New Old Time Chautauqua (Port Townsend, WA)


  Gymnast on an open-air portable stage

Teenaged gymnast Adrienne Wise performs with the New Old Time Chautauqua in Yakima, Washington as part of their tour to five communities in three states. Photo by Zuma Hill

New Old Time Chautauqua (NOTC) in Port Townsend, Washington carries on the late 19th and early 20th century tradition of Chautauqua, which brought artists, lecturers, musicians, and theater troupes to rural America. In FY 2003, NOTC received an NEA Challenge America: Access grant of $6,000 to support tours to five communities in three states, where they participated in two-day residencies. They visited Yakima, Washington; Sandpoint, Idaho; Salmon, Idaho; Whitefish, Montana; and Eureka, Montana.


Octogenarian folk singer Faith Petric entertains the crowds in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho with New Old Time Chautauqua as part of their tour to five communities in three states. Photo by Heather Weihl

NOTC consists of approximately 50 performers at any one time, ranging in age from 4 to 86, including writers, visual artists, clowns, circus performers, and musicians. In each town it put on a four-part program, beginning with a large “Everybody’s Welcome” parade in which members of the community could join the troupe for an opening celebration. Following the parade, educational and artistic workshops were held by the NOTC artists. In the past, they have taught visitors how to juggle, write poetry, do the samba, and play ragtime guitar.

The culmination of the residency is the main-stage family variety show, which showcases the talents of members of the troupe. In 2003, the show featured performances by the Flying Karamazov Brothers, folk singer Faith Petric, stand-up comedian Joey Pipia, performance poet Kevin Murphy, and many jugglers, aerialists, and gymnasts. The artists also performed a smaller version of this program at local institutions, such as prisons, hospitals, senior centers, and juvenile detention facilities.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)