Archive for Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chautauqua Days brings history

June 21, 2007

Baldwin City has been a beehive of activity this month, but the best may be on its doorstep now with the living history of Kansas coming alive with Chautauqua Days.

"It's been a busy month and people are worn out, but this is our chance to see living history in Baldwin City," said Tony Brown, co-chairman of the local effort behind the Kansas Humanities Council's long-standing state-wide historical event. "I hope people take advantage of this and learn about history and our Kansas heritage."

It opened earlier this week with the Youth Chautauqua Camp for children at the Baldwin City Public Library. A dozen Baldwin youth took advantage. On Wednesday night, the big tent on Baker University's campus was the setting for an introduction and ice cream social for the event.

Tonight kicks off the first of four famous Kansans being portrayed by actors. The first performance is of Carrie A. Nation, well-known temperance crusader who smashed up bars and other alcohol related items from 1895 to 1899 to enforce prohibition.

Brown thinks Nation is a great way to start off Chautauqua Days in its inaugural run here.

"It's almost overwhelming," said Brown. "They've been doing this for 20 years. They've got an impressive map that shows where all they've been.

"They've been all over, but this is the first time here," he said. "After doing it once, we'll probably do it in Baldwin City again."

Nation, played by J. Karen Ray, a professor of English at Washburn University, takes the stage at 7:30 tonight in the big tent. She will be preceded by a performance of the Beer Bellies honky tonk band at 7 p.m. at the same place.

On Friday night, Baldwin's own in the Youth Chautauqua Day Camp will perform from 5:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. The Baldwin youth and the famous local person they are portraying are: Emily Nicol (Lucy Sullivan); Rachel Bezek (Lillian Scott); Grace Mader (Anna Hemminger Hornberger); Amanda Baker (Nancy Patton Hoskinson); Morgan Linder (Martha Cutter Kelley); Austin Kraus (John Baldwin); Collin Linder (Simpson Taylor); Christian Linder (Milton Baldwin); Deanna Beall (John Brown); and Sam Tuckfield (Captain Tuttle).

"I'm anxious to see these Baldwin City characters," said Brown. "I think it's a good way to get kids hooked into the main presentations, which can be long and drawn out for people who aren't of adult age.

"This is a good way to give them exposure to history in a first-person way," he said. "There are going to be a lot of people read about this (today) and wish they were involved."

At 7:30 p.m. Friday, famed Kansas poet Langston Hughes will be portrayed by Charles Everett Pace, who has done such portrayals for decades. He will be preceded by Leo Posch and Family bluegrass band.

On Saturday at 7:30 p.m., nationally and internationally known journalist William Allen White will be performed by Fredrick A. Krebs, a professor in the social sciences at Johnson County Community College. At 7 p.m., Allen McFarland will provide dulcimer music for the crowd.

Chautauqua Days concludes Sunday at 2 p.m. with a performance by William S. Worley, who will portray Dr. J.R. Brinkley, a politician and controversial medical practitioner who was a Kansas rags-to-riches-to rags example. Worley is an adjunct professor of history at the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Prior to that at 1:30 p.m. will be the Prairie Glimpses with The Kansas Song Project.

There are many other scheduled events and they are available on line at www.kansashumanities.org. One of the most important is the StoryCorps effort to record local history for inclusion in national archives. The stories will also be played on Kansas and National Public Radio. See story this page.

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