close

Homepage

Literature professor Michael Krasny to talk history of Jewish humor

Krasny_Michael_Interfaith_072621

MAX ZAMBRANO – STAFF WRITER

Krasny

Michael Krasny is an educator through and through, in the classroom and beyond. 

Starting in 1970, Krasny became a professor of literature at San Francisco State University. From there, he’s also taught at Stanford University, the University of San Francisco, the University of California and in the Fulbright International Institutes. 

A decade after becoming a professor, Krasny began surfing the airwaves, and by 1993, he was the host of KQED’s “Forum, a live call-in show focused on news and public affairs. 

“I also talked to a lot of literary figures and people in the world of the public eye,” Krasny said. “I had the great privilege of interviewing presidents, heads of state and Nobel Prize winners, just a whole range of outstanding and extraordinary people, and also just everyday people, people just in the news.” 

Krasny retired from “Forum in February 2021, but he said he always enjoyed it, just as anyone should enjoy what they do. 

“At first, I was nervous of being in the public eye, but I got kind of an appetite for it,” he said. “I enjoyed doing what educators do, ideally — which is communicating ideas and bringing a higher level of discourse.”

Krasny hopes to bring this type of energy at 1 p.m. Monday, July 26 in the Amphitheater for his lecture “Jewish Humor: History, Culture and Identity,” the first of Week Five’s Interfaith Lecture Series themed “The Authentic Comedic Voice: Truth Born of Struggle.”

Jewish humor has a lot of stereotypes, Krasny said, but a true one that stuck out to him is that much of Jewish humor comes out of suffering. 

“But, I realized that as a student, teacher, critic of literature, scholar of literature, that jokes — and jokes aren’t the only example of Jewish humor, there’s Jewish humor in film and television and anecdotes — were built like narratives, and had a great deal of things to be learned about Jewish identity and Jewish experience, but also about life in the broader personal sense,” he said.

Krasny explored Jewish humor in his 2016 book Let There Be Laughter: A Treasury of Great Jewish Humor and What It All Means. He is also the author of Off Mike: A Memoir of Talk Radio and Spiritual Envy: An Agnostic’s Quest.

“I think there’s a lot to be said about this idea that humor is a catharsis or release of anxiety,” he said. “It can illuminate a great ideal and provide us an understanding that once you start digging in and become an archaeologist with the language and what’s subtextually beneath the language, and the psychology of the stories or tales or jokes, there’s an immense amount there.”

When teaching literature, Krasny said he is really teaching literary theory, history, psychology, linguistics and science. He spent years with a science and humanities convergence program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities, he said. 

“I enjoy writing and talking about a whole range of topics,” he said.

One of Krasny’s most enlightening teaching experiences was back in the 1970s, when he was asked to teach a course on Black literature, he said. Krasny is white, and he was hesitant to accept such a role. 

“I don’t think a white person would be asked to do that today,” he said with a laugh.

He ended up accepting the position, and emphasized to students he wasn’t pretending to be an insider or understand the Black experience from that perspective. Instead, he said he was a scholar and an outsider. Now, he is writing a book about this experience.

“It was some of the best teaching, most rewarding teaching of a lifetime,” he said.

For his lecture, Krasny hopes he provides an enlightening conversation about Jewish humor, understanding that seeing humor through an analytical lens can ruin the humorous aspect of a joke. He sees it another way.

“I’m not doing stand-up or anything like it, but something that can be uplifting, but also make people think or expand their consciousness,” he said. “I think that’s what a good talk, presentation or, frankly, a good stand-up routine should do.”

‘SNL’ cast member Ego Nwodim and NPR’s Eric Deggans to open week with wide-ranging interview

Nwodim_Ego_CLS_072621

SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER

Nwodim

The Week Five Chautauqua Lecture Series on “The Authentic Comedic Voice: A Week in Partnership with the National Comedy Center” will open with a conversation between “Saturday Night Live” repertory player Ego Nwodim and NPR’s television critic Eric Deggans. The conversation will be taking place at 10:30 a.m. Monday, July 26 in the Amphitheater. 

Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair For Education, said he is  “thrilled to start the week with Ego Nwodim, one of the most versatile stars of ‘Saturday Night Live.’ ”

Before she joined “SNL” as a featured player in 2018, Nwodim was a mainstay at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in Los Angeles and her one-woman show, Great Black Women … and Then There’s Me, had a sold-out run at UCB in 2017. She also performed as a New Face at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal in 2016. 

Recently, Nwodim has been seen in Hulu’s “Shrill,” IFC’s “Brockmire” and the feature film “The Broken Hearts Gallery.” She is a fan favorite and regular on the “Comedy Bang! Bang!” podcast. She was recognized by Variety as part of their 2021 New York Women’s Impact Report.

Deggans said that Nwodim has had an interesting career and that “SNL” itself has had an interesting year this year. According to Deggans, other than “The Crown” and “The Mandalorian,” “SNL” received more Emmy nominations than any other program. 

Nwodim was promoted from a featured player to a repertory player before “SNL’s” 46th season in 2020. Though she had experience on the show, Deggans is curious to hear more about how it was transitioning between filming episodes at home to moving back in front of a live audience, before any other show, over the course of quarantine. Ewalt is, too.

Deggans

“From their first experiment with a show entirely via Zoom, with cast members joining from home, to when they finally had a live audience, we saw the cast and crew of ‘SNL’ tell a one-of-a-kind story of producing a weekly live show through a pandemic,” Ewalt said. 

Deggans will be giving a solo morning lecture Tuesday about the evolution of Black comedy in television, so he is curious about what it was like for her joining the cast as a Black woman, given that “Saturday Night Live” had been criticized for a lack of Black women in its cast.

“When Maya Rudolph left, and before Leslie Jones joined the cast, there was a real dearth of Black female performers,” Deggans said. “It got to the point where Kenan Thompson has refused to play Black female characters anymore.”

Deggans also hopes that Nwodim will also be willing to talk about what it was like to join the “SNL” cast, given this criticism and how she thinks the show has done in terms of improving diversity. 

Deggans points to other cast members like Thompson and Pete Davidson who are starring in sitcoms and movies in addition to being on “SNL.” He wonders if Nwodim is lining herself up for anything outside of her role on the show, something that “SNL” stars have been doing more than they ever had in the past. 

“There’s tons of stuff to talk about,” Deggans said. “I don’t think an hour is going to be long enough.”

Comedian Lewis Black to take Amp stage once again, this time in stand-up debut

072621_Lewis_Black copy

NICK DANLAG – STAFF WRITER

Black

To prepare for stand-up, Lewis Black used to rip out sections of newspapers that made him angry, things he thought were crazy. Onstage, he would pick up one clip and yell. Then another, then another, and then another. 

One night, his friend said Black should yell the whole show and see what happened; “and it was life-changing, because I’m funniest when I’m angry,” he said in a Q-and-A with Geoff Edgers of The Washington Post.

“Always had a bit of anger, mostly sarcastic, but anger would kind of come to play at times,” Black said. “(I) was born and raised Jewish. There was a lot of yelling. And my mother is still around and still yells about stuff at 102, so I always thought that anger was a form of love.”

And at 8:15 p.m. Monday, July 26 in the Amphitheater, Black, a Chautauqua favorite, will step up to the mic again. Though he spoke here in 2017, 2018 and 2019, this will be his Chautauqua stand-up debut. Chautauqua is also the first stop on his “It Gets Better Every Day” tour, and will be his first live performance since the onset of COVID-19 early last year. 

His list of accomplishments is long: over 200 shows annually across the world, writing more than 40 plays, overseeing development of more than a thousand, being the longest-running contributor on “The Daily Show,” voicing Anger in “Inside Out” and winning two Grammys. 

Black began his career as a playwright, and his one-act play The Deal is set to be performed at 1 p.m. Thursday, July 29 in the Performance Pavilion on Pratt. The reading, like the entire week, is presented in partnership with the National Comedy Center, where Black sits on the advisory board of directors.

Black delivers a lecture on July 31, 2017, in the Amphitheater, opening a week on “Comedy and the Human Condition.” OLIVIA SUN / DAILY FILE PHOTO

Born in Washington, D.C. on Aug. 30, 1948, Black learned early on from his parents, a teacher and a mechanical engineer, the necessity of education and questioning authority. He considers himself more of a social commentator or satirist than a political comedian.

His brand of satire is on full display during his stand-up specials, bringing attention to life’s many absurdities. On his podcast, “Lewis Black’s Rantcast,” viewers write to him about everything in the world that are making them angry. He reads them aloud, sometimes prefacing with comments: “It’s short, it’s sweet, and she’s pissed!”

Black has a more serious side, as his most recent Instagram post shows. It’s of him holding his mother’s hand and has been liked by over 5,000 people. 

“Had a wonderful afternoon with my mom, Jeannette, the 8th wonder of the world,” Lewis wrote in the caption. “I told her that I had a show this Monday (at Chautauqua). She said as I was leaving, ‘The show is not important, people are.’”

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

072721_cwcTent_Ritacco_dt

DEBORAH TREFTS – STAFF WRITER

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. 

God’s ‘hesed’ is needed to keep the world from wobbling, Frank A. Thomas says

072521_Frank_Thomas_DM_01

MARY LEE TALBOT

The Rev. Frank A. Thomas, director of the doctoral program in African American preaching and sacred rhetoric at the Christian Theological Seminary, delivers his sermon “Did Heaven Make A Mistake?” Sunday in the Amphitheater. DAVE MUNCH/PHOTO EDITOR

“I watch with sadness and pain the injustice and violence by humans on other humans,” said the Rev. Frank A. Thomas. “I see rape, sexual molestation, exploitation of the poor, harassment of the LGBTQI community, racism, nationalism, mass incarceration, genocide, greed and the devastation of our common home.”

Thomas preached at the 10:45 a.m. Sunday ecumenical service of worship in the Amphitheater. His sermon title was “Did Heaven Make a Mistake?” The Scripture text was Lamentations 3: 20-24.

The prophet Jeremiah, like Thomas, looked on the world and saw gall and wormwood. And like Jeremiah, when he is downcast, Thomas remembers: “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning, great is your faithfulness … therefore I will have hope in God.”

The Book of Genesis, Thomas told the congregation, claims that humans have dominion over the earth. “But we really are animals — animals trying to be moral. We are moral animals until we are scratched, or someone threatens our interests, and we go straight to our animal instincts.”

Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso wrote in Midrash: Reading the Bible with Question Marks, “Do humans deserve the gift of life? Did heaven make a mistake?” (Sasso and her husband, Dennis, served the Hebrew Congregation of Chautauqua in 1973).

When God was thinking about forming the first human one, four angels were arguing the pros and cons of this part of creation. The first angel said the human should be created so they could dispense love. The angel of Truth said the human should not be created because they would speak falsely. The angel of Righteousness said the human would do good deeds while the angel of Peace said the human would be full of strife. 

The angels were tied 2-2, and God had to break the tie. God threw Truth to the ground, and the other angels begged God to let Truth arise from the earth. Thomas said God’s decision “is not incorrect. God wants to create in spite of humans. If Truth had remained an angel, humans would not exist.”

Thomas said he despairs that humans can change. “I am hurt and angry that we have discarded what is civil and peaceful. We just do our own thing. We have fits of rage and want to do things our own without consequences to ourselves or our neighbors. We don’t know what we do want, we are just ‘mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.’ ”

In wrestling with his despair, Thomas dreams of everyone having their own place, undiminished. He said in his struggle for hope, “I am too much on the side of the angels and believe in love, justice and mercy. How do I ignore hate?”

Thomas asked, “Are we really stupid enough to drop nuclear weapons on ourselves? Someone asked Albert Einstein how he thought the third world war would be fought. Einstein said, ‘I don’t know about the third, but the fourth will be fought with rocks.’ ”

Maybe it is time to bring back truth and close up shop on this present experiment of life, Thomas said. “Remember the ark? Everything was going to be fine after the flood. Maybe heaven made a mistake, the experiment did not work, so just let us die.”

He continued, “Yet this text comes screaming out of the depths and into my mind: I have hope because the steadfast love of God never ceases, God’s mercies never end.”

It is only because of God that things are not worse in the world. The reason is God’s hesed, translated from the Hebrew as steadfast love or faithfulness, to act in a loyal and loving way. 

“This is the only reason not to burn it all down,” Thomas said. “Hesed is used 240 times in the Hebrew Scriptures. The strength, steadfastness and love of God, taken together, never fails. God’s covenant of love never ceases.”

The covenant between God and the Israelites was one of reciprocal rights. “It is based not on what you have to do, but what you want to do,” Thomas said. “Israel sought the protection of God but might not always deserve it. God, the strong party, offers love and grace to the Israelites, who live with sin, enemies and alien culture around them. For God to do hesed is to be hesed.”

Thomas told the congregation, “Hesed is beyond even the covenant that God made. We will not be abandoned even when we are unfaithful. God’s mercy is new every morning. It is not money or power or medicine or science that hold us together, it is the steadfast love of the Lord.”

Sasso said that God’s throne was established on hesed. Heaven was wobbly until the Holy One propped up the leg of the throne with hesed.

“Our world is precarious, wobbly, and God props us up. We would have already been consumed, but God’s mercy never comes to an end,” Thomas said.

The Book of Lamentations is attributed to the prophet Jeremiah, after watching the destruction of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar II and the Neo-Babylonians. In the first 19 verses of Chapter 3, Jeremiah portrays himself as a man set up as a target for God’s wrath. In verse 20, Jeremiah calls to mind the steadfast love of God that never fails.

Thomas said, “God’s mercy will not allow me to put my despair on others; it will not allow me to hate those who hate me. God’s steadfast love will not allow me to brutalize others or call someone a racist unnecessarily.”

We will address those issues, he told the congregation. “We will march and vote and argue but we will not hate. When I was growing up we were not allowed to use four-letter words. Any adult in the church could whup us for using them. And the number one word we could not use: H-A-T-E.”

After Eric Garner was choked to death by a New York City policeman on July 17, 2014, two police officers were shot in their squad car. The wife and daughter of Garner went to the spot and laid a wreath.

“They propped up the world,” Thomas said. “When people who are hated show that kind of love, they are God’s hesed. Heaven did not make a mistake. Hesed is greater than human mistakes. We have to slide mercy underneath what is wobbly. Steadfast love never ceases; it is new every morning. Heaven did not make a mistake.”

The Rt. Rev. V. Gene Robinson, vice president of religion and senior pastor at Chautauqua Institution, presided. Erroll B. Davis Jr., director of the African American Heritage House at Chautauqua, read the Scripture. Joshua Stafford, who holds the Jared Jacobsen Chair for the Organist and is director of sacred music, played an improvisation for the prelude. Members of the Motet Choir sang “Hymn of Mercy,” with music by Dan Forrest and words by Eileen Berry, based on Hosea 14:1-4. Rebecca Scarnati provided oboe accompaniment for the anthem and the hymn “Morning Has Broken.” The offertory anthem, sung by members of the Motet Choir, was “My Hope is Arisen,” with music by Peter Latona and words from “Aurora lucis rutilat,” translated by J.M. Neale, and “Victimae Paschali,” translated by Jane E. Lesson. The postlude was “Toccata,” by John Weaver. The Geraldine M and Frank E. McElree Jr. Chaplaincy Fund and the John William Tyrrell Endowment for Religion provide support for this week’s services and chaplain.

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

072621_cwcTent_ShaunaAnderson_dt

DEBORAH TREFTS – STAFF WRITER

Anderson

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.

Balancing beauty: Chautauqua School of Dance alumni, with guest artists, return to Amp for annual All-Star Ballet Gala

072221_AlumniGala_Preview_DM_02

JORDYN RUSSELL – STAFF WRITER

Chautauqua School of Dance alumni Isabella LaFreniere and Preston Chamblee, both currently with the New York City Ballet, rehearse for their Sunday performance in the Alumni All-Star Ballet Gala Friday in the Carnahan-Jackson Dance Studio. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

The Chautauqua School of Dance will host the annual Alumni All-Star Ballet Gala in celebration of the phenomenal talent displayed, year after year, nurtured from school to stage. Curated by Sasha Janes, Artistic Advisor for Chautauqua Dance, the festivities will commence at  8:15 p.m. Sunday July 24 in the Amphitheater.

 Hailing from Perth, Australia, curator Janes received his formal dance training from the Australian Ballet School, leading him to dance professionally with the prestigious Australian Ballet, West Australian Ballet, Charlotte Ballet and Hong Kong Ballet.

Since then, he has choreographed numerous ballets for the Charlotte Ballet, including Carmen, Dangerous Liaisons, Wuthering Heights and Rhapsodic Dances.

“I look for the things that are really going to showcase dancers in a great way, things that are exciting and pleasing to the audience,” Janes said. “It’s a kind of balancing act, balancing historical significance and beauty.”

Janes choreographed the piece titled “Shelter” pas de deux by composer Ólafur Arnalds for this performance. Alumna Isabelle LaFreniere and guest artist Preston Chamblee are featured dancers in this piece, pairing along to a song filled with soaring strings and luminous pianos.

“Isabelle LaFreniere will be performing in ‘Black Swan’ as well as ‘Shelter’ — which are two very differing works,” Janes said. “ ‘Black Swan’ is a piece Isabelle always wanted to do, which is the point of this performance, putting together a show that gives artists an opportunity to grow.”

The all-star event collectively spotlights eight accomplished dancers, performing eight pieces that highlight a sensational mixed repertoire for an evening filled with contemporary and classical dance.

The 2021 Alumni All-Star Ballet gala features dancers Angelica Generosa, Pacific Northwest Ballet (2008, 2009, 2010); Anna Gerberich, Joffrey Ballet (2004); Isabella LaFreniere, New York City Ballet (2006, 2012); Brooklyn Mack, English National Ballet (2001); Dylan Wald, Pacific Northwest Ballet; Edson Barbosa, Joffrey Ballet; Preston Chamblee, New York City Ballet; and SeHyun Jin, New Jersey Ballet.

The pieces being presented at the gala include “Le Corsaire” cave pas de deux, “Black Swan” pas de deux, “Bells” pas de deux, “Stars and Stripes” pas de deux, “Shelter” pas de deux, “Moody Rhapsody,” “Dances at a Gathering” pas de deux, ending the evening with “Le Corsaire” pas de deux. 

“ ‘Le Corsaire’ is one of Brooklyn Mack’s famous roles,” Janes said. “He has a reputation of just being a phenomenal virtuoso dancer, so I make sure to always find a piece that shows off his technical ability and power — It is something I always look for, he is a real showstopper.”

“Moody Rhapsody,” composed by Astor Piazzolla, features the choreography of Edson Barbosa.

Rio de Janeiro-based Barbosa has served as company artist with the premier Joffrey Ballet since 2014. He is one of many powerhouse talents representing a national company set to perform at the Sunday night special performance.

He will be partnering with Anna Gerberich for his choreographed piece, fellow company artist at the Joffrey Ballet since 2015. Gerberich is a Dillsburg native, performing in two of the pieces being featured at the Gala. 

Additionally, the Chautauqua Dance Circle will host a preview of the show, with Janes as a guest, at 7 p.m. Sunday in Smith Wilkes Hall, to discuss the current — and future — generation of all stars.

“We really hope to showcase the true talent that has come through the School of Dance over the course of the years,” Janes said. “To see dancers return, redoing roles they have performed in the past, it all comes full circle.”

Frank A. Thomas to bring homiletics expertise to sermon series

Thomas_Frank_Chaplain_Wk5

MARY LEE TALBOT – STAFF WRITER

Thomas

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

beauty-and-the-beast-01

NICHOLE JIANG – STAFF WRITER

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’

072121_Phillis_Wheatley_Cottage_DM_08

LAURA PHILION – COPY & DIGITAL EDITOR

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.

CHQ Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group reports findings

071421_YouthAdvisoryCouncil_DM_01

SARAH VEST – STAFF WRITER

From left, Vice President and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education Matt Ewalt and Director of Youth and Family Programs Alyssa Porter, and Chautauqua Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group members Bijou Miller, Laren Knoll Burkhart, Erin Cornelius, Deirdre Anderson and Alan Rubin. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

One rainy Wednesday morning, the Chautauqua Youth and Family Programs Advisory Group held its first on-grounds Listening Session in Smith Wilkes Hall. The purpose of the session was to hear from members of the community who might have children or grandchildren with special needs about what accommodations they would like to see at Chautauqua. The irony was not lost on anyone in attendance that the meeting was scheduled and held in one of the buildings in the Institution that is not compliant with the American Disabilities Act.

The advisory group was formed in March 2020 as a response to community concerns regarding changes that were going to be made to Boys’ and Girls’ Club, including an opt-out lunch program and making the groups coeducational. 

Erin Cornelius — a member of the advisory group and lifelong Chautauquan — gives Chautauqua credit for putting their plans on pause and recognizing that community engagement and listening was clearly necessary.

The advisory group is made up of a variety of Chautauquans, including: Deirdre Anderson, Erin Cornelius, Stephanie Dawson, Laren Knoll, Bijou Clinger Miller, Jennifer Goldberg Rapoport, Kelsey Twist Schroeder, Ben Sorensen and Sally Struk, and seasonal Youth and Family Program staff Pie Kasbar, of Children’s School, and Alan Rubin, of Boys’ and Girls’ Club. Some of them grew up here and went all the way through the youth programs. Others have only experienced programming as parents. Some are past employees. The thing that ties them together is their love of Chautauqua and her youth. 

“We each represent different segments of the community,” Anderson said. “We can help improve the Youth and Family Programs at Chautauqua.”

Their goal is to act as a resource and sounding board for Institution staff members as they consider and develop plans for Chautauqua Institution’s Youth and Family Programs. They have been working closely with Alyssa Porter, director of youth and family programs, and Matt Ewalt, vice president and Emily and Richard Smucker Chair for Education.

It is important to all of the advisory group members that Chautauquans know that they are all volunteers, and are not being compensated by the Institution in any way. They chose to be a part of this because they want to see Youth and Family Programs become something that everyone can enjoy, no matter who they are, where they come from or what their needs may be. 

“Over the past year and half, the youth advisory group has played a critical role in listening to the larger Chautauqua community to better understand the role youth and family programs play in their lives and engaging one another as group members in open and candid conversation,” Ewalt said.

The advisory group says that they seek to serve every member of the Chautauqua community in order to enhance and improve their experiences with Youth and Family programming. They say that while they want to honor the Institution’s history and traditions, the primary focus is looking toward the future. 

Since its inception, the advisory group has had monthly meetings between all the members, established a clear line of communication through their group email (yfadvisory@chq.org) and held numerous Zoom Listening Sessions where members of Chautauqua’s community were able to make their voices heard in a safe environment. 

The Listening Sessions have had a total of 231 participants that represented 190 different Chautauquans between August 2020 and April 2021. The results of these sessions are being published in an interim report written by the advisory group titled “One Year Together: A Community Update.”

“I’ve been really inspired and just really happy with the way that the group has gone,” Porter said. “We don’t always agree on everything, and I think that if we did that would kind of defeat the purpose of this group. This isn’t a check-the-box, say-we-listen-to-the-community sort of group. It really is a sounding board and a place to get different perspectives on potential changes or challenges that we’re facing.” 

In order to write this report, the members of the advisory group analyzed all the meeting notes from the Listening Sessions. It was clear that there was a range of experiences and preferences and in order to organize the ideas they identified a number of themes from the session notes and divided them by age group. 

It was found that the youth of Chautauqua loved the lifelong friendships that youth programming enabled them to make, as well as the freedom and independence they are able to have while on grounds. 

It was also found that the majority of youth that participated in the listening sessions expressed a preference for gender-based groups at Club because they believe they reduce stress related to puberty, body image, different styles of play and competition in athletic events. However, they also expressed a desire for less gender-typical scheduled activities. Girls wanted more opportunities to play sports, and boys expressed an interest in having more arts and crafts activities. 

Almost all the youth participants agreed that all the Groupers have the right, and should be allowed, to choose their group based on gender identity. 

Porter has connected with teens and young adults who attended the listening sessions to set up a dedicated advisory council for this demographic. One of the suggestions that has already been made is to leverage social media as a way to get Chautauqua’s youth involved with what’s happening on the grounds.

“There’s been a lot of talk about communication and how information is disseminated from the Institution to the community, and how the community then also has the ability to bring information back to the Institution,” Cornelius said. “Also, communication that meets different demographics — teenagers don’t communicate via Facebook.”

The list of things that adults love about Chautauqua is remarkably similar to what younger Chautauquans love. Both parties love the lifelong friendships that they have made on the grounds and the opportunities to make connections. One notable difference is that the adults expressed a love of the strong sense of history and tradition at Chautauqua. 

“I think one thing that I’ve learned through being part of this group is that everybody’s tradition at Chautauqua is different. Everybody’s,” said Knoll, who is a mother of five. “You know there’s certain things that we all do, like Club, but is Club the tradition or is it the friends that we each had on our own? That’s the tradition. It’s just such an all-encompassing word that is thrown around a lot, but what does it truly mean?” 

According to the report, there tended to be more conflicting opinions from the adults than the youth. In terms of changes made to Club groupings, some adults wanted to keep things separate by gender, others wanted to make the groups coed and some were open to forms of modifications that met in the middle of these two options. For example, including more regularly scheduled coed activities.

This isn’t a check-the-box, say-we-listen-to-the-community sort of group. It really is a sounding board and a place to get different perspectives on potential changes or challenges that we’re facing.”

Alyssa Porter
Director, 
Youth and Family Programs

There were some semantic changes proposed that have already been implemented on the grounds for the 2021 season. The opt-out lunch program was changed to be an opt-in lunch program, so that families who are here for vacation can have the noon to 2 p.m. time block to spend time together. Other families who may be here for the season and are still working from home are able to keep their children engaged at Club and not have to worry about those couple hours of down time when their children might not get the most out of their day. 

This solution is one of many others like it that have come from advisory group members, as well as members of the community. 

“The creative solutions have been great,” said Dawson, who relocated her family from Atlanta so they could summer in Chautauqua. “It’s been so nice to be able to say, ‘Oh, well, this is a problem that we’ve been trying to solve. Here’s maybe our four ideas that we came up with — oh wait, here’s the 15 that the community came up with.’ ” 

The advisory group is looking toward the future of Chautauqua’s Youth and Family programming. Clinger, who is a lifelong Chautauquan and was a bus monitor for Children’s School, said that what they really want is for the programming to be “sustainable.”

One of the ways that the advisory group is looking to do that is by being more inclusive to children with special needs. Children’s School has a good support system already in place, but Club is less accessible, according to the report. Parents of children with special needs expressed that having more accessible programming for their children would mean the adult programming would be more accessible to them. 

The advisory board acknowledges that Club isn’t a good fit for every family, but if accommodations were made, it could be a good fit for more families. In addition to this benefiting the families of children with special needs already at the Institution, it could be a draw for first-time families to have a safe and inclusive environment to send their child. According to Cornelius, a psychologist, one in five children are special needs, whether developmental or physical, so it’s an issue that does have a large impact on the Chautauqua community. 

Both Dawson and Anderson said when they look at Chautauqua they see two different parts. The first is the people and the second is the business, such as what it takes for the Institution to handle day-to-day operations. 

In order for Chautauqua to continue to be what it is today, it is important to consider what solid Youth and Family programming can do for the Institution, according to advisory group members. Anderson points to generational Chautauquans who have gone through Youth and Family Programs, like Club, and have then returned as adults to give their children the same experience they had. By making programming more accessible to families, it is possible to secure the future of the Institution.

“One of the things I’ve been most struck by is the misperception of youth programming as being some moneymaker for Chautauqua,” Cornelius said. “Really, where I think that the next step is for us is that we need to have fundraising for youth programming. We’ve got the Opera Guild and Friends of Chautauqua Theater. We need Friends of Youth Programming. We need Chautauquans to understand where there’s some deficits, and help Chautauqua make youth programming as great as it possibly can be.”

One thing that all the members of the advisory group, including Anderson, pointed to was how it is necessary to “(balance) tradition with the inevitable and important need for evolution.” The group thinks balance is possible to achieve, and the report is an important step toward the Institution finding that balance while working with the community that they serve. 

After the 2021 season wraps up the advisory group will be meeting with program leaders to offer guidance based on the information that they have gathered from the community since March of 2020 in order to prepare for the summer of 2022 and the following years.

“What we have now is we have a lot of stories and experiences from the community that we can learn from. We have to listen, we have to really consider what the community wants and needs, and we need to be looking to a future where the people we may be serving aren’t here yet,” Porter said. “If we can enhance our programs in a way that makes them more accessible and sustainable, that serves both our current Chautauquans, and the future of Chautauqua.”

Guest critic: Concerts showcasing individual CSO sections — and a cappella — play out in refreshing ways

072221_CSO_String_DM_09

ANDREW DRUCKENBROD – GUEST CRITIC

The Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra wind section, under the baton of Music Director Rossen Milanov, presents “Wind Serenades” on Tuesday in the Amphitheater. MEREDITH WILCOX / STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

If you ran into any surly percussionists this past week on the grounds of the Chautauqua Institution, chances are you can blame the programming. With the Amphitheater hosting a Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra concert Tuesday highlighting the wind players, followed by the vocal ensemble Chanticleer Wednesday and then an evening devoted to string instruments Thursday, it’s easy enough to see why. One hopes an all-percussion concert is planned soon: these musicians know how to wield sticks, after all.

The benefit to the audience was obvious, though, as the concerts brought a raft of diverse works to the Amp stage. At its onset, COVID-19 closed concert halls and canceled performances. But as it continued, it also upended many conventions and advanced innovations that should remain. The most prominent are the inventive ways in which the performing arts embraced video and online content. As the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra has shown this season, however, classical music might need soloists and warhorses less than we think.

Faced with uncertainties, the CSO and Music Director Rossen Milanov programmed a season without many “big names.” Most of the offerings are shorter, require fewer musicians and occasionally are off the beaten path. Just as refreshing is the lack of guest soloists, placing the focus on the musicians who call the Amphitheater home — who are just as captivating.

Both streams coalesced Tuesday evening at 8:15 p.m. in the Amp, with two wonderful ensemble works rarely heard in an orchestra subscription series: Antonin Dvořák’s Wind Serenade in D Minor and Richard Strauss’ Serenade in E-flat Major. It was fun to see the wind section of the orchestra get top billing, and it was a joy to hear these gems played with such élan.

The concert might have begun with the piece that showed how profound a wind ensemble can be, Mozart’s “Gran Partita” Serenade No. 10. But we still got Mozart in the form of the Overture to The Marriage of Figaro, arranged for winds by a contemporary of the composer. It turned out to be the perfect opening. It was fascinating to hear how little it captured the ebullience of the original. Simply plugging in different instruments doesn’t do the trick. Despite admirable delicacy, it sounded like a music box version of the overture. This only heightened one’s appreciation for what Strauss and Dvořák created when expressly writing for winds. Pervading their works are exquisite duets and sly duels, contrasts of timbre and dynamics, orchestration and part-writing that give space to each instrument.

While written as a teen, Strauss’ compelling Serenade only nominally qualifies as juvenilia, and Rossen let it unfold masterfully. The slower pace permitted rich phrasing by the players and allowed the piece to build to a full bloom following its main themes. The horns capped this with a mahogany tone. After an expressive rendering of the airy solo oboe transition, the development saw the musicians deftly giving way to each other, with the bassoons urging everyone along. The horns reprised the theme with smooth and almost congenial cohesiveness. Throughout, the flutes, oboes and clarinets offered sumptuous lyricism.

In the Dvořák, Rossen again was in no hurry, which lent the opening march an apt stateliness and let the oboes and clarinets float above the others. The players blended well — even when the second movement pitted clarinetist and oboist against each other in friendly, “Anything you can do, I can do better” competition. Rossen crafted the swings of dynamics and emotions in the third movement so that the music swelled when called for but receded for the plaintive detour before the boisterous finale brought the opening march magnificently back.

We then turned this past week to the renowned all-male Chanticleer, one of the great success stories in the music industry. Formed in the late 1970s in the early days of the period music movement, the group originally focused on compositions from the medieval and renaissance periods. But as the popularity of this music grew, the ensemble wisely branched out, becoming one of the most versatile musical groups performing today. Wednesday’s concert put this on display with a program covering centuries of song, from the sacred and secular to the serious and silly.

The repertoire that put the group on the map was well represented with pieces by Monteverdi, Byrd, Agricola and Lusitano. Splendid as the acoustics of the Amp are, it is not the ideal venue to hear this music, lacking as it does the resonance of a cathedral or enclosed hall. In particular, the characteristic blossoming of the countertenors was often clipped. But the precision of the singers cast off as many overtones as could be collected and the sound was glorious. One could follow any individual line and cadences were impeccably tuned. Equally supportive of contemporary composers, Chanticleer presented a remarkable new work by Ayanna Woods. Her “close[r], now” shimmered as pointillist falsetto and pulsing harmonies swirled amid snatches of text taken from a newspaper article from the depths of the pandemic explaining why concerts were unsafe. James MacMillan’s “O Radiant Dawn” and Augusta Read Thomas’ “The Rewaking” showcased the singers’ superb intonation by casting them into intricate progressions. Works by Lajos Bárdos and Béla Bartók brought rhythmic vitality.

The CSO string section, conducted by Music School Festival Orchestra Music Director Timothy Muffitt, performs “Serenaded by Strings” Thursday in the Amp. DAVE MUNCH / PHOTO EDITOR

A tender rendition of Burton Lane’s classic “On a Clear Day” pulled at heartstrings, forming the first panel of a triptych with an arrangement of “SUNRISE” by MICHELLE and Byrd’s “Laudibus in sanctis.” The silliness came with lighthearted and occasionally animated onomatopoeia of bird song, bird noises and strange utterances, with Clément Janequin’s celebrated “Le chant des oiseaux” at the center. The concert ended on a good footing with a beatboxing rendition of Richard Evans’ bossa nova “Journey to Recife.”

Thursday brought Timothy Muffitt to the podium to lead the CSO strings. As conductor of the Music School Festival Orchestra, he knows the Amp well. From the precision of Benjamin Britten’s “Simple Symphony” to the profundity of George Walker’s “Lyric for Strings” to the lusty bowing of Dvořák’s Serenade for Strings, Muffitt focused on clarity of sound to carry the details to the back seats. This constrained some of the robust sections of the Dvořák, but served the contemplative and delicate elements well. The violins rained beauty in the second movement waltz, the fourth was sumptuous and the cello section offered several lyrical solos throughout. The orchestra matched the cohesion of a string quartet for the emotional tapestry of the Walker. Muffitt kept the introspection of the piece from slipping into a lament and the personal nostalgia of Britten’s Sarabande from sounding too precious.

Andrew Druckenbrod is former classical music critic of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. He studied musicology at the University of Minnesota and is an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh.

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

FaithBased_Poster

DAVID KWIATKOWSKI – STAFF WRITER

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.”

Immersive improv: CTC’s ‘Commedia’ brings modern humor to centuries-old art form

072121_Commedia_KT_05

DAVID KWIATKOWSKI – STAFF WRITER

Christopher Portley as Zanni, and Rachael Fox as Arlecchino during the final dress rehearsal for the improv show Commedia Wednesday July 21, 2021 in the Performance Pavilion. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

What do you call a show that has absolutely no script, parameters or bounds of what can and cannot happen?

Comedy gold.

Audiences can expect that gold, and the unexpected, from Chautauqua Theater Company’s self-developed production of Commedia at 4 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday at the Performance Pavilion on Pratt.

The show is modeled after the commedia dell’arte art form that developed in Italy from the 16th to the 18th centuries. The art form involves a series of planned scenarios serving as the script and the actors improv off each other to carry the plot along.

Artistic Director Andrew Borba is directing the production and commended the actors in the conservatory as the best CTC has seen in years.

“They’re a special group,” Borba said. “… We are fortunate here to attract some immensely talented, amazing human beings and artists here every year. … Even from the beginning workshops, they’ve been nothing but ferociously courageous with each other, taking leaps that I don’t know that I’ve gotten out of students in two or three years in graduate credit training programs.”

All of the conservatory actors have a range of experience in improv comedy, and despite the initial fears of having no script, they are fully committed to the art form.

“They just jumped and went for it,” Borba said. “They’re incredibly supportive of each other. They’re cracking each other up. They’re a unit, which is a bit of a miracle for the amount of time that they’ve been together. I have nothing but absolute respect and praise for this group, because they really are just each special individuals in that they’ve bonded and are working like magic.”

Christopher Portley, as Flavio, during the final dress rehearsal for Commedia Wednesday July 21, 2021 in the Performance Pavilion. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Actor Malachi Beasley, who is portraying Pantalone in the show, had his interest in acting sparked by comedic actors like Will Smith, Robin Williams and Jim Carrey, who could equally move people to laugh at one moment and to cry at the next.

“I love (them) so much because they can make you (laugh) and suddenly cut you at your heart,” Beasley said. “(Williams) in ‘Good Will Hunting’ and ‘Dead Poets Society’ had big laughs and then you’re like, ‘Why am I crying?’ Well, you allowed yourself to be vulnerable and laugh so you are (allowing yourself) to be vulnerable to cry.”

Commedia dell’arte is known for its use of masks that the actors wear over their faces; Borba saw an irony in choosing the art form at this time in history.

“Isn’t it wonderfully ironic and/or paradoxical putting on masks at a time when we’re taking them off?” Borba said. “That’s a way to look deeper into ourselves and to be in the same space together.”

Beasley appreciates the art form’s flexibility in allowing both the actors and audiences’ minds to run wild. 

“I appreciate the aesthetic of it, though it is old,” Beasley said. “It is clownish, and it is kind of cartoonish, but I think it really does activate people’s imaginations and reminds you to be a kid.”

From Left, Daphne Kinard as Madame Pantalone, Walker Borba as Brighella and Malachi Beasley as Pantalone on stage during their final dress rehearsal for Commedia Wednesday July 21, 2021 in the Performance Pavilion. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

Even though the show’s costumes will reflect the time period when the art form was popular, the jokes will be reflective of modern humor.

“We’re not trying to recreate ancient commedia dell’arte,” Borba said. “That’s the surest way to kill (the show). Those were activators at a time when death was very present. There’s something about the balance of those forces. If this play is anything, it’s a celebration of the life force.”

Due to the lack of an actual script, departments relied on what happened in rehearsal to inform how to proceed. For instance, usually, Props Director Cooper Nickels makes a list of props needed based on the script.

“The reason I like to read the script to make my own props list is because sometimes (the director) can overlook things that they don’t think about right off the bat,” Nickels said. “If it’s not something that’s specifically called out, but you realize that they’re eating a meal on the scene, it might not say that they need plates, forks, napkins, cups and food. The director might just say we need a dining set or something vague, and you have to get more specific with it.”

As rehearsals went on, Nickels would receive the rehearsal report listing more props the actors and directors needed, but there needed to be enough created for the show’s whole run.

“You have to make sure that you have enough for every show, and for however many times in tech and how many times in rehearsal,” Nickels said. “Trying to figure out that number early on is important, because you don’t want to make more than you have to, but you also don’t want to make fewer and then have to make more later.”

There were some props that Nickels was certain that he needed to create for Commedia, like a curtain and some swords.

Malachi Beasley plays the ukulele and sing as Pantalone during the final dress rehearsal for Commedia Wednesday July 21, 2021 in the Performance Pavilion. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

He called on an old props director to come help make the curtain. He wasn’t given any references, just that the curtain needed to look old, weathered and damaged. He found an old curtain in storage that CTC used for a past show that already had water damage and pieces cut out of it.

“It made my job a lot easier on the show because normally when you have a curtain, it’s supposed to be pristine and wrinkle-free and you have to be really careful with it, and only paint it with specific brushes, and hang it up in the air and not let it touch the floor,” Nickels said. “There’s a lot more leeway with this one, for sure.”

Nickels researched images of swords and had extensive conversations with Borba about the differences between Roman and English broadswords.

“You want them all to be in the same world, but you don’t want them all to be matching,” Nickels said. “You don’t want all of them to have a silver blade with a black handle, because that’s boring, but you want them all to feel like they are related in the same world, so I was trying to strike that balance.”

The child of a member of the Friends of Chautauqua Theater was able to help build a dagger appearing in the show, said Nickels.

“It’s pretty fun to get them in here to work, and have them actually make a prop that was going to go onstage,” Nickels said. “It was a big deal for them.”

As a director, Borba is used to going straight by the script, but due to the nature of the show, he is right alongside the actors in playing the guessing game that is improv.

“I am trying, as a director, to engage in the same process that I’m asking of my actors and designers, which is to be present and open to what is happening right now and risk big brilliance and big failure,” Borba said. “… We are intentionally walking on a tightrope, and that is the thrill of it.”

Rachael Fox, as Arlecchino, during the final dress rehearsal for Commedia Wednesday July 21, 2021 in the Performance Pavilion. KRISTEN TRIPLETT/STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

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

071921_Softball2_KT_01

KRISTEN TRIPLETT – STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER

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

071821_MobileGarden_GiftsofGrace_DM_01

ANNALEE HUBBS – COPY & DIGITAL EDITOR

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 76
Page 1 of 76