Chautauqua – a new festival at the lake |

Chautauqua – a new festival at the lake

Thanks to Incline Village resident Lyn Karol, this summer will mark the debut of the Lake Tahoe Chautauqua, a festival of historical drama and music, scheduled for July 7-8.

The Sand Harbor stage is the setting for the festival’s evening events, this year based on the World War II era. For the first annual Lake Tahoe Chautauqua, up to six performances will be offered during the two evenings, with three performers per evening.

Evening presentations feature several key figures from the WWII era, preceded by musical groups playing music from the era. Incline resident Sam Folio is auditioning groups for the performances. Two musical groups will perform on stage each evening, and audience members are encouraged to dress in clothing appropriate to the era. There may be dancing on stage, too, to the sound of a Big Band.

“It’s such a creative, educational format,” Karol said. Karol is a longtime friend of Clay Jenkinson, humanities scholar at the University of Nevada, Reno, who directs the annual Great Basin Chautauqua events in Reno.

“I spoke with Clay four or five years ago about having a Chautauqua at Lake Tahoe,” she said. The Nevada Humanities Committee wasn’t ready to add another major venue at the time, Karol said. But this year Jenkinson indicated they’d like to try it.

For those who have never seen a Chautauqua performance, it’s likely to be unlike any dramatic presentation in their experience.

Based on biographical research of real people, the performer uses no script. The scholar/performer simply speaks as the chosen person, and as such, unveils details about the person’s personal life, professional struggles and achievements. The scholar studies everything from the person’s grooming to the person’s worldview. If available, the scholar views and listens to video or sound recordings of their chosen figure.

“The format will be similar to Shakespeare,” she said. Folding chairs will be available to rent at the Sand Harbor stage. Traditionally, Chautauquas have been outdoor events in remote areas, originating at Lake Chautauqua, New York.

The evening performances invite audiences to come early and picnic as they listen to music and then enjoy the performances. Presentations are followed by questions from the audience, first addressing the historical character and then addressing the scholar.

One facet of organizing the event is deciding on food providers for those who do not bring their own picnic fare.

Daytime events include Young Chautauquas – young people who have researched an historical figure and portray the person for daytime audiences. As the Great Basin Chautauqua has grown in popularity in recent years, area teachers have begun to integrate Chautauquas into their curricula.

Karol welcomes teachers and students from throughout the Tahoe Basin as well as Truckee and Douglas County to participate in the daytime presentations. These Chautauquas will be presented at various locations throughout Incline Village.

The characters chosen for the first annual Lake Tahoe Chautauqua have not yet been finalized, and organizers will ask local newspaper readers to let them know which presentations would interest them most. A survey will be published on several occasions to allow residents to give the committee their feedback about the event.

Characters up for grabs include Eleanor Roosevelt; Benjamin Davies, commander of the Tuskegee airmen; Pres. Harry S. Truman; Margaret Bourke-White, the first female photojournalist and war correspondent; Marshal Tito, Yugoslavian leader of the resistance movement against the German Occupation; Ernie Pyle, Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who covered the war through the eyes of the common soldier; and Dorothy Parker, author of witty short stories and an activist in left-wing politics just after the war.

Clay Jenkinson will portray William Shirer, author of “The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich.”

The organizing committee includes new Incline Village resident Naomi Tam, as well as longtime residents Jim Clark and Lyn Karol.

Karol enjoys quoting Katherine Graham, owner of the Washington Post and Newsweek, “To love what you do and feel that it matters … how could anything be more fun?”

For more information, or to volunteer, call her at her office: (775) 831-1515 during the day; or 831-1336 in the evening.

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