History Alive! Colorado West Chautauqua

(Click to view the full schedule)

Friday, September 8

Young Chautauquans
Mary Shelley
Edgar Allan Poe

Saturday, September 9

Nellie Bly
Rachel Carson
Ernest Hemingway

The Museum of Western Colorado, Colorado Humanities, and local partners Colorado Mesa University, Edward and Lois Gardner, and the Grand Junction Commission on Arts and Culture will present History Alive!  Colorado West Chautauqua, September 7 – 9, 2023.  This year’s theme,  “Power of the Pen,” includes presentations by national Chautauqua performers Susan Marie Frontczak as Mary Shelley, Brian “Fox”Ellis as Edgar Allan Poe, Katie Knutson as Rachel Carson, and John Dennis Anderson as Ernest Hemingway.  

Kathy Applebee, of the Grand Valley History Players, will perform as Nellie Bly at the opening welcome event Thursday evening.  The performers/scholars will give talks on Friday morning at local schools and Mesa County libraries, followed by live performances both Friday and Saturday evenings as well as Saturday daytime lectures or workshops.  All events will be held at Love Recital Hall and are free of charge.  

For more information, visit https://museumofwesternco.com/.

Mary Shelley, portrayed by Susan Marie Frontczak

Mary Shelley’s groundbreaking novel Frankenstein, poses the question: What if someone discovered the secret to creating life? It then explores the ramification of such a discovery: Are we capable of managing our technological creations? Furthermore, what responsibility (if any) do we hold in caring for abandoned or wronged members of society? Mary Shelley raises these questions from a context of living much of her life as an outsider. Ironically, much of the story of a fantastical, wretched, hideous creature brought to life in a Swiss laboratory draws on or parallels Mary’s experience as an intelligent daughter of two notable middle-class authors and consort/wife of an aristocrat poet. 

Susan Marie Frontczak has given over 850 presentations as Marie Curie, Mary Shelley, Irene Castle, Clara Barton, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Erma Bombeck across 43  states and abroad in her 21 years as a living history scholar. She also works with both adults and youth to develop their own Chautauqua presentations. Susan Marie authored the Young Chautauqua coaching handbooks for Colorado Humanities and coaches students in 3rd through 12th grades. In 2022, she joined the faculty of the new Chautauqua Training Institute of Humanities North Dakota.

Edgar Allen Poe portrayed by Brian “Fox” Ellis

Spend a spine-tingling evening in the parlor of Edgar Allan Poe as he recounts the tormented true tales of his life and how they led to his classic tales of terror. Do not look away as the father of the modern horror story reveals the darkness that lurks in us all, taking us on a journey into the catacombs of our deepest fears. Hear him recite “The Raven” and “The Tell-Tale Heart” as well as some of his lesser known work, work that has inspired generations of writers, writers that have dared to follow in his daunting footsteps.

Brian “Fox” Ellis has been a storyteller and author for more than 30 years. A fan of Poe from the get go, one of the first stories he learned while still in high school was “The Tell-Tale Heart.” Based on extensive research into Poe’s life and the literary criticism he was famous for, Fox seeks to bring the listener into an intimate encounter with Poe to shed light on his darker moments, exploring how Poe’s enigmatic life gave birth to such powerful works of fiction. This is one of twenty one-man shows Fox has developed as a storyteller and artistic director of Prairie Folklore Theatre. He is also the author of 15 books, including the award winning children’s book, The Web at Dragonfly Pond, and he recently filmed his first documentary for the EPA, Voices for the River. For more information visit www.foxtalesint.com.

Nellie Bly portrayed by Kathy Applebee

Investigative reporter Nellie Bly garnered many firsts as a daring reporter including reporting on conditions at Blackwell’s Island Insane Asylum for Women, traveling around the world in 72 days, and being one of the only women allowed to report from the frontlines in World War I.  She married a millionaire, held patents for her inventions, and was a tireless social reformer who never lost her compassion for the marginalized members of society.

As a teen, Kathy Applebee began storytelling around campfires in New York and branched out into first person interpretation, improv, stage and screen acting, directing, and writing. She is a published ‘tween mystery author and produced playwright.  Applebee established and directs Mesa Murder Mysteries audience interactive mystery shows in Grand Junction. When she’s not on stage or in front of a camera, she teaches and performs at Shelledy Elementary School in Fruita, Colorado.  Her Chautauqua characters include Zelda Fitzgerald, Fanny Kemble, Annette Kellermann, Nancy Blain Underhill and Nellie Bly.

Rachel Carson portrayed by Katie Knutson

Before 1961, Rachel Carson was best known for her poetic, accessible writings about sea life that encouraged countless average Americans to think and care about nature. When she connected the mysterious deaths of animals to the new chemicals widely used by the government and individuals, Carson wrote Silent Spring. Her well-written, well-researched book, which was first previewed in The New Yorker, became an immediate best seller. Now considered the mother of the modern environmental movement, Rachel Carson made our world a safer place. The formation of the EPA and Greenpeace, the Environmental Defense Fund, the Endangered Species Act, and the banning of DDT can all be tied to Carson’s work, even if she did not live to see these fruits of her labor. 

In her 25 years as a storyteller and 18 years as teaching artist, Katie Knutson has delivered residencies, performances, and classes to around 40,000 children and adults on four continents. She has been a featured performer at international storytelling festivals in Italy and the United Arab Emirates, and has performed and taught in Chile and Canada. She is the Executive Director of Northeast Storytelling (NEST) and she currently lives outside Minneapolis, MN where you can often find her digging in her garden, snuggling with her cats, playing board games with her family, or enjoying nature. Find out more about Katie and her company, Rippling Stories, at ripplingstories.com.

Ernest Hemingway portrayed by John Dennis Anderson

Eighteen-year-old Ernest Hemingway arrived in Europe to drive ambulances for the American Red Cross in 1918. Assigned to the Italian front, on July 8, 1918, he was distributing chocolate and cigarettes to soldiers when a mortar landed near him. Badly wounded, he was sent to Milan to recover. It was a dramatic beginning to one of the most celebrated lives of the twentieth century. Hemingway cultivated his fame as strenuously as he hunted, fished, and wrote. Writing in his famously terse style about his various wartime experiences in the Spanish Civil War and World War II as well as the Great War, he became the image of modern American manhood and authorship. 

John Dennis Anderson, a native of Waco, Texas, now living on Cape Cod, is a performance studies scholar and Professor Emeritus in Communication Studies at Emerson College in Boston. He earned degrees in Communication Studies from Baylor University (B.A. and M.A.) and The University of Texas at Austin (Ph.D.), with concentrations in the study of literature through performance, and he is the author of The Student Companion to William Faulkner ). Anderson was a faculty member for the Chautauqua Training Institute of Humanities North Dakota in 2022-2023. He teaches for the Open University of Wellfleet in Massachusetts, and he serves on their Board and is a trustee of the Helltown Players. His website is jdanderson.org.

Two Rivers Chautauqua

Today, Chautauqua has been reinvented as a way to bring the humanities, especially history, back to life. Organizations across the country bring in professional scholar-actors (Chautauquans) who portray historical characters then answer questions in and out of character. These modern-day Chautauquas are usually sponsored by state humanities councils.

Special thanks to our sponsors

Lois and Edward Gardner

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