Ashland Chautauqua Celebrates 20 Years!

By Dorothy Stratton

July 8, 2019

Over the past 20 years, have you attended a Chautauqua performance? If yes, get ready for another week of exciting entertainment and education. If no, what are you waiting for?

Ashland Chautauqua is held in July each year. Evening performances are at the Myers Memorial Band Shell in Ashland’s Brookside Park. Workshops and special events happen all around town and in Loudonville. All events are free and open to the public. Ashland Chautauqua opens this year on Tuesday, July 16.

The 5-day event, “Art & Innovation”, will feature five historic figures whose personal stories demonstrate the breadth of artistic innovation in the public sphere. The scholars this year include Becky Stone as poet Maya Angelou, Brian “Fox” Ellis as naturalist and artist John James Audubon, Vernice Jackson as dancer Josephine Baker, Annette Baldwin as fashion designer Coco Chanel, and Doug Watson as movie star and humorist social commentator Will Rogers.

The evening performances are in the Chautauqua tradition. Each scholar assumes the costume and the character of the person he or she portrays and gives a vivid first-person account of the person’s life and views on important issues. Scholars do extensive research to learn about the characters they portray. On the night of the performance they must be able to accurately answer questions posed to their character by audience members. The question-and-answer time is often as informative as the performance itself.  Audience members ask some very thoughtful and specific questions, which surely must challenge the scholars on occasion. But Chautauqua scholars are always well immersed in their characters; their responses reflect their thorough knowledge of their character and the time period.

The popular 5-Nighter drawing for a special prize on Saturday evening will be repeated this year. Those who wish to be eligible for the drawing must pick up a 5-Nighter Passport on Tuesday evening, July 16 and have it initialed all five nights of performances.

New this year is “Coffee with the Scholars". Community members are invited to stop in at Downtown Perk on Main Street from 8:30-9:30 am Thursday, Friday, and Saturday (July 18-20) to chat with some of the Chautauqua scholars.

Daytime workshops for youth and for adults are held Tuesday through Friday in various community locations. These workshops are led by the visiting Chautauqua scholars, allowing participants to dig more deeply into issues that inspired the passions of the historical characters. Like the evening performances, the workshops are both educational and entertaining.

A complete Schedule of Events including workshop times and locations is available on Ashland Chautauqua's website (, Facebook or by calling 419-281-4584.

In 2017, Ashland Chautauqua received a Chamber of Commerce award as the area’s best culture and recreation business. Over the years, Chautauqua in Ashland has developed a dedicated audience of all ages. Faithful attenders return year after year, while newcomers join in each year and find out how much fun learning about history can be.

Ashland Chautauqua is supported by the Ohio Humanities Council, the Ohio Arts Council, the City of Ashland’s Parks & Recreation Department, Ashland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, local businesses and organizations, and local residents who want to see this vibrant celebration of history thrive in the local community. A major local sponsor is Brethren Care Village. Ashland Main Street acts as fiscal agent.  Our Website Sponsor is WebDev Works, who redesigned the webpage and social media presence. Ashland Chautauqua programming is planned and implemented by a committee of local citizen volunteers who work year-round to produce the exciting, high-quality programming.

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