By Charlotte M. Canning
Winner of the 2006 Barnard Hewitt Award for Excellence in Theatre background among 1904 and the good melancholy, Circuit Chautauquas toured the agricultural usa, reflecting and reinforcing its electorate' principles, attitudes, and politics each summer time via song (the Jubilee Singers, an African American workforce, weren't regularly welcome in a time whilst thousands of usa citizens belonged to the KKK), lectures (“Civic Revivalist” Charles Zueblin conversing on “Militancy and Morals”), elocutionary readers (Lucille Adams analyzing from Little Lord Fauntleroy), dramas (the Ben Greet gamers' cleaned-up model of She Stoops to Conquer), orations (William Jennings Bryan talking concerning the hazards of greed), and specific courses for kids (parades and ridicule weddings). Theatre historians have principally missed Circuit Chautauquas on account that they didn't meet the normal stipulations of theatrical functionality: they weren't city; they produced no leading edge functionality suggestions, degree fabric, layout results, or dramatic literature. during this superbly written and illustrated e-book, Charlotte Canning establishes an analytical framework to bare the Circuit Chautauquas as targeted performances that either created and unified small-town the US. One of the final strongholds of the yankee traditions of rhetoric and oratory, the Circuits created advanced intersections of group, American democracy, and function. Canning doesn't have a good time the Circuit Chautauquas wholeheartedly, nor does she describe them with an analogous cynicism provided by means of Sinclair Lewis. She recognizes their ambitions of group aid, knowledgeable public considering, and renowned schooling but additionally specializes in the reactionary and regressive beliefs they usually embraced. within the precise interdisciplinary spirit of Circuit Chautauquas, she finds the Circuit structures as locations the place americans played what it intended to be American.
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Extra info for The Most American Thing in America: Circuit Chautauqua as Performance
Remembering the Platform : 13 Ultimately, what was important to the community was not the stiff terms of the contract or the sales techniques of the managers but the talent who appeared on the Chautauqua platform. The term “talent” covered everyone from William Jennings Bryan to the Military Girls singing group. When the spectators walked up to the characteristic brown tent, they expected to hear great music, edifying lectures, and challenging ideas. 69 Described by many as “Mother, Home, and Heaven,” these lectures were a familiar part of Chautauqua.
Eliot’s sixty inches of printing and a darned sight easier. 85 “Dr. Eliot’s sixty inches of printing” ﬁrst became available in 1906. Charles W. Eliot, president of Harvard University, was fond of remarking that “a ﬁve-foot shelf of books . . ”86 Eliot was approached by the publishers P. F. Collier and Son about creating just such a collection of books. This collaboration gave birth to the enormously popular Harvard Classics. ”87 But its critics, usually published in elite literary and cultural magazines like American Mercury, Nation, and Atlantic Monthly, derided the Harvard Classics for the same reasons they critiqued Chautauqua: both were, as Radway notes, “vulgar,” “mundane,” and “utilitarianism .
Audiences and talent alike commented on the heat generated by the crowds. Iowa. 28 This setup in Edgerton, Wisconsin, demonstrates how small the platform was in comparison to the rest of the tent. Iowa. Talent adapted to the conditions of life on the road or quit. William Jennings Bryan, whose zest for life on the Circuits was legendary, knew to sleep whenever he could. Author. 29 Charles Zueblin was one of the more accomplished Chautauqua lecturers. Iowa. 30 These spectators lining up to enter the tent are all from one family.