Chautauqua to focus on environment

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival will host an educational event called Chautauqua 150 on Saturday in several Ashland locations. It is the first in a series of three Chautauqua events the OSF has planned this year in connection with Oregon's sesquicentennial celebration. The theme is "Oregon and the Environment."

Tickets are available at the box office at 15 S. Pioneer St., Ashland. Call 482-4331. The next two events will be held Aug. 12 and Oct. 24.

"We sprang from the walls of the Chautauqua," said Alison Carey, director of the OSF's history cycle, a 10-year program for the creation of new plays. "And environmental questions are incredibly important."

The festival was founded on a former Chautauqua site in Ashland. The Chautauqua movement was popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, providing speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and others to largely rural audiences.

Programs will begin at 10:30 a.m. and go to 7 p.m. Saturday.

The centerpiece is "Now is the Time," a panel led by OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch and featuring a presentation by former Oregon Secretary of State and Al Gore trainee Bill Bradbury, who will show slides and speak about Oregon's environment in the light of climate change. It's at 4 p.m. in the Mountain Avenue Theatre at Ashland High School.

A panel discussion will follow with historian William G. Robbins and Earth Matters Director Theresa May. It's free with a ticket from the OSF box office.

Carey said American theater hasn't taken on the question of environmental crisis and change yet.

"We haven't had the 'Angels in America' of climate change yet," she said, referring to Tony Kushner's celebrated play that called attention to AIDS in the 1980s.

"We have to step up to the plate."

Here's a schedule:

  • 10:30 a.m. — "Chautauqua Readings: The Environment," with various OSF artists, at the OSF's Carpenter Hall. Admission is $10.
  • 1:15 p.m. — "Place and History: In Search of the Pacific Northwest," a presentation led by historian William G. Robbins at the Ashland Community Center on Winburn Way. It's free, but you can get a ticket at the box office to ensure admission, although Carey says nobody will be turned away.
  • 2 p.m. — "Case Studies: Creating Environmental Theatre," with Earth Matters Director Theresa May and "The Ghosts of Celilo" creators Thomas Morning Owl and Marv Ross, and playwright and filmmaker Stephen Most, at Carpenter Hall. Free.
  • 2:15 p.m. — "Past to Present," roundtable discussion with organic farmer David Mostue and others. Free.
  • 4 p.m. — "Now is the Time."
  • 7 p.m. — "Conversation: In Your Hands," at Carpenter Hall. Free.

A related event planned for August will feature Pulitzer Prize-winning New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, an Oregon native, who will look at conflicts of values and interests across geopolitical boundaries.

For more, visit

Carey said Chautauqua 150 developed out of conversations with artists, historians and OSF patrons.

"It came from somebody who called me a year-and-a-half ago when I first arrived," she said. "We were talking about the history cycle, and the environment was one thing that came up. A theater person said he was interested in getting together people to write plays about the environment."

Carey said the events even could provide a starting point for at least one of the cycle's 37 plays.

Share This Story