CHAUTAUQUA: Dickinson State performance celebrates traveling tent showsSuffragette Jane Addams and politician William Jennings Bryan bring their messages to the stage along with vaudeville acts during Dickinson State University’s Chautauqua.
By: Linda Sailer, The Dickinson Press
Suffragette Jane Addams and politician William Jennings Bryan bring their messages to the stage along with vaudeville acts during Dickinson State University’s Chautauqua.
The performance will be staged as part of the seventh annual Theodore Roosevelt Symposium. However, participation in the symposium is not required to attend the Chautauqua.
“Chautauqua assemblies were popular from the mid-1880s until the mid-1920s,” said producer of the show Ken Haught. “They were traveling tent shows with lecturers and various types of entertainment.”
He said the first Chautauqua started in 1874 in New York as a Methodist minister’s camp to instruct Sunday school teachers.
“But it became quite popular as a place to go for wealthy New York, Boston and Philadelphia patrons,” he said. “Roosevelt spoke there four times over the course of his presidency, and he said the Chautauqua movement was the most American thing about America.”
By 1884, the Chautauqua movement was taken on the road.
“They would set up a tent with big-name speakers — many in Congress, politics, some preachers, teachers, inventors and journalists,” Haught said. “They had storytellers, vocalists, barbershop quartets and dancers. It was almost an intelligent vaudeville.”
Haught said Chautauqua spread to isolated communities across America.
“In many cases, it was the sole entertainment they ever saw,” he said. “Much of the political component of Chautauqua was progressive-oriented kinds of speeches about temperance, about suffrage, about caring for one’s fellow man,” Haught said. “It was a Methodist kind of preaching that focused on the populist movement where everybody was given an equal shot at being rich and pulling themselves out of poverty and becoming educated — that’s what Theodore Roosevelt was all about.”
The DSU Chautauqua celebrates the Progressive movement of the early 20th Century. It features readings by Margaret Barnhart as Jane Addams, Eric Grabowsky as William Jennings Bryan and Clay Jenkinson as Theodore Roosevelt.
David Solheim will read the poetry of Edwin Arlington Robinson.
Bryan is remembered as the enemy of the Gold Standard, as well as banks and railroads. He was a prohibitionist and opponent of Darwinism.
Addams was the founder of Hull House Chicago. Founded in 1889, Hull House was intended to provide educational opportunities for women, especially for the working class. Addams also was a contemporary of Roosevelt, and delivered the second nominating speech during the Progressive Party convention when he ran as president of the United States.
For the DSU Chautauqua, Barnhart will deliver a message that was directed to men.
“She was asking them to consider how they would respond if this were a matriarchal system,” she said.
Barnhart said Addams was a suffragist — among the women who were scouring for the right to vote.
“She became friends with Roosevelt in the early 1900s — he decided there was a need for women’s suffrage and outlawing child labor, all elements supported by Jane Addams,” Barnhart said. “I’ve always enjoyed Chautauqua performances — I’m interested in seeing historical figures brought to life and get some idea of the fire in their hearts, using their own words.”
The entertainment will feature a variety of local talents.
Two dances originally choreographed by Isadora Duncan, will be recreated by Pattie Carr and the DSU Form and Fusion Dance Co.
A barbershop quartet will feature Joel Walters, Kevin Hill, Bruce Southard and Michael Stevenson.
Solos and duets will feature DSU alumni Beth Hurt, and Lacey and Lance Rustand, as well as DSU students Kayla and Jesse Kilwein.
“We’ll be dressed in period costumes and singing actual songs of Theodore Roosevelt’s time,” Hurt said.
She is singing, “Waiting at the Church,” which was described as a light, humorous melody.
Hurt recently returned to Dickinson after working as a singer and dancer in shows performed for Carnival Cruise Lines and the Holland America Cruises.
“Chautauqua sounds like a lot of fun — it’s a great way for faculty and students to get involved in the community,” she said.
All of the music is from the late 19th century and early 20th century. Other songs include “Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight,” “She is More to be Pitied than Censured” and “Ma, He’s Making Eyes at Me.”
The DSU band will begin and close the performance. Roosevelt, as portrayed by Jenkinson, is master of ceremonies. Walters will accompany the vocalists on the piano.
The DSU Chautauqua will be a fast-paced selection of speakers and entertainment — limited to a few minutes for each performance.
“Everything is zip, zip — one act after another,” Haught said.
Putting the show together has been a great deal of fun, Haught said.
“The show teaches us about a movement that brought culture, entertainment and social reform to isolated communities across America before radio and TV and cars and highways made the country smaller. And the show features some of the best local talent available.”
Chautauqua will be presented at 7 p.m. Friday at the King Pavilion. In the event of rain or cold, the performance will move to Dorothy Stickney Auditorium. The admission is $7.