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Step right up and mark your calendars! Entertainment, and the artists that brought it to life, will be explored in Delaware’s 24th annual Chautauqua tent show — “That’s Entertainment!” — which will take place on Thursday and Friday, Sept. 8 and 9 at Zwaanendael Park located next to the Zwaanendael Museum at 102 Kings Highway, in Lewes, Del.; and on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 10 and 11 on the Green located adjacent to the New Castle Court House Museum at 211 Delaware St. in New Castle, Del. For those who cannot attend in person, many Chautauqua activities will also be livestreamed via the web.
Admission for all Chautauqua events is free and open to the public. For information, contact the Zwaanendael Museum at 302-645-1148 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org, or the New Castle Court House Museum at 302-323-4453 or mailto:NCCHmuseum@delaware.gov.
A unique mixture of education and entertainment, Chautauqua events in both locations will be held under a large tent and will feature theater, music, dance, film, visual arts, lectures and more. Highlights of the four-day event include actor-historians from the American Historical Theatre portraying Buffalo Bill, Ichabod Crane and Annie Oakley on Sept. 8, 10 and 11 respectively; and a concert of songs from the Underground Railroad on Sept. 9. For a complete listing of activities, go to https://history.delaware.gov/tent-show/. CORRECTION: Neill Hartley will portray Ichabod Crane on Sept. 10; not Sept. 11. Kim Hanley will portray Annie Oakley on Sept. 11; not Sept. 10.
Chautauqua takes its name from a series of adult education programs that were first held at a campsite on the shores of Lake Chautauqua in upstate New York during the late 19th century. Chautauquas spread throughout America in the late 19th and early 20th centuries bringing speakers, teachers, musicians, entertainers, preachers and specialists of the day to a wide cross-section of the nation’s rural and small-town population. Circuit Chautauquas (also known as Tent Chautauquas) were an itinerant manifestation of the movement. Programs would be presented in tents pitched in a field near town. After several days, the Chautauqua would fold its tents and move on to the next community. The popularity of Chautauquas peaked in the mid-1920s, after which radio, movies and automobiles brought about the gradual disappearance of the movement by the 1940s.
Reborn in the 1970s as a vehicle for humanities education, modern Chautauquas are organized around a core program in which re-enactors take on the personas of celebrated historical figures, educating and entertaining audiences as they bring the past to life. Modern Chautauquas have been presented annually in Delaware since 1999 featuring a wide variety of historical figures including George Washington Carver; Lucretia Mott; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Mark Twain; Woodrow Wilson; Teddy Roosevelt; Abraham Lincoln; Amelia Earhart; Dolley Madison; Eleanor Roosevelt; Edgar Allan Poe; the Lone Ranger; John Philip Sousa; and Delaware’s own Pvt. James Elbert, Maj. Allen McLane, F.O.C. Darley and Clifford Brown.
“That’s Entertainment!” is co-sponsored by the Delaware Division of Historical and Cultural Affairs’ Zwaanendael and New Castle Court House museums, and the New Castle Historical Society. Partial funding is provided by Delaware Humanities, a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.