Chautauquans bring history’s greatest minds to life at Cross Orchards
In an effort to both educate and entertain, Two Rivers Chautauqua offers up a weekend of “Inventive Minds,” featuring professional chautauquans who will recreate the lives and looks of four historic figures remembered for their inventive minds: Henry Ford, Mary Shelley, Albert Einstein and Dr. Seuss.
Chautauqua is a way for scholar-actors to bring history to life for audiences.
Two Rivers Chautauqua is set for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14–15, at Cross Orchards Historic Site, 3073 F Road. The two days will feature both professional actors and performances from District 51 students.
This year’s professional actors are Doug Mishler as Ford, Susan Marie Frontczak as Shelley, Frank Mullen as Einstein and George Frein as Dr. Seuss.
Friday’s events will begin with music at 5:30 p.m. and a student performance at 6:30 p.m. Professional presentations will begin at 7 p.m.
Saturday’s events will begin at 9 a.m. with a coffee gathering at Barnes & Noble Booksellers, 2451 Patterson Road.
Student performances will be from 1–4 p.m. back at Cross Orchards’ tent. Meanwhile, the four professionals will perform from noon to 4 p.m. in the barn. Each professional will deliver a monologue and answer audience questions about his or her character for an hour.
The evening session will go from 5:30–8:15 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15.
Tickets to either day are $7.50 per person, $12 for a couple or $15 for a family.
Go to TwoRiversChautauqua.com for information.
Frein, who will travel to Grand Junction from Texas, recently spoke in a phone interview about his interest in chautauqua, the preparation that goes into portraying a character and why he decided to be author Dr. Seuss.
Mawdsley: How did you get started in chautauqua?
Frein: I was invited by a friend to go see a chautauqua in 1986 and thought it was a long drive to go see somebody pretend to be a dead person. (I discovered that) this would be a fun way to teach people in the summertime when I was not teaching students at the University of North Dakota, (where he taught in the philosophy and religion department from 1968 until his retirement in 1997. He started chautauqua in 1986 as Father De Smet.)
Mawdsley: What do you enjoy most about chautauqua?
Frein: What I like about it is after a little monologue the audience gets to ask in-character and out-of-character questions. You never know what they are going to ask. You have to be ready.
Mawdsley: How do you prepare?
Frein: You do two things. First, you read everything your character had ever written, letters, papers, diaries, everything. Then, you start to read what other people said about them so that you get that take on your character. You read your character sympathetically, but then you read the critics for a second voice.
Mawdsley: So, you read all the Dr. Seuss books. How many are there?
Frein: There are 40-some, and that’s not counting the baby books.
Mawdsley: Why Dr. Seuss?
Frein: I read them to my son and had a couple more kids and read them to them, too. I got a call from someone one day in my son’s (Parent Teach Association) who asked me to (portray) Dr. Seuss for the 100th anniversary of his birth. It turned out to be more of a challenge than I expected.
Mawdsley: What was the challenge?
Frein: Most people know the Dr. Seuss images, but on stage, I’ll have a collection of images on an easel and talk about them as we go along, That was (Dr. Seuss’) problem, getting the images and words going together. Kids learn from pictures. When he was able to get the words and pictures to go together, the kids had fun and learned.