gave tirelessly to Chautauqua. When he died last month at age 91, he had amassed a long list of awards and acknowledgements. As those who had the privilege of being in vic’s orbit know very well, none of those accolades mattered to him. What mattered most to him and to his incredible wife, Joan, was service to community. vic had his hands in almost everything here: capital campaigns, boards, task forces and special projects. There’s not much of the fabric of this sacred place that he did not touch.

I think of people like vic as we embark on writing a new strategic plan for Chautauqua. He was once quoted as telling a colleague who asked him how to manage organizations in a fast-changing world: “Don’t screw it up. Stay the course. You know what the mission statement is. … Follow it to a ‘T’ and tune out the noise.”

As we embark on this new chapter for Chautauqua, caring for our yesterday not only means following our founding mission, it also means doing so in a way that honors the contributions and legacy of people like vic. We can never lose sight of all those who came before us. Chautauqua’s today and tomorrow demand a deep reverence for its past and for all those who contributed in big and small ways to bring us to today.

A Story of Today

A story of today: The famed poet Maya Angelou once wrote, “Each new hour holds new chances for a new beginning.”

The story of today is a story of enthusiasm. Perhaps it’s the newness of this being only my second season as president, or the inescapable joy that comes from emerging from one of our roughest winters in recent memory, but Chautauqua seems to be almost vibrating with anticipation as we begin this assembly. While we have not yet written a new strategic plan, we have some sense of the topics we hope to tackle, and a new generation of people who share vic’s passion for service are coming forward to help us do this important work.

Our story of today shows up in the 7,000 young people from Chautauqua County who have turned our gates into gateways by participating in arts education programs in the past five months alone. The superintendent of Jamestown Public Schools recounts that two boys — both from families living in poverty and facing the cruel racism of being minorities — won the opera competition during the Chautauqua Opera Company’s residency. Their response to him was one of, “See, I told you we could do it.” Gates into gateways, indeed.

Our story of today is uplifted by people like four donors who are helping us fund a new diversity, equity and inclusion plan for Chautauqua. This is helping us to bring to our community Dr. Johnnetta Cole, the first female African-American president of both of our nation’s historically black women’s colleges — Spellman and Bennett. Dr. Cole will lead us in a dialogue and action plan to create and achieve our diversity and inclusion goals. Just this week, we gathered with 50 people in Bellinger Hall — trustees, staff, members of our Foundation board, our artists, members of denominational houses, local educators, and donors — to begin imagining what it might look like if we create the conditions for a Chautauqua where all colors, creeds and backgrounds not only are welcomed to our table but enthusiastically flock here to engage in our mission. It was a thrilling start to a longer effort.

Our story of today honors the legacy of David Lincoln, whom we also lost just this year, and his daughter Katie, who are ensuring that we have civil dialogue workshops and initiatives for six of our nine weeks. As historian Jon Meacham recently wrote, “The measure of our political and cultural health cannot be whether we agree on all things at all times. We don’t, and we won’t. Disagreement and debate — including ferocious disagreement and exhausting debate — are hallmarks of (the) American (experience).” Our American story can and must again have Chautauqua at its center, and central to that is our ability to engage in dialogue with those with whom we do not agree.

Our story of today comes in collaboration with Kent State University, as we open a new Poetry Makerspace in the Colonnade featuring the Traveling Stanzas interactive poetry exhibit. It comes in those reimagining our youth programming to attract more young people to the grounds and foster their growth as this community’s next generation of leaders. And it comes in a renewed partnership with our Chautauqua County neighbors focused on preserving and cleaning our beloved lake for future generations to enjoy.

Our story of today is one full of promise, and it propels us toward writing a story of tomorrow.

A Story of Tomorrow

And the story of tomorrow is the shortest one I have to share today because it’s not mine to write. The story of tomorrow is ours to fashion. We need you to help define the plot points for a narrative that we hope will never conclude.

That’s our charge this summer, simply put: to enter into dynamic dialogue both here on the grounds and also virtually as we imagine and re-imagine what Chautauqua can be for the world.

I have said to those with whom I’ve had early conversations about our need for a new blueprint for Chautauqua that it will not succeed unless we do it together and we share ownership of Chautauqua’s future.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu said it even better when he wrote:

“Here in South Africa, interconnectedness is described by the concept ubuntu. Ubuntu is the philosophy and belief that our humanity is inextricably bound up in one another, … Ubuntu tells us that we can create a more powerful world by striving for goodness in each moment, wherever we are. Thus, we are invited to become life artists, those who create lives of wholeness and beauty at every instant. Out of the cacophony of random suffering and chaos that can mark human life, the life artist sees or creates a symphony of meaning and order. A life of wholeness does not depend on what we experience, but on how we experience our lives.”

Or as Thomas Paine concludes: “We have it in our power to begin the world over again.”

That’s a charge Chautauqua has always taken seriously, as we together explore the best in human values — truly a timeless pursuit that is shaped by the challenges and opportunities of the day.

We have it in our power to begin the world over again.

We’ve done it in our yesterday.

We’re wrestling with it in our today.

We are called to compose the story of tomorrow, unlocking the essence of Chautauqua as a dynamic response to a world desperately in need of the best in human values.

What role will you play in this composition?

I’d like to think that the first Chautauquans were asking themselves this very question when they arrived in 1874. Imagine if we can muster the courage to respond with the same determination, vision and fortitude.

I tap the gavel three times.Chautauqua 2018 has begun.

Theater stages British Invasions throughout county with ‘Free Will’


A new kind of British Invasion is coming to Chautauqua County this summer. It comes not at the hands of The Beatles or Spice Girls, but from William Shakespeare, with a little help from Chautauqua Theater Company.

Free Will: Chautauqua Shakespeare in the Park expands on CTC’s Shakespearean tradition by bringing As You Like It not just to Chautauqua, but to the surrounding communities as well. The first performance will be at 5 p.m. Sunday, June 24, on Bestor Plaza, with subsequent performances in Mayville, Jamestown and Lakewood.

After finding success last season with a free matinee of Romeo & Juliet, CTC started knocking on doors to set up partnerships with surrounding communities. The goal was to make Shakespeare’s stories more accessible to the public, just as they were in Elizabethan England.

“Everyone has said ‘Yes’ with a capital ‘Y,’ and it makes us feel that we weren’t crazy to do this,” said Andrew Borba, CTC artistic director.

Unlike past seasons, where Shakespeare plays were performed back-to-back in Bratton Theater, As You Like It will be spread out over eight weeks and four locations. Borba, who directs the play, said he is excited to see how the play will change with each performance.

“Because we are going from space to space to space, I’m directing for the first space with an eye toward the other spaces, but we are also creating a world that will transform to the location,” Borba said.

Fifty chairs will be set up for the performance on Bestor Plaza, along with a dedicated space near the fountain for audience members who bring picnic blankets.

The play’s young lovers will be played by CTC conservatory actors, who will revisit characters like Rosalind, Celia and Orlando throughout the summer between their other projects taking place on Bratton’s stage.

While CTC staged a production of As You Like It in 2012, Borba chose to revive the show this season in order to capitalize on the “exquisite” greenery of the New York parks that will soon become the Forest of Arden.

To accommodate the outdoors, Borba made a few changes to the script, removing dated references and streamlining characters so that audiences will easily be able to follow along over the sound of wind. After cuts, the show comes out to a 90-minute runtime.

“I think a lot of people will not realize we’ve cut it,” Borba said. “There’s a lot of discussion of deer, horns and cuckolds that we’ve trimmed away, so those who love that aspect of As You Like It may be a little sad, but the rest will be alright.”

Audience members can also expect other changes to the romantic romp, notably that the Forest of Arden will be dressed like the Woodstock Festival.

Borba made this choice to draw comparison between Rosalind’s escape to the forest from the patriarchal and oppressive court, which parallels the hippie subculture’s rejection of society to be in harmony with nature.

Given the show’s traveling nature, this motif is conveyed through the play’s ’60s soundtrack and tie-dye costumes, rather than an expansive set.

As You Like It will be performed as part of the Allen Park Bandshell Performance Series in Jamestown, as well as Lakeside Park for Mayville’s summer concert series. Two performances will run at Southern Tier Brewing Company, allowing older audience members to enjoy a beer with their Shakespeare.

Although As You Like It has yet to be performed off Chautauqua’s grounds, Borba said plans are already in the works to bring Shakespeare back to these communities next summer. In the meantime, CTC wants to continue cultivating partnerships with Chautauqua’s neighbors.

With new benches installed by local firm, Amp work wraps up


So, is the Amphitheater completely finished?

“Except for a few bits that we are taking care of in house, the answer is yes,” said John Shedd, vice president of campus planning and operations.

Shedd has been intimately involved in the Amp project’s development, from conception, to Promise Campaign centerpiece, to the venue at the heart of Chautauqua’s summer program.

This past off-season, general contractor L.P. Ciminelli of Buffalo completed the punch list of to-do items to officially complete the building.

Just a year ago, it was all-hands-on-deck as the Institution, Ciminelli and other contractors hustled to install seating in the new Amp in time for the start of the 2017 season. The crisis arose from the inability of the initial contractor to supply all the necessary benches in a timely fashion.

In the scramble that ensued, seating was installed from three sources. The original vendor Fancher Chair — a local firm out of Falconer, New York — manufactured most of last year’s benches, and the rest came from a recall of some of the original Amp benches from the contractor that had bought them for subsequent resale.

For this season, the problem is solved, but not without a few headaches.

“By the end of last year, Ciminelli had terminated the contract with our original contractor out of Nebraska,” Shedd said. “They had several problems with Ciminelli, and in the end we all moved on.”

A new contract was signed with Fancher Chair at the beginning of this year, and the company then made and installed all the benches in the Amp.

The new seating is constructed of sturdy poplar hardwood, perfect for withstanding the harsh weather that rolls in every winter.

Ciminelli’s project manager Ben Loeffert, said Fancher “didn’t chase the work in the early development of the project,” because the endeavor of both manufacture and installation was “outside of Fancher’s normal business zone.”

“The fact that Chautauqua is a local project for them probably helped convince Fancher to come in early this year and help us finish the seating,” he said. “Fancher’s outstanding results speak for themselves. This was really a win-win.”

Last season’s Amp benches were returned to the vendor or destroyed. The benches that were supplied by the original contractor did not hold up well, and many were falling apart by the end of last season, Shedd said. Fancher’s emergency replacements were never intended as permanent seating and were made of plywood. The few benches from the old Amp, used mostly in the choir loft last season, were returned. All seating this summer will be in Fancher hardwood poplar benches.

Financial issues regarding the original contractor are between that firm and Ciminelli and will be resolved by them, Shedd said. There will be no financial liability for the Institution.

Shedd said Chautauquans will notice a few other changes regarding the seating this season. Along the Amp upper rim, short benches have been added in for companion seating, next to the wheelchair-accessible spaces. Seating on the orchestra floor is now numbered, and there are cushions installed on those orchestra benches.

“The cushions are actually for acoustical reasons,” Shedd said.

One of the few issues to emerge in the new Amp last summer was sound in the venue. Acoustic consultant firm Jaffe Holden of New Jersey offered expert advice as last season progressed and remains available to the Institution as needed.

The orchestra seating cushions were installed to reduce sound reverberation for the orchestra.

“We asked the consultants if we should install the cushions throughout the arena,” Shedd said. “They said to do that would dilute the effect the orchestra was seeking, and recommended we limit the cushions to just seating on the orchestra floor.”

To further diffuse sound in the immediate orchestra area, small acoustic panels have been installed on the north and south sides of the stage. At times, small curtains will be erected behind the orchestra to further fine-tune the sound.

Some audience members were concerned last year about the clarity of the spoken word in the Amp. In an effort to ameliorate this, front fill speakers have been installed at the front of the main stage, and some of the higher speaker clusters were retuned.

Finally, Jamestown Awning installed retractable curtains to the right and left of the Massey Memorial Organ chamber to reduce light intrusion from the lake during daytime audio-visual presentations.

Shedd said there are two categories of preferred seating this summer. “Preferred 2” seating will be like last summer: Reserved seating will be held for purchasers until the beginning of the program and then released on a space-available basis. A new “Preferred 1” seating program reserve the space for the purchaser during the entire performance.

The biggest change since last season at the Amp is outside the arena in the open area on the western side. Named Odland Plaza in honor of the philanthropic support of the project from Anne and Steve Odland, the open space is intended as gathering place, a venue for spontaneous pop-up arts performances and for other purposes the community imagines.

In place of the old gazebo is a similarly sized structure that has been informally named the “screen house,” an homage to the nickname for the old gazebo it replaced. It will offer generally the same merchandise and services as the gazebo, but it has been carefully constructed with features similar to those in the Amp. Shedd said Institution planners intend to invite a food truck to take up a position next to the screen house at times. Durable all-weather seats and benches may appear on the plaza as the season progresses to further enhance and define the space.

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