Students preparing for Chautauqua
It can take a long time to perfect the distinct accent of Amelia Earhart. Or the defiant attitude of Isadora Duncan.
And, young actors who want to be Agatha Christie better get reading, because Chautauqua audiences ask some really hard questions.
A group of aspiring historical actors, ages 10 through 15, met this week at Pomona Elementary School to begin working on their characters in preparation for the Two Rivers Chautauqua event taking place in September.
Chautauqua brings historical characters back to life through acting and performance. It was started in 1800s when professional Chautauquans began traveling nationwide performing monologues in historical characters. The actors “become” that person in mannerism, accent, and historical accuracy. After the performance, the audience is encouraged to ask questions which are answered in character.
It can take nearly a year for some to become prepared for the two-day event.
They meet at the camp with several volunteers from the Museum of Western Colorado to discuss research, monologue writing, character development, and body movement.
“We help with everything such as appropriate costuming, research, or delivery, said Susan Hall, museum volunteer.
The hardest part for many is choosing a character. “We tell them to choose something close to their own hearts and interest,” Hall said.
For Chloe Schrader, 10, that means flying and Amelia Earhart. Schrader’s father is a pilot and the mystery of Earhart’s death intrigues her. “I just love to write so this kind of thing is really fun for me,” she said.
Amber Libely, 10, is a dancer. She chose Isadora Duncan, founder of modern dance, because she felt a real connection with the character. “She didn’t obey any rules of dance and I really understand how she feels about that,” Libely said.
This is the second year both girls have performed at the Chautauqua event.
“You have to really know your person because during the question part you have to know what to say in response,” Libely said.
In its 5th year, the camp helps the actors with any aspect of performance they may need help with. Up to 20 students meet during the camp, and at bi-weekly meetings throughout the summer to practice and continue their character development.
“It’s a way for students to personalize history and really connect with it,” Hall said, “It also is a way to improve their quality of thinking and learning.”
The Two Rivers Chautauqua event, themed “Inventive Minds,” will take place Sept. 14-15. The children will perform Saturday. Professional Chautauquans will present Henry Ford, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, and Dr. Suess. For information, visit https://www.museumofwesternco.com/programs-and-events/chautauqua/2012-chautauqua/.