Chautauqua Community Band to perform annual Old First Night concert



Jason Weintraub leads the Chautauqua Community Band in the playing of the National Anthem during the Old First Night Concert Aug. 6, 2019, on Bestor Plaza. SARAH YENESEL/DAILY FILE PHOTO

This week is all about traditions and celebration — Chautauqua Institution turns 147 years old today. To kick off the birthday festivities, the Chautauqua Community Band will perform their annual Old First Night concert at 12:15 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 3 in Bestor Plaza. The familiar blue shirts, led by conductor Jason Weintraub, will once again fill the plaza with traditional pieces. 

Weintraub began this long tradition of performing in the plaza for Old First Night after walking around during the day and realizing there wasn’t much going on. 

“I thought for Old First Night, to celebrate Chautauqua’s birthday, we should have a band concert,” Weintraub said. 

The CCB has now been performing at Old First Night for 25 years. The band is also a way for community members, both on and off the grounds (as well as families), to come together and celebrate these traditions. 

The concert will start off with “The Star Spangled Banner” and will continue with familiar marches, overtures and the “Happy Birthday” song. This year’s program also features numbers from the musical Oklahoma. There will be no soloists for this year’s concert, but the community can enjoy the Thursday Morning Brass ensemble. The group will perform alongside the CCB and will also be spotlighted for “The Colonnade Fanfare” and several works by Henry Mancini. The fanfare was written by the group’s euphonium player. 

“There’s a lot of traditional songs that we play. There’s various marches that people associate with Old First Night,” said Aiden Chamberlain, Tuesday Morning Brass lead. “There’s also that little bit of identity with themes from different states. So that’s kind of part of the tradition. I’ve been coming to Chautauqua for 20 years, and the band’s done this every year. It’s a real part of that tradition.”

People can come out and enjoy the live music while lounging in the sun on Bestor Plaza, said Weintraub. 

“We’re one of the few things where the tradition just keeps going. This concert is more of a park band. Everybody can be having a picnic, singing, humming and whistling,” Weintraub said. “A lot of people tell me this is one of the things they look forward to the most.”

The concert, Chamberlain said, is also a great opportunity for the community to come together to celebrate Chautauqua and enjoy all the traditions that this special day offers. 

“I like the atmosphere of being outside. You’ve got families enjoying the day and maybe having a little picnic or some lunch. There’s that nice community feel, and we’re right in the middle of the community,” Chamberlain said. “And with that, you really get that feeling of being right in the middle of Chautauqua with everyone joining in together for the old first night tradition. It’s really nice to be a part of that.”

Ruth Powell to share stories of page-turning for Jacobsen in CWC talk




For many Chautauquans, the grieving of Jared Jacobsen’s passing — less than two days after the 2019 season ended and five months before the pandemic began — continues to this day.

The liveliness, intelligence, sentimentality and masterful skill of this world-class organist, coordinator of worship and sacred music, and director of the 50-voice Motet Choir and 150-voice Chautauqua Choir were so widely revered that Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Paul Moravec wrote “Chautauqua Anthem” in Jacobsen’s honor. The Chautauqua Choir presented its world premiere on July 16, 2017, in the Amphitheater during the morning worship service.

Jacobsen’s successor, Joshua Stafford, now holds the Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist and the title of director of sacred music. Stafford also directs the Motet and Chautauqua choirs.

“Everyone loved Jared,” said Ruth Powell, whom Jacobsen appointed as his page-turner for the Massey Memorial Organ following the retirement of Janet Miller.

At 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 3 on the porch and front lawn of the Chautauqua Women’s Club, Powell will share some funny and thoughtful insights about Jacobsen during her talk titled, “Tales from the Bench: Adventures in Page-Turning for Jared Jacobsen.” The rain date is Wednesday at the same time and place.

“(Jacobsen) had a wonderful last season, the organ wasn’t flooded, there was no (water) or fire to work around, it behaved itself, and he was almost giddy,” Powell said.

The 2018 season was preceded in early February by a leak caused by ice and snowmelt that damaged the organ console’s original ivory keys — which, to comply with federal law, were replaced by bleached calf bone in time for the opening of the season — and ended with a small fire in the console following morning worship service on Tuesday, Aug. 21, 2018.

“His last season was great,” Powell continued. “The (Motet) Choir was involved with doing The Christians with (Chautauqua Theater Company). … Without question, the most serendipitous thing that happened was that Josh — who had been his protégé — came and gave a recital. (Jared) let Josh play ‘Largo’ at the last Sacred Song Service. Afterwards they hugged, and hugged and hugged.”

Since 1907, “Largo” from George Frederick Handel’s opera Xerxes has been the high point of every Sunday evening Sacred Song Service in the Amp, just as “Holy, Holy, Holy” has been the favorite of each Sunday morning worship service.  

Powell added, “After that, Jared came to my apartment and I asked, ‘Is this the heir apparent?’ And he said, ‘Oh, I think so.’ ”  

To be selected as Jacobsen’s page-turner while he mastered the world’s largest outdoor pipe organ was an honor. As its primary guardian, he played — and Powell turned pages — for the weekday morning worship services, Sunday morning and evening services, weekly recitals and frequent solos with the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra and the Music School Festival Orchestra.

“I have a performance degree in organ and appreciated his music,” Powell said. “I thought I was a great page-turner. Boy, did I learn.”

A further honor was that Jacobsen gave a Massey Memorial Organ mini-concert in 2017, inspired by Powell. She had heard the piece “In Holberg’s Time,” which is one of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg’s piano suites, and wanted Jacobsen to introduce it to Chautauquans.

Jacobsen told Chautauquan Daily reporter Delaney Van Wey that he had been out of touch with Grieg, who developed a national musical identity for his home country of Norway, and may be one of history’s greatest piano composers. Thus he acted on Powell’s wish, transcribed piano compositions to the organ, and created the program for his July 25, 2017, concert honoring Grieg.

“I have nothing but joy about my memories of Jared,” Powell said. “He was so funny. … There was a lot of craziness going on up there.”

For Chautauquans who grew up with Jacobsen — he first came to Chautauqua to learn piano when he was only 5 years old — and who knew him before he became a celebrity, her memories are not particularly long. They are, however, colorful and meaningful.  

Powell said that Danville, Illinois, where she spent her childhood, “was a wonderful place to grow up, with the Midwest upbringing.” Having also been home to Dick and Jerry Van Dyke, Gene Hackman, Donald O’Connor and Bobby Short, Danville was not short on celebrities.

“We went to the same high school (as Dick and Jerry) and we heard about Dick being in all the plays,” she said. “He came to town in a parade. Dick was in the biggest sitcoms on TV. Gene and Bobby were there for a while, but not for all of their childhood.”

As a piano major at Illinois Wesleyan University, Powell hadn’t wanted to take a voice course, so instead she took organ. Once she began playing it, she said she didn’t want to do anything else, and by the end of her first year she had changed her major to organ performance. Marilyn Keiser had graduated eight years before her and was on her way to becoming a virtuoso concert organist, so she had someone to look up to.

“Eventually I got interested in the choir, got into it, and decided to go to graduate school in choir conducting; which I never did,” Powell said.

Meanwhile, she did a lot of page-turning in college and became good at it. 

“Page-turning is an art,” she said. “I was one of the go-to people for page-turning.”

Jared Jacobsen talks about the inner-workings of the Massey Memorial Organ at a Children’s Encounter on July 3, 2011. GREG FUNKA/DAILY FILE PHOTO

Upon graduation, Powell spent the summer at what was then called the National Music Camp at Interlochen, Michigan.

“The best kids from all over the world came, and I was the manager of all of the high school choral organizations,” she said. “It’s kind of like what I do here. Working with conductors is kind of like being a personal assistant.”

Although she’d been accepted to a “really good choral conducting program,” as things happened, Powell ended up in Washington, D.C.

“I joined the huge — 150 people at least — symphonic chorus in D.C. that had a regular subscription program with the Kennedy Center and sang with the symphony,” she said. “The Choral Arts Society of Washington has all top musicians. Norman Scribner, the choir director, was one of the top influences in my life, musically and personally. There’s not a single person who would tell you anything different.”

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts opened in 1971. For the opening, Jacqueline Kennedy commissioned Leonard Bernstein to perform the premiere of his MASS, and Scribner assembled a professional choir that she joined.

“Eventually when Bernstein came to town, he’d call (Scribner),” Powell said. “He wanted to put on a Haydn mass at the same time as the Nixon inaugural balls (on Jan. 20, 1973) because he was (against the Vietnam War). He taped our choir and did (“Mass in Time of War”) in the National Cathedral. The next day we went back and they recorded it.”

Powell continued:  “To be 23 in D.C. — I couldn’t even comprehend that I’m getting to do this. That was truly the mountain top.”

Earning a master’s degree in education instead of conducting, she accepted a teaching position in middle school music in the Fairfax County, Virginia, public schools.

“I taught middle school, and eventually I got a job teaching elementary school,” Powell said. “After that, there was no singing voice left. I taught 10 30-minute classes a day without a break. There might be four fourth-grade classes in a row. I had to sing on top of their instruments. It was brutal on my voice because I abused it so badly. So I had to drop out of that beautiful choir.”

For her last five years in education, Powell said she was drafted to teach pregnant girls.

“Probably starting in 2002, I got back in the choir and put in another five or six years,” she said. “(Scribner) was there, and I decided to stay in the choir (as long as) he was still there. I retired to the Blue Ridge Mountains by Charlottesville, Virginia, and commuted three hours twice weekly to D.C.”

After Scribner retired, Powell moved to Florida. In 2018, she joined the Choral Artists of Sarasota, a 35-member professional vocal ensemble. Joseph Holt, the choral’s artistic director, had for 15 years served as the associate music director for The Choral Arts Society of Washington.

“I didn’t start coming to Chautauqua until 14 years ago or thereabouts,” Powell said. “Then I tried to spend longer and longer here. I went back and forth, and was in the Motet Choir.”

During this time she has also taught numerous classes on a variety of musical topics through Chautauqua Institution’s Special Studies Program.

She said she’s a person who believes in deciding what you want, and what you have to give up in order to get it. Powell did the latter, enabling her to be at Chautauqua each summer for the full season.

“When I first joined the choir, I was intimidated by (Jacobsen),” Powell said. “He was an icon. Eventually I became one of the three librarians of the Motet Choir. He was very slow to welcome someone into his inner circle and it didn’t phase me a bit. … But once I became a librarian and started renting a house, (I would see him walking his dog and) he would sit and talk.”

Eventually, she said, they became close friends. Even then, turning pages for Jared was one of the scariest adventures of her life. Now, she is “beyond thrilled to be working with Josh,” Powell said. “The legacy is absolutely top notch, and I think Jared would be really pleased.”

Tennis icon Ivan Lendl to teach 2-day clinic at Chautauqua Tennis Center this week



Chris Leva, on the Red Team, competes during the annual Team Tennis Tournament last Saturday at the Chatuauqua Tennis Center. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

This week, Chautauquans will get the chance to serve it up with one of tennis’ living legends. 

On Tuesday and Wednesday at the Chautauqua Tennis Center, Ivan Lendl will be running a Tennis Clinic for players of all skill levels. The participants will receive one-on-one as well as group coaching from the tennis legend. They will also be able to participate in competitive matches in order to improve their game strategy. 

In his storied career, Lendl won three U.S. Opens, three French Opens and two Australian Opens, was ranked No. 1 in the world for 270 weeks and won a total of 94 individual titles. He has also established himself as one of the best coaches in the world, guiding Andy Murray to two Wimbledon titles and the world No. 1 ranking.

“I think it’s just going to  be a lot of fun for the people to see someone who played at that high level and just kind of be on the same tennis court with him,” said James Getty, director of the Chautauqua Tennis Center.

Tennis has a long history at Chautauqua Institution. It was originally introduced by the co-founder Bishop John Heyl Vincent in 1878, when a lawn court was set up along the lakefront. Now, the Institution boasts a state-of-the-art facility located near the Turner Community Center that features fast-dry courts that use the patented HydroGrid system.


According to Lendl, “you cannot change somebody’s game” on such a compressed timeline as the clinic. But, he can make sure they have fun, and give them tips that they can take home with them to improve over a longer time period. 

“Routinely, people try to play a bigger game than what they can handle,” Lendl said. “They try to hit the ball hard and so on. It’s the players (who) play smarter, who end up doing better.”

According to Lendl, he coaches amateur and professional players differently because the professionals have statistics to use as a launching off point. 

With amateurs, it depends more on his eye for detail. However his “work smarter, not harder” principle applies to players of all ages and skill levels. 

Chautauquans can register for the clinic at In order to prepare for the clinic, Lendl suggests that the participants spend some time on the court so that they are at their best game. It is going to be two days of intense tennis playing and practice, and Lendl said people should prepare.

He hopes that the participants come with an “eagerness to learn” and “to try new things” in order to make the clinic as successful as possible.

“It’s nice to be able to pass (on) the experience I have,” Lendl said. “(I want to) try to guide the player through the choices they have to make during their careers and help them make better choices, without having to learn the hard way.”

Geof Follansbee, senior vice president and chief advancement officer, said that when the Institution put together its 150 Forward strategic plan, it recognized the need to further develop the recreational opportunities available on the grounds. He sees the clinic as a first step to expanding the Tennis center’s reach, and a way to expose a new demographic to Chautauqua.

“If they come for this because they want this tennis experience,” Follansbee said, “they will discover everything else that Chautauqua has to offer.”

Week Six Letter from the President



As I flipped through the latest issue of Time, I came across a timely article about a 2020 study by the Society for Human Resource Management titled the “State of Workplace Empathy.” The article was titled “The Empathy Trap,” which should signal that Week Six at Chautauqua is anything but a “group hug,” feel-good week. In the workplace, the 2020 study noted that people are tired from working all the time — further exacerbated by the no-boundaries, at-home office during COVID — trying to sort out caregiving responsibilities from the young to those needing elder care and dealing with the ever-changing threat levels of COVID-19. All of that makes sense, but here’s the kicker as it relates to our week: most of those interviewed for the study also found that Americans, in general, have an “empathy deficit.” 

This week at Chautauqua, we explore “Building a Culture of Empathy.” Creating understanding and compassion, empathy is critical in navigating our world and building community. Empathy might have a reputation associated with emotionality or sentimentality, but science indicates that it’s wired into our very being, with practical applications in lives. What does empathy look like in action, from healing systemic divides and leading through times of crisis? Instilling and normalizing empathy has the potential to help us connect across our most polarizing differences and survive our most tragic times, so how can we work together to build a lasting culture of empathy? 

And here’s some additional food for thought from recent studies on empathy: most Americans want to be the recipient of it, but aren’t keen to provide it if it pushes their own understanding of the world. As the Time article noted about one employee’s views, “it has to be OK if I mess up sometimes” but that same employee wasn’t open to giving their employer the same grace. This sounds a lot like the divides we were exploring in previous weeks, right? So what do we do about it? 

In our companion Interfaith Lecture Series, we look at a week with the same title. In recent years, a trait frequently cited as essential to the flourishing of humankind is empathy, an impulse manifested in all the world’s religions. Connected with compassion and altruism, it arises out of a willingness to care, to endeavor to understand, and to place oneself within the human experiences of others. In this week, we seek interfaith voices who are living this capacity, and inspiring and motivating it in others. Perhaps there are some answers to our earlier questions from the likes of Brian McLaren or Edgar Rodriguez or Jose Arellano or Steve Avalos? 

Continuing our dialogues on the climate, Chautauqua’s Climate Change Initiative this week partners with Chautauqua Cinema to present the film “The Magnitude of All Things” and the short, “What About Our Future?” in collaboration with Toronto’s Planet in Focus Environmental Film Festival. Show time is 10 a.m. Friday, Aug. 6, and it’s included with Traditional and Grounds Access Passes, though space in the cinema is limited. Reservations can be made at

While we spend our week on empathy, I want to thank Chautauquans — staff and non-staff participants — for the empathy exhibited as we had to implement our COVID protocols in our Youth and Family Programs this past week. We navigate more than themes in community; we also embrace moments of challenge and moments of celebration. I hope we’ll be back to full youth programming soon, and I’m looking forward to Old First Night and the Old First Night Run/Walk, reminders of the rich legacy, heritage and fortitude that has served Chautauqua for almost 150 years. As we enter Week Six, let’s bring that fortitude and faith, empathy and example, to all we do. Have a great week, Chautauqua! 

Enyeribe Ibegwam wins 4th annual Janus Prize for ‘After School Hours’




In ancient Roman mythology, Janus is the god of beginnings, transitions and doorways. He is typically depicted as having two faces, one looking forward and the other looking back. 

In the same way Janus’ looked to the past and the future, the winner of the annual Chautauqua Janus Prize should — according to Michael I. Rudell Director of Literary Arts Sony Ton-Aime — simultaneously be grounded in the traditional and “paving the way for future writers.”

This year, the prize — funded by Chautauquans Barbara and Twig Branch and awarded now for the fourth time to an emergent writer who has not yet published a full manuscript — goes to a short fiction story titled “After School Hours” by Enyeribe Ibegwam.

There will be a reception at 3:30 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30 on the CHQ Assembly Video Platform to honor Ibegwam, featuring remarks by Rion Amilcar Scott, one of the judges. 

Ibegwam’s story follows two Nigerian-American boys living in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. The story deals with parental expectations and the kinds of punishments that occur when their expectations are not met.

Ibegwam was raised in Lagos, Nigeria, and has been awarded a PEN/Robert J. Dau Short Story Prize and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize. 

His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in PEN America Best Debut Stories 2019, Prairie Schooner, The Southampton Review, Auburn Avenue, The Georgia Review and Transition Magazine. He is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.  

“I think what I’m trying to do is sort of take from the past and use it to, in many ways, compare the future. So I’m almost like a judge in everything I look at,” Ibegwam said, in keeping with the idea of the two-faced god. “I wanted to compare, that’s how I see the past and the future.”

Scott said that this year “there was very stiff competition” and a number of “beautiful stories.” However, for him it “wasn’t a hard choice.” 

In a deviation from the traditional narrative structure, Ibegwam chose to write in the first-person plural, meaning the whole story is told using the word “we” in place of “I.” He made this choice because he feels that “when you write a story about a group of people, you’re really talking about the singular, but you’re referencing the plural.”

“It’s sort of musical when you say, ‘We do this, we do that,’ ” Ibegwam said. “Everybody’s a culprit, nobody escapes the wrath of a punishment.”

Ton-Aime said that he loves “After School Hours” because of how it challenges the typical immigrant narrative depicted in media, of striving for the classic American Dream.

“It’s such an interesting thing because you get to see immigrants struggling with … the idea of parenting and also the idea of navigating America, in a way that is anchored in the home country,” Ton-Aime said. “It really makes it a bold declaration when it comes to writing about the immigrant life.”

With this story, Ibegwam was trying to make a contribution to the narrative of, as he describes it, what it means to “be hyphenated.” 

Ibegwam was on the shortlist for the 2020 Janus Prize and has a friend who was on the shortlist this year and last year. He says that knowing the others who made the shortlist write “very fine work” makes him feel as though his own work has “merit.”

“It’s an incredibly affecting story. The piece reminds us of how confusing and lonely the process of coming of age and coming into awareness as an adult is,” Scott said. “… Good stories often make us sit in silence when we reach the final words, and I definitely had that feeling.”

Joe Grifasi, Mark Linn-Baker to stage reading of Lewis Black’s ‘The Deal’ in Performance Pavilion




Joe Grifasi and Lewis Black have been friends since they went to the Yale School of Drama in the 1970s. Grifasi has appeared in one of Black’s stand-up specials, “Red, White and Screwed,” as well as in movies like “Batman Forever,” “Presumed Innocent” and “Natural Born Killers.”

And at 1 p.m. Thursday, July 29 at the Performance Pavilion on Pratt, Grifasi and Mark Linn-Baker — an actor and director, and another friend of Black’s — will give a special staged reading of Black’s one-act play The Deal. This play, which is for adult audiences due to language, is about two men, both insanely rich, intensely negotiating a deal — a deal beyond both of their comprehension because of its immense scope. 

“A monstrously insane waltz of give and take in a world that we can only know in dreams or nightmares,” according to the synopsis of the play. “(It is) a deeply dark and sharp satire about the Real art of the deal.”

The performance will be followed by a Q-and-A with Grifasi, Black and Linn-Baker. Black, who gave a Week Five special performance in the Amphitheater, is also leading a Chautauqua Lecture Series Master Class Friday with Grifasi and Linn-Baker.

“It’s particularly exciting to also highlight Mr. Black as a playwright,” said Deborah Sunya Moore, senior vice president and chief program officer (interim) and vice president of performing and visual arts. “I’m thrilled that the staged reading of The Deal will occur in the Pavilion. From speaker to comedian to playwright, Mr. Black has much to offer this curious community as we walk into our week about authentic voice.”

According to Black’s website, he fell in love with theater at the age of 12. This play is one of more than 40 that Black has written. 

Early in his career, he was the playwright-in-residence at the West Bank Cafe’s downstairs dinner theater, the Laurie Beechman Theatre, where he helped develop more than 1,000 plays, including works by Aaron Sorkin, who created “The West Wing,” and Alan Ball, who created “American Beauty.”

Cinema to screen National Geographic elephant documentary, CWC to host meet-and-greet for producer Katie Carpenter




According to Les Standiford, whose book Battle for the Big Top was published in June, after Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus retired elephants from their shows in May 2016, attendance dropped so precipitously that the Circus folded.

Americans are enamored with live elephants. So much so that the public interest and fundraising commercials that World Wildlife Fund is currently airing on television focus almost exclusively on them. Its website echoes these ads, urging viewers to “make a symbolic adoption (of an African or Asian elephant) in support of WWF’s global efforts” to “help protect the future of nature.”

Keeping these magnificent megafauna alive in their natural habitats is a monumental challenge, as environmental filmmaker Katie Carpenter can attest. She has co-written and produced two PBS films about elephants for National Geographic TV.

“Battle for the Elephants” is an hour-long documentary that spotlights the poaching of elephants in East Africa for their tusks, the market forces behind the illegal ivory trade, and the efforts being made to save them from extinction. 

Winner of the 2013 Jackson Wild festival prize for Best Conservation Program, this film merited a sequel, “Warlords of Ivory.”

At 3 p.m. Wednesday, July 28 at the Chautauqua Cinema, “Battle for the Elephants” will be screened — free of charge — as a Films for Change Benefit Special.

All proceeds will support Big Life Foundation, which maintains several wildlife-related programs, including those for human-elephant conflict mitigation, anti-poaching, wildlife crime/anti-trafficking and community education.

For admission, tickets are to be reserved in advance online at

Following the screening today, there will be a wine and cheese reception for Carpenter at 4:30 p.m. under the tent on the front lawn of the Chautauqua Women’s Club.

During this gathering, Carpenter will speak briefly about her involvement in the writing and production of “Battle for the Elephants.”

“We’re going to make the reception into a roundtable charrette,” Carpenter said. “We’ll be talking about the issues that have come up. It will be nonpolitical and free-sciency.”

Among those issues: what concerned Chautauquans can do to assist in keeping increasing numbers of African and Asian elephants alive and well.

To attend this ticketed event, sign up online at

Drama & precision: Grammy Award-winning Apollo’s Fire orchestra to take Amp stage with expressive Baroque performance



Apollo’s Fire

Apollo’s Fire, The Cleveland Baroque Orchestra, will be bringing Baroque back to Chautauqua at 8:15 p.m. Tuesday, July 27 in the Amphitheater.

Tonight’s performance, titled “Apollo’s Fire: Love in Venice,” will include works such as “Summer Concerto” and “La Folia (Madness)” by Antonio Vivaldi, “Che si può fare” by Barbara Strozzi, and works from Claudio Monteverdi.

Baroque was a style of music and other arts from the early 1600s to the 1740s, with popularity spanning into the 1800s in the Iberian Peninsula. 

“What we do is bring Baroque music to life in the way it was fresh and new when it was composed,” said Apollo’s Fire founder and musical director Jeannette Sorrell. “A lot of that is about moving the emotional moods of the listeners. That’s kind of what we’re obsessed with in Apollo’s Fire. That’s what we will be trying to do.”

Sorrell said people might expect a more academic performance, but Apollo’s Fire intends to bring the opposite of that.

“The way Baroque music was performed and meant to be performed in the 17th and 18th centuries was a lot about being expressive and emotional with music,” she said. “That priority got lost in the 20th century, and people lost sight on how to play Baroque music.” 

Part of Apollo’s Fire mission, she said, is learning and performing Baroque music the way it was meant to be played.

“We’re kind of like detectives — unearthing the way music was meant to be played originally and trying to bring it to life for people,” Sorrell said.

Apollo’s Fire has played around the world, including several European and United States tours. The ensemble has performed on the BBC multiple times, and it has played for sold-out crowds in Wigmore Hall, the Library of Congress, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and Carnegie Hall.

In 2019, Apollo’s Fire won a Grammy in the “Classical Vocal Solo” category for its Songs of Orpheus album.

Still, the group is looking forward to playing in Chautauqua’s Amphitheater.

“Playing in an amp is always extra fun because the experience of fresh air, and being closer to nature just adds an extra element of joy and brings people together as a community,” she said. “We love that.”

Apollo’s Fire is a particularly special ensemble, Sorrell said, because each musician in the group is handpicked.

“We’re all very much on the same page about wanting to play with emotional expression and drama, and bringing that sense of emotional commitment to the music in a way that really translates for an audience,” she said.

In other orchestras, Sorrell said it’s possible to have musicians from different backgrounds and experiences that clash with one another. Apollo’s Fire musicians, instead, are picked so there is minimal clashing. 

“We can achieve a really high level of precision because we all have the same approach to the music,” she said. 

Sorrell loves the ambiance at Chautauqua and is excited to return.

“Chautauqua has such a great atmosphere,” she said. “We always love to be a part of it.”

Krista and Paul Ritacco to discuss working in Washington for CWC talk



The Ritaccos

The Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the subdued inauguration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris focused all eyes on Washington, D.C. this winter. The heightened security around the Capitol Building and White House dampened the allure of this city, built to inspire awe. 

For Chautauquans Krista and Paul Ritacco, who reside within the 64-mile Capital Beltway that surrounds Washington, D.C., its appeal has not waned. At 9:15 a.m. on Tuesday, July 27 in the tent on the Chautauqua Women’s Club’s front lawn, they will share personal “Tales of Washington.” (The rain date is Wednesday at the same time and place.) 

“This will be the first time we’ve spoken about Washington together,” Krista said. “We will basically be trying to lift a veil on what life is really like working in Washington. There are a lot of misperceptions, like in Hollywood. What is it really like in the White House and on Capitol Hill?”

The couple met while they were both working for Rep. Ken Calvert, R-Calif., who represented the district in which Krista grew up. She had recently earned her bachelor of arts in history from the University of Colorado at Boulder; Paul was an alumnus of Georgetown University, class of 1986.  

“I’m a local boy, born and raised,” Paul said.

Krista said most of the office was from Southern California.

“I married the one from D.C.,” she said. “It was my first job in Washington.” 

After interning for Calvert, Krista went to work for The Stuart Stevens Group, a political consulting firm that developed strategy for Republican political campaigns.

“(The year) 1994 was when we didn’t lose a race, including Tom Ridge’s, from Erie, Pennsylvania,” Krista said. “It was an exciting job seeing politics from a different angle than from the federal government side.” 

Based in San Diego, her hometown, she helped run the Republican National Convention in August 1996.

“Things change every two years in Congress,” Krista said. “There’s a lot of transition. Stuart Stevens was on the election cycle, so it was time to move on. I did lobbying in a law firm and saw another side.”

Because the opportunities for non-lawyers were not as great as for lawyers, Krista said she left the Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease Law Firm and joined the American Continental Group, a lobbying and consulting firm, as business manager.

“I didn’t go to Austin, (Texas) and volunteer for (George W.) Bush,” Krista continued. “But he chose to have his transition office in D.C., so I had an opportunity to volunteer, and took some time off from my job. It was the best decision I made. … I started with the new administration on the first day.”

In the Office of Planning, Evaluation and Policy Development at the U.S. Department of Education, Krista served as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Evaluation.

As the director of the White House Counselor’s Office, she was involved with all aspects of the president’s strategic communications planning, as well as policy formulation and implementation in the service of his agenda. This entailed coordination with the White House Press Office, and offices that dealt with communications, media affairs, and global communications. She also established and managed the White House’s speechwriting operation.

“The responsibility is what I really enjoyed,” Krista said. “In communications and speechwriting, every day was different and exciting. Even if you knew what the day would be like, the world had other plans. It was a dream job.” 

Paul described his career in government and business as “eclectic.” In 1989, through Georgetown University’s program at the Warsaw School of Economics, he studied with the economist and statesman, Leszek Balcerwicz, whom he said was “the architect of Poland’s reforms.”

“When I studied abroad, I studied in Communist Poland because I’m half Polish, and quite frankly, it was different,” Paul said. “It was absolutely fascinating. I can tell you it was one of the seminal experiences in my life. … Now we’ve been able to go back. I’ve lectured at the Warsaw School of Economics and Jagiellonian University in Krakow. (Pope) John Paul II studied there. It’s one of the oldest universities in the world.”  

During President George H. W. Bush’s trip to Poland in the summer of 1989, he worked with ABC News in Warsaw. According to Paul, his experience in Poland cemented his “interest in government and political science after previously pursuing a career in medicine.”

That said, when he was 22 years old he began working with Discovery – known then as The Discovery Channel.

“We were the largest running vendor,” Paul said. “So when you watch Discovery and see Morgan Freeman, I basically created the rate structure for narrators. … It hadn’t been addressed. … As Discovery grew, I stuck with it.”

Because his work with Discovery and National Geographic necessitated contracts, nine years later he entered Georgetown University Law Center, where he earned his juris doctor degree. 

Although Paul said he is a businessman first and foremost, having launched “multiple enterprises in the political and entertainment arenas over the past 30 years,” recently he “completed 23 years of government service having been a chief of staff and senior adviser to more than 30 members of the U.S. Congress.” 

He began his congressional work in 1991 as a legislative aide for the House Republican Caucus.

Paul said he “shared doing multiple work for a number of members,” having “worked in both the traditional congressional office as well as leadership offices within the U.S. Congress.”

In addition to working for Calvert, for instance, he served as the chief of staff for Rep. Michael Fitzpatrick, R-Pa., a supporter of term limits who in 2017 was succeeded by his brother, Brian Fitzpatrick, for whom Paul worked as a senior adviser. He also advised “numerous committee chairmen,” as well as Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif. when McCarthy was the House Majority Leader.

Among Paul’s responsibilities were foreign policy, the Helsinki Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe, terror financing, PFAS (chemical substance) issues, defense, financial services, campaign finance and the budget.

“I’ve really done a lot of stuff on national security and the military,” Paul said. “That, and the process. Especially overseas, they don’t understand our process, so I share it, and (in doing so) learn more about our process.”

As part of various Congressional Study Groups, he has traveled to Germany, Belgium, France, China, Japan and other countries. And he has worked with the U.S. military throughout the Pacific and Atlantic.

Currently Paul is the president of Campaign Financial Services, which advises on and manages campaign compliance for senior U.S. political leadership.

According to its website, Campaign Financial Services is a “campaign finance and consulting firm that specializes in providing a full range of financial services for federal campaigns, political action committees and party committees.”

Separately, CFS manages entertainment projects with major companies, including National Geographic and Discovery International.

“We do a lot of stuff with narratives,” Paul said. “We saw some opportunities. We do a lot of work on political ads for political consulting firms. There are two separate divisions — entertainment and politics. We meet in Washington.”

Having himself run as a Republican candidate for Congress, Paul has gained a unique perspective on strengths and weaknesses of the U.S. federal government. Krista’s experience as a former lobbyist, political campaigner and White House staffer will enable this Washington couple to present a fairly comprehensive picture — from the Republican vantage point — of what it’s really been like to work in D.C. over the past three decades. 

Chautauqua Hospice’s Shauna Anderson to discuss palliative care in county for CWC Tent Talk




When it comes to hospice and palliative care, Chautauqua County has come a long way since the 1980s and even the 2010s. That’s a boon for year-round, seasonal and week-long residents and visitors.

Long before COVID-19, families and friends experienced the angst of not knowing where to turn for compassionate, knowledgeable and skilled support and care when loved ones were dying or seriously ill at Chautauqua. The pandemic has further complicated and exacerbated this anxiety and grief.

“People say, ‘What’s wrong with me that I can’t get through this?’ ” said Shauna Anderson, president and CEO of Chautauqua Hospice and Palliative Care. “I say, ‘Nothing.’ People are coming from all over. This is a hard time for everyone. Our bereavement coordinator says that the outlier is more the norm as we get through the pandemic.”

At 4:30 p.m. on Monday, July 26 in the tent on the front lawn of the Chautauqua Women’s Club, Anderson will give a talk titled “40 Years of Caring for Chautauqua.”

In addition to being a registered nurse, she is certified in gerontological nursing, in hospice and palliative care, and in animal-assisted activities and interventions.

Regarding the latter certification, from the University of Denver, CHPC provides pet care support for patients who are pet owners, and Anderson has been able to have 45 patients in wheelchairs in the pasture of the alpaca farm where she and her husband live.

“Hospice and palliative care are about quality of life,” she said. “It’s not necessarily a place. We’ve never had one (for patients to stay in). We’ve gone to homes, and when people are homeless, to cars. It’s a philosophy, not a place.”

Nevertheless, CHPC’s five-bed Star Hospice House is on target to open in late 2021 despite the challenges of COVID-19.

Particularly vulnerable patients no longer need to be transferred to other communities, some far away. Instead, there will be room each year for over 200 individuals who have no family support or whose care needs are too complex to be managed at home.  

“We let the community know of our need,” Anderson said. “It’s been a dream of the county and Hospice for 30 years. Someone reached out to the woman in the house next door (to our Lakewood office) and now we have a campus. … We will probably have to add beds either here or in the north county.”

According to Anderson, credit is largely due to the efforts of Bert and Mary Rappole – Chautauquans who have a long history with hospice and have been serving as the co-chairs of the CHPC’s Our House Campaign. In this capacity, they have been raising the funding necessary for constructing, running and endowing a community residence staffed 24/7.

Bert Rappole opened his surgical care practice in Jamestown well before hospice was available, and welcomed the advent of a certified county hospice agency in 1991. Mary served as its on-call registered nurse early on, and more recently as a hospice and palliative care nurse practitioner.  

At the end of her talk, the Rappoles will join her in answering questions.

For nearly 20 years — since before Chautauqua Hospice Information & Referral Service evolved into CHPC — Anderson has been a key member of its staff.

The day after graduating from The College at Brockport, State University of New York (SUNY Brockport) in 1977 with her bachelor of science in nursing, she and a friend headed for Southern California.

“I worked on spinal cord injury and discovered that I really loved home health care,” Anderson said. “I did that on weekends to pay for the adoption of my daughter. Spinal cord injury was fascinating because it was technical. People are on ventilators and people are just out of surgery.”

After 10 years, she returned to Western New York — to Rochester and Jamestown — where she continued serving as a nurse. In 1995, she received her master of science in community health nursing from D’Youville College in Buffalo.

“One of the interesting things about nursing is that there are so many areas of expertise you can go into,” Anderson said. “There are lots of opportunities.”

Eight years later, Anderson became a registered nurse case manager for Hospice Chautauqua County. Within two years she was promoted to manager of clinical services, then director of clinical services, and finally vice president of clinical services. She held this position for 10 years prior to being named president and CEO of CHPC.

“Palliative care is a fairly new concept for hospice,” Anderson said. “… Hospice is very regulated now; there are pages and pages of rules. We all have to play by the same rules. But for palliative care, there (are) just two paragraphs of regulations. … It’s a different concept, because there are so many different types.”

Because Chautauqua Institution’s nine-week season is unique, she said she will also talk about travel hospice and palliative care.

“Most health regulations aren’t people friendly,” Anderson said. “But hospice encourages us to be; to share care with other hospices. It’s a well-kept secret. Even if you just come for a week, you can have hospice or palliative care.”

Even more important for her, however, will be persuading everyone who attends her Monday afternoon talk to engage in “open conversations about what we want out of life and about self-directed closure of our life.” To ensure that we get what we want at the end of our life — which will in fact occur sooner or later — Anderson urges us all to put advance directives in place.

Frank A. Thomas to bring homiletics expertise to sermon series




On his website, the Rev. Frank A. Thomas calls himself a preacher, teacher, scholar, lecturer and master coach. 

“Coaching,” he writes, “is about the discovery and implementation of choice. People and organizations get mired down in the anxious details of their own lives and businesses and forget that they have choice. As a result, many people and organizations lose their true passion and engagement. Coaching helps them to remember, create and access available choices, as well as foster the accountability that helps them implement their choices for passionate engagement.”

And he is particularly passionate about coaching pastors and coaching in the area of preaching.

Thomas will serve as chaplain-in-residence at Chautauqua Institution during Week Five. He will preach at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday ecumenical worship service in the Amphitheater. His sermon topic is “Did Heaven Make A Mistake?” He will also preach at the 9 a.m. Monday through Friday morning worship services in the Amp. His sermon topics include  “Our Daily Bread,” “What About the Children?,” “Try Easy,” “What is Truth?” and “A Grain of Sand.” 

Thomas currently serves as the director of the doctoral program in African American preaching and sacred rhetoric and as the Nettie Sweeney and Hugh Th. Miller Professor of Homiletics at Christian Theological Seminary in Indianapolis. For many years, Thomas has also taught preaching to doctoral and master’s level students at McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Memphis Theological Seminary in Memphis, Tennessee, and United Theological Seminary of Dayton, Ohio. He is the CEO of Hope for Life International, which formerly published The African American Pulpit

Thomas also serves as a member of the International Board of Societas Homiletica, an international society of teachers of preaching.

Thomas is the author of numerous books, including American Dream 2.0: A Christian Way Out of the Great Recession, The God of the Dangerous Sermon, Surviving a Dangerous Sermon, How to Preach a Dangerous Sermon and Introduction to the Practice of African American Preaching. He was co-editor of Preaching with Sacred Fire: An Anthology of African American Sermons 1750 to the Present with Martha Simmons.

Thomas has served as pastor for two congregations: New Faith Baptist Church of Matteson, Illinois, for 18 years and Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church of Memphis, Tennessee, for 13 years. 

He holds a doctorate in communications from the University of Memphis, a doctor of divinity degree from Christian Theological Seminary, doctor of ministry degrees from Chicago Theological Seminary and United Theological Seminary, a master of divinity from Chicago Theological Seminary and a master of arts in African-Caribbean Studies from Northeastern Illinois University.

A Tale as Old as Time: CSO to perform Oscar-winning ‘Beauty & the Beast’ score in live-to-film event



Illustration by Olivia Dutkewych/DESIGN EDITOR

It’s a tale as old as time, true as it can be — and its music will fill the Amphitheater this weekend as the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra performs the Oscar-winning score to the beloved 1991 Disney classic, “Beauty and the Beast.” At 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Amp, Chautauquans are invited to be the CSO’s guests as the film plays on the big screen, accompanied by live music.

Saturday’s performance is the last chance this season to experience a live-to-film concert by the CSO, and it’s something that all generations can come together to experience. Classic Disney movies like “Beauty and the Beast” have been around for decades, and now the community gets to experience the film in an entirely new way.

“In terms of the Disney stuff, I think it’s just a lot of fun for people to hear a performance live of something that they’ve heard through their TV set for a long time, and I think that there’s just a little bit of a thrill associated with that,” said Jeffrey Robinson, CSO bassoon player.

Like the showing of Tim Burton’s “The Nightmare Before Christmas” last Saturday, the musicians face the same challenge of playing a concert alongside a movie. The musicians must keep up with each beat with the use of a clicktrack. 

“This one isn’t one of the most difficult in the movie concert genre,” said Simon Lapointe, second violinist. “It’s a little more relaxed when it comes to technical things, but no matter what, it’s challenging — because it’s performed live (when) it wasn’t originally written to be performed like that.”

Another challenge that the CSO faces Saturday is the fact that the music is already so well known — the film won two Oscars for its score and was nominated for four more — so any potential mistakes will be easily recognizable.

“The good news is that this particular score was further along into the live-to-film productions,” said Stuart Chafetz, principal pops conductor. “This one was a little later (than ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’). And you could see the improvements of just how it’s done technically. So, for me the information is a little bit more solid. But my goal is to make sure that people forget that the symphony is even playing because it’s so locked in with the movie.”

However, with the score itself a bit more relaxed, Saturday’s experience will not only be fun for the audience but for the musicians as well.

“The whole movie is really wonderful. What makes it especially fun is that it’s very familiar, so when you get to do that familiar moment, it just brings more of the joy of the movie to me,” said Daryl Goldberg, cellist. 

Eva Stern, violist, said live-to-film concerts have a fun, upbeat vibe about them.

“I get the sense from the audience that people are really excited for that kind of an experience, because it’s a bit of a unique experience to be able to see a movie with a live orchestra backing it,” she said. 

The performance also gives the audience a chance to engage and sing along to some of Disney’s most iconic songs. 

“This happens to be a particular favorite of mine. I love this movie and I love the music in it,” said Leslie Linn, trumpeter. “One of my favorite songs is the Gaston song. It’s just funny with him just being stuck on himself, and it pokes fun at him through the singing.”

The performance is also a perfect way for families to have fun and make memories together.

“This is exactly what I feel like my job as principal pops conductor is. It’s all about bringing multiple generations together to enjoy a show together,” Chafetz said. “This is the perfect example of a perfect Saturday night with the family, watching a Disney classic with a live symphony orchestra. I feel so fortunate to be able to be the conduit to be able to present this fantastic film.”

This joint experience is one for the musicians themselves as well, as many of their children grew up with the movie.

“This (film) came later in my life, so I would tie this into my kids,” Linn said. “They’re coming to the movie, and it’s going to be fun playing this for them because they got to watch this as little kids. It’ll be a whole family affair tonight. But I know the movie well enough, and most of us do. Even without seeing the screen, I know what’s happening, so I can invest that in my playing. Just to play the original music in the original context is quite brilliant.”

The experience is also a great way for kids to appreciate the beauty of live music as well. 

“Orchestras are doing a little bit more of this, and I think it’s a great way to introduce kids,” Robinson said. “I think it helps to let them know that going to just hear the orchestra can be fun too. But I think the initial step is, ‘We’re going to go and see this movie we already know we’d like, and here’s some live orchestra music at the same time.’ ”

‘To bring light back into her eyes:’ with new marker dedicated to Cottage bearing Phillis Wheatley’s name, part of Chautauqua’s past ‘no longer lost’



The Phillis Wheatley Cottage Marker is unveiled by artist Louise Mandumbwa, left, and Elaine Davis on Wednesday at the intersection of Harris and Palestine. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

Inside Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall, there was a crowd — longtime Chautauquans, Institution leadership and newcomers came together to celebrate, thanks to some old papers, an aerial photograph and a story that spanned two continents.

Chautauquans gathered at 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 21 to attend the unveiling of a marker dedicated to Phillis Wheatley and the house which stood at Chautauqua in her name for more than 70 years.

There is no direct connection between Wheatley, a freedwoman and famous poet, and Chautauqua Institution. The Phillis Wheatley Cottage stood not as a commemorative place of learning, but as the “colored boarding house” for African American workers at Chautauqua.  

“It’s true that African Americans have been well represented on the Amp stage, as preachers, speakers and entertainers,” said Ted First, African American Heritage House board member, during his remarks Wednesday. But First said Black Chautauquans are not often remembered as “members of our lived community.”

First said there were many questions about Chautauquan history that had yet to be answered, or even asked. 

“The Phillis Wheatley Cottage offered the key to open that door, but she and it were buried in plain sight, in the archives — in small type, classified ads, old maps, building and grounds reports, reams of newspapers with around-the-grounds, back-page news,” he said.

The marker was installed at the approximate location of the Phillis Wheatley Cottage — but even the address is the source of some doubt. 

“We don’t actually know the date (the Cottage) was opened, or what year,” First said. 

The Cottage was first created sometime in the 1890s. It’s known definitively that the Cottage was located at 23 Crescent in 1906, but was likely relocated during renovations in 1939, close to what is now Fletcher Music Hall. In a 1921 building and grounds report, the Cottage’s repair expenses are detailed: The report states, “The colored boarding and rooming house now presents a fairly good appearance, and I think quite satisfactory to the people who occupy it.” 

Chautauquans make their way down Palestine to the site of the Phillis Wheatley Cottage Marker during the dedication celebration. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

By the 1940s, there was an official hostess of the Wheatley Cottage, and boarders made regular collective contributions to Old First Night each season. In 1965, the building was officially repurposed as practice and storage space with the passage of the Civil Rights Act. Forty-five years ago, First said, it was demolished — without a single known photograph ever taken of it.

When the history of such a house was brought to the attention of the AAHH in 2018, its leaders immediately helped organize efforts to uncover more of the story. That job fell to Emálee Sanfilippo, assistant archivist at the Oliver Archives Center. This has been her project for the last three years, and it is due to her efforts that personal and classified ads mentioning the Wheatley Cottage have been unearthed. Sanfilippo also verified the identities of many Black graduates of the very first Chautauqua Literary and Scientific Circle class of 1882.

Phillis Wheatley herself was born in West Africa around 1758. Her original name was lost to history, and in 1761 she made the brutal passage to America as an enslaved child. She was bought in Boston by John Wheatley, who named her Phillis, after the ship she arrived on. 

“She was brought to Boston to accompany Susanna (Wheatley), in the education and vested care of her children,” First said. “In the process of that, she got to accompany the lessons — and within 18 months, at the age of 7, she mastered the English language: reading, writing, in all its forms.”

Wheatley was freed at the age of 20. She became a renowned poet, but died in relative poverty and anonymity before she reached middle age. She is remembered today as a groundbreaking early American, but her legacy is not often closely examined.

“All of our archival research continues to unfold the full history of African Americans at Chautauqua,” First said. “We know that during the period when Chautauqua was in full bloom, from 1907 to 1925, Chautauqua engaged 50 million individuals with its national reach. … African Americans were present in all of these expressions in significant numbers.”

First closed his remarks by emphasizing the importance of uncovering hidden histories and fully illuminating buried narratives. 

Flowers left by Chautauquans sit at the base of the Phillis Wheatley Cottage Marker after its unveiling and dedication. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

“Today’s dedication liberates Phillis Wheatley, and brings her on(to) the grounds,” he said. “She’s now a Chautauquan — no longer lost in the archives. Her story has been the key to unlock the door to the African American narrative; through that door, we have a path to understanding where we’ve been, and better how to embrace the future together.”

Louise Mandumbwa, who created the marker to be unveiled, is a painter, printmaker and draughtswoman, and an alumna of Chautauqua Visual Arts’ 2019 season. Born in Botswana, Mandumbwa traveled to the United States to complete her bachelor of fine arts degree from the University of Central Arkansas, where she met Sharon Louden, the Sydelle Sonkin and Herb Siegel Artistic Director. Louden encouraged Mandumbwa to participate at CVA, and gave her name when plans were made to design a commemorative marker. 

In her short remarks, Mandumbwa thanked Elaine Davis, a driving force behind AAHH and these efforts; First; and Louden “for the opportunity, as an African in America, to experience (and) really learn this story for the first time.”

“I know that people in this room — maybe more than other people in different spaces — appreciate that stories are not frivolous,” she said. “We learn from them. The stories we tell ourselves and tell each other inform how we see one another.”

Mandumbwa said that once people see each other, they are able to live full and beautiful lives as individuals, and that she hopes she has brought some of that individualism back to Phillis Wheatley, who “managed to shine so brightly” while facing incredibly difficult circumstances.

“It has been a complete honor,” she said, “to revisit this individual — to bring light back into her eyes.”

To open and close remarks, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra Diversity Fellows played three classical pieces: “4 for Tango,” by Astor Piazzolla, “Por Una Cabeza,” by Carlos Gardel, and a selection from Michael Haydn. The Diversity Fellows are Yan Izquierdo (violin), Scott Jackson (violin), Edna Pierce (viola), Max Oppeltz (cello) and Amy Nickler (double bass).

Following a short reception, attendees walked up the hill past Fletcher Hall to the intersection of Harris and Palestine. Fresh hydrangea blooms were handed out; the walk up the hill turned both joyful and processional. Davis and Mandumbwa unveiled the marker together to enthusiastic applause.

‘Faith Based’ producer, actor Tanner Thomason slated for Cinema’s Meet the Filmmaker



Spoof movies parodying specific genres have been made for years. “Spaceballs” for space operas, “Scary Movie” for horror films, and even “Shrek,” a parody of Disney movies and fairytales. 

At 6:15 p.m. Sunday, July 25 at Chautauqua Cinema, the next Meet the Filmmaker will be with Tanner Thomason, who starred in and produced the 2020 film “Faith Based.” A regular admission fee will be required to attend. The film follows two friends without a lot of direction in life until they find out that religion-centered movies always make a lot of money, no matter the actual quality of the film. 

To get rich quick, they set out to make the first religious movie in space. Of course, things do not go according to plan — they have to actually learn how to make a movie, as well as how to practice religion. Thomason has a personal connection to Chautauqua Cinema, and owner Billy Schmidt was happy to screen the film and have Thomason speak about the process of not only making this film, but the process of independent films themselves.

“I hope (audiences are) entertained,” Schmidt said. “I hope they have a deepened appreciation. As always with Meet the Filmmakers, people have no idea. The simplest thing is so much work. … You have to assemble teams of the right people — there are hundreds of relationships that go into making these (films), thousands of hours. I know for my audiences, getting someone in front of them in the flesh that they’re seeing on the screen really pulls that around.”

Thomason, Luke Barnett (co-star, writer and producer of the film) and director Vincent Masciale had been creative collaborators previously, making movies for other people and comedic shorts for the TV company Funny or Die.

“The three of us came up with a story together, and we were all raised in sort of churchy households,” Thomason said. “A lot of the stuff dealing with the church are just things that we knew from growing up in that environment, and so we all came up with a story together, and then Luke banged out a version of the script.”

Rest assured, this film is not intended to poke fun at religion or religious movies, but rather point out that virtually anyone can make a film centered on religion without having any real ties to it. 

“You can call something a faith-based film, make it for very cheap, … and still make a lot of money just because they come off as a religious film, and nothing behind the making of the film, or none of the intentions behind it, line up with sort of that belief system,” Thomason said.

Thomason grew up in southeast Oklahoma and split his time between the Methodist and the Southern Baptist Church. His maternal grandfather is the last living original charter member of his church.

“He literally built the church with his hands, and so I certainly grew up in a very pro-church environment, and I know the other guys did as well,” Thomason said.

Thomason hopes that Chautauquans laugh but also realize that people are not always who they present themselves to be. Most of all, he wants people to come if they want to make a movie on their own. 

“I live in LA, and I understand what it’s like to want to be creative and do creative things, and it’s a struggle, and it’s hard,” Thomason said. “It took years and years for our little team to get to a point where we can pull this movie off. If there’s anyone in Chautauqua who wants to make a short film or they want to make a movie, then they need to come see this, because this is what’s possible if you stick with your friends, and don’t give up.”

All Star afternoon: Jamestown Tarp Skunks visit grounds to square off against Chautauqua All Stars



The Jamestown Tarp Skunks play the Chautauqua All Star team on Monday July 19, 2021 at the softball field. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Chautauqua softball is always a competitive affair, but Chautauquans faced a unique challenge Monday: taking on the Jamestown Tarp Skunks, the local franchise of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League. Chautauqua’s finest, dubbed the All Stars, faced the Tarp Skunks in a five-inning exhibition match at Sharpe Field. 

The All Stars came out to an early lead, putting up four runs in the first inning, but were ultimately undone by a third inning Tarp Skunks rally. The Tarp Skunks won 11-9. 

After the game, members of the community were invited to take a turn at the plate. Young and young-at-heart Chautauquans took their swings (and a few misses) to cap off a memorable afternoon at the ball field.

  • Kevin Koziol of the Jamestown Tarp Skunks pitches during their game against the Chautauqua All Stars Monday July 19, 2021 at the softball field KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Posey Wannop goes up to bat after the 5th inning Monday July 19, 2021 at the softball field KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Charlie Nichols of the Jamestown Tarp Skunks during their game against the Chautauqua All Stars Monday July 19, 2021 at the softball field KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Nicholas and Patrick Ritacco hold the flag during the National Anthem Monday July 19, 2021 at the softball field KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Will McEvoy bats for the Chautauqua All Stars Monday July 19, 2021 at the softball field KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Nate Chub of the Chautauqua All Stars watches a play from third base during their game against the Jamestown Tarp Skunks Monday July 19, 2021 at Sharpe Field. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER
  • Team members from the Jamestown Tarp Skunks watch the game unfold Monday July 19, 2021 at the softball field KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

A place to grow: Pop-up plant and gift store holds grand opening



Vee Hottle checks out a succelent while browsing plants for sale during the soft opening of The Mobile Garden and Gifts of Grace Sunday, July 18, 2021 in the ground floor of the Colonnade. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Plants are just like people: If you pay attention to them, they’ll tell you exactly what they need. 

What do Chautauquans need? A pop-up shop, right in the middle of the grounds.

From 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, July 25 in the Colonnade on Bestor Plaza, The Mobile Garden and Gifts of Grace joint pop-up shop will have their grand opening, equipped with champagne, snacks and local, organic and homegrown flower stems to build your own bouquet. Their shop will stay open every day from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. through Sept. 30.

“To be surrounded by growth at the Institution, and to also be surrounded by plants that grow — it’s perfect,” said Lisa Swanson, the owner of The Mobile Garden, one half of the pop-up shop. 

A Jamestown native, Swanson has lived in the South for the last 20 years or so. She worked in the hospitality industry for a long time, specifically as a national sales manager working nearly 80 hours a week. She loved the work, but lost her job when COVID-19 hit. 

She always had a garden and loved houseplants, but her passion grew during quarantine. 

“Last summer, I was playing in dirt and loving my life,” she said. “I said to myself, ‘How can I do something and monetize something that I love, and something that I feel is so vitally important to the world?’ ”

So Swanson launched The Mobile Garden. To make it into the Institution within a year of her business opening was a dream come true, she said. This is her first-ever storefront. 

“I just want to share my passion for plants and the Earth with other people,” she said. 

Chautauqua Institution was always a part of Swanson’s business plan, but the pop-up shop wasn’t originally her idea. 

The retail space was empty, and the original plan for Chautauqua was to have a different pop-up vendor every week. While pitching her own business, Swanson said Gifts of Grace would be a good fit for a vendor. 

Eventually, the Institution reached out with a plan to combine the stores and do a season-long pop-up shop with the both of them. Chautauqua has never had a store like this before, Swanson said, so she’s proud that her first brick-and-mortar is in tandem with something new on the grounds. 

“I’m so thankful (Swanson) loves what we stand for and decided to invite us on this journey,” said Stefanie Lowery, whose mother, Colleen Anderson, owns Gifts of Grace. 

A variety of houseplants and and planters are displayed for sale during the soft opening of The Mobile Garden and Gifts of Grace Sunday, July 18, 2021 in the ground floor of the Colonnade. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Gifts of Grace opened as a brick-and-mortar store in Lakewood in 2019. An inspirational gift shop, the word “Grace” was chosen by Anderson to mean living life gracefully and with purpose. 

Anderson opened the store as a creative outlet. Beforehand, she was a nurse, then a hospice nurse once she retired. She started by opening storefront gift shops in her husband’s pharmacies, but eventually decided she wanted a store of her own. 

Gifts of Grace sells handcrafted pieces from primarily woman- and minority-owned businesses throughout the U.S. They sell items from over 25 local, small businesses and artisans, including woodworkings, dried flower wreaths and ceramic mugs. They also sell mindful journals, inspirational coffee table books and, one of their best sellers, Kitras Balls.

Kitras Balls are pieces of glass art made by blowing glass, compressing it down and blowing it back up again. The process creates a tree-like formation in the center of the ball, and the pieces come attached with different meanings — trees of love, life, family, motherhood. 

At the soft opening of the shop last Sunday, members from the community stopped by to browse the stock. Lexi Rutkowski, who has been visiting the Institution with her aunt every year, said she was surprised at the turn out.

“I can imagine a store like this appeals to young people a lot,” she said. 

The front portion of the store houses a variety of plants, such as jades, aloes, monsteras and money trees. Swanson sources her plants as locally as possible, but some of the tropical plants and air plants come out of Florida. She also propagates some plants herself. 

Surrounding the plants are Gifts of Grace pieces aligned on shelves and handmade tables for sale. Watering cans and other plant products are for sale, as well. 

“To have somewhere new to poke about on the grounds will be nice for people,” Lowery said. 

Mary Polak, center, talks with Gifts of Grace manager Stefanie Lowery, left, and co-owner Colleen Anderson during the soft opening of The Mobile Garden and Gifts of Grace Sunday, July 18, 2021 in the ground floor of the Colonnade. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Swanson wants to use the back portion of the shop for youth programs, like educational series on learning different types of plants and building terrariums. This past Mother’s Day, she did a DIY succulent bar at ART Cloth + Craft in Jamestown where people could pick their succulent, soil and pot or mug. She plans to do that again with kids on the grounds, but also with kids off-site, within the community. 

One of her goals for The Mobile Garden is to be accessible to everyone. 

“Being accessible to everyone means all levels of income, and all ages,” she said. “Because a lot of times, people forget about kids, who are people, too. You just have to be able to relate to them in a different way. Including them and teaching them how to love and care for things and why plants are so important is the foundation of everything that I’m doing.”

Alyssa Porter, director of youth and family programs, met with Swanson to discuss bringing in families and youth for a collaboration with the shop. Porter has brought her daughter to some events that The Mobile Garden has been a part of, like the Jamestown Public Market. 

“That’s as far as this conversation has gotten, but I think with her innovation and flexibility and community-minded approach to her work, we’re going to do something great with families, whatever that might be,” Porter said. 

The Mobile Garden owner Lisa Swanson, left, talks with Ted and Tish Okerlund during the soft opening of The Mobile Garden and Gifts of Grace Sunday, July 18, 2021 in the ground floor of the Colonnade. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

Porter said she would love, in the future, to have a maker space on the grounds that builds off Play CHQ to add an element of garden education — planting and playing in the soil. Play CHQ is a vehicle with which they could easily make this happen.  Play CHQ, new this year, is a series of pop-up activities around the grounds for families — games, crafts, STEM activities.

“I would love to open something up for parents and kids, or grandparents, or whoever it might be, to do something together — to really lean into the multigenerational Chautauqua approach,” she said.  

Swanson hopes the classes will create a deeper connection between the shop and the community. 

“I think that will be a catalyst for not only driving business into the store, but for immersing myself into Chautauqua culture,” she said. “I’m not just here to sell plants, I’m here to be a part of the team.” 

Another service The Mobile Garden offers is plant pairing, where they will go into a customer’s home, look at the light conditions and air quality and determine which plants would best thrive in that environment. They also offer a service where they water, rotate and prune your plants when the customer goes out of town. 

They have plants for the type of person who dotes over them, the picky ones, and for those who just want their house filled with beautiful plants without much maintenance. 

Swanson and Lowery said their goal for the season is to have fun and be Chautauquans, immersed in the culture of the grounds. 

“I’m here to soak up as much as I can learn from the Institution as the people here can learn from us,” Swanson said. “Spreading my love of plants is a way of giving back.”

1 2 3 4 5 6 17
Page 4 of 17