Kentucky Chautauqua final review set for June 1

The public will soon have the opportunity to preview the Kentucky Humanities Council’s newest slate of Chautauqua performances.

A full dress rehearsal and review for five presenters who will join the Kentucky Chautauqua cast for the 2009-2010 season is scheduled for 9 a.m. June 1 at the Lexington History Museum, 215 W. Main St., Lexington. Each performance will last about 45 minutes, and will be followed by a question-and-answer session with immediate feedback from the council’s team of professional and volunteer reviewers.

The incoming cast includes Lucy Bakewell Audubon, portrayed by Kelly Brengleman of Midway; Rosemary Clooney, portrayed by Bet Stewart of Cincinnati; Johnny Green of the Orphan Brigade, portrayed by Ethan Smith of Cynthiana; Justice John Marshall Harlan, portrayed by Ed Smith of Cynthiana; and Billy Herndon, portrayed by Robert Brock of Horse Cave.

Performers will use the feedback they receive at the review to make script adjustments before the new season begins Aug. 1. The five new characters will make up a cast of 23 available for booking during 2009-2010. The entire cast will be featured in the council’s Whole Humanities Catalog, published by July 1, which will give instructions on how organizations can schedule bookings.

Created in 1992 as the Kentucky Humanities Council’s contribution to the Commonwealth’s bicentennial celebration, Kentucky Chautauqua is a living history program that has now brought life to more than 50 fascinating figures from Kentucky’s past. Some are famous, like Henry Clay and George Rogers Clark; others are not so famous, but should be, like Lt. Anna Mac Clarke, a Lawrenceburg native who was the first black officer to command white troops and helped integrate the military. Chautauqua characters have told their stories to nearly 500,000 people in every Kentucky county. Through the assistance of the National Endowment for the Humanities and its We The People funding, Kentucky Chautauqua in the Schools programs are now being incorporated into arts, humanities and history curricula in classrooms across the state.

For more information about Kentucky Chautauqua, visit www.kyhumanities.org.

Character biographies:

Lucy Bakewell Audubon: A Kentucky Love Story

Portrayed by Kelly O’Connell Brengelman, Midway

It was not easy being the wife of John James Audubon. Yet, Lucy Bakewell Audubon was incredibly devoted to her husband, the famed naturalist, artist and author of Birds of America. She made enormous sacrifices and suffered public scorn as she supported her husband’s talents. In the end, however, the Audubons were successful. The two

Kelly Brengleman as Lucy Audubon

Kelly Brengelman as Lucy Audubon

spent many years in Kentucky — in Louisville and later Henderson — as John dabbled in the merchandising business. Though his business ventures failed and his family lost everything in the economic depression of 1819, he devoted more and more time to his talent, spending hours in the woods while Lucy became the breadwinner for their family. She remained steadfast as his confidant and the love of his life, continually defending her husband’s talents as an artist and ornithologist. Without her emotional and financial support, Audubon’s now famous book might never have been published. The story of Lucy and John is perhaps one of the best, and somewhat unknown, Kentucky love stories. In his words, “With her, was I not always rich?”

Kelly O’Connell Brengelman earned a bachelor of arts degree in journalism from Morehead State University and has worked as a creative director, producer and writer for various advertising agencies. She now runs her own design service, Kelly-O Creative. Mrs. Kentucky 2003 is a professional actor with the Kentucky Humanities Council, formerly portraying Ruth Booe: The Bourbon Ball Belle; teaches drama classes to elementary school children; is a commercial voice artist; and recently appeared in the film “Surviving Guthrie.” She lives in Midway with her husband and three children.

Rosemary Clooney: The Girl Next Door

Portrayed by Bet Stewart, Cincinnati

What makes Rosemary Clooney’s life so fascinating, so charmed and charged with intrigue and great challenge? First and foremost, it is the sheer power of her talent, her girl-next-door appeal, her love of music, art and drama, and her

Bet Stewart as Rosemary Clooney

Bet Stewart as Rosemary Clooney

love for her home state of Kentucky. Clooney quickly rose to fame, recording with big-name labels and some of the greatest musicians of her time — Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Nelson Riddle and Frank Sinatra. Her unforgettable performance with Bing Crosby in “White Christmas” continues to captivate audiences. And her songs “Come-On-a-My-House” and “This Ole House” placed her at the top of Billboard charts. But behind this small-town-girl-rises-to-fame story is also one of extraordinary perseverance and dedication, one that teaches it is possible to overcome the worst to become the best. Clooney coped with many difficult obstacles as a young girl and a woman — her father’s alcoholism, her mother’s moving away to remarry, her own failed marriage. After she witnessed the assassination of her friend Bobby Kennedy during his presidential campaign rally, Clooney lost touch with reality. She was hospitalized and spent eight years in treatment recovering from her mental and emotional illnesses. But she bounced back, as she always did. Before her death in 2002, Clooney would resurrect her career, marry the love of her life and continue to keep her family and her love of Kentucky as top priorities in her life.

Bet Stewart is the artistic director of Intuition Theatre in Cincinnati. She earned a bachelor of arts degree in speech, theatre and communication arts from the University of Cincinnati and has conducted research and written scripts for 19 original plays about social and historical topics including 20th century history, addiction and American popular music. She has served as an artist-on-tour for the Ohio Arts Council, an artist in schools for the Kentucky Center for the Arts and participated in the Kentucky Arts Council’s Arts in Education program.

Johnny Green: An Orphan’s survival

Portrayed by Ethan Smith, Cynthiana

Johnny Green was 19 when the Civil War broke out, and was one of the only soldiers in the Orphan Brigade alive when it ended. Orphan Brigade soldiers were unable to return to their home state of Kentucky until the war was over

Ethan Smith as Johnny Green

Ethan Smith as Johnny Green

— lest they be tried for treason — because they chose to fight for the Confederacy. Though he had learned to love the Union, as his mother was from Boston, Green felt passionately that states should have the right to govern themselves. And when President Abraham Lincoln called for men and arms, Green traveled to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to join the Confederacy on the day before his 20th birthday. Green’s story, as detailed in a journal he wrote for his daughters years later, provides extraordinary accounts of courage and bravery, and brings the story of the Orphan Brigade to life.

Ethan Smith has been involved with theatrical performances since the age of 6, performing in plays and participating in speech and forensics. He is a three-time middle school state champion and received the 2005 Blyton Book Award as the outstanding middle school speech competitor in Kentucky. When he was 13, he became the youngest person ever selected for the Kentucky Chautauqua program for his portrayal of Price Hollowell and the Black Patch Tobacco War. He lives in Cynthiana with his parents, Ed and Betsy Smith, also Kentucky Chautauqua performers, and his younger brothers Harry and Ross. Smith will enroll at Georgetown College in fall 2009.

Justice John Marshall Harlan: The lone dissenter

Portrayed by Dr. Edward B. Smith, Cynthiana

Justice John Marshall Harlan’s reputation on the U.S. Supreme Court was one of championing equal rights for African Americans after the Civil War. But it is the story of his life and the contradictions in his actions

Ed Smith as U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan

Ed Smith as U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Marshall Harlan

and beliefs that make his judicial reputation so intriguing. Though he was born in Boyle County to a prominent slaveholding family, and was once a slaveholder himself, Harlan fought for the Union during the Civil War after graduating from Centre College and earning his law degree at Transylvania. As he became involved in Kentucky politics — being elected as county judge of Franklin County and Kentucky attorney general, and running two unsuccessful campaigns for governor in the early 1870s — his political leanings shifted, and he became a major force in the Republican Party. He was vocal about his disapproval of slavery. During his 33-year tenure on the Supreme Court, he dissented in some of the court’s most important civil rights cases. In his most famous dissent, Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld the constitutionality of segregation, he wrote: “Our constitution is color-blind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law.”

A Kentucky native, Dr. Edward B. Smith earned a bachelor of arts degree from Georgetown College, a master of arts degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin, all in performance studies. Smith is co-director of the Kentucky Educational Speech and Drama Association and a member of the Kentucky Film Lab’s Advisory Board. He teaches theatre and film classes at Georgetown College, where he is an associate professor. In addition to his work adapting Kentucky literature for the stage, Smith is an award-winning filmmaker. He has also portrayed Adolf Rupp for the Kentucky Chautauqua program. He lives in Cynthiana with his wife Betsy and his three sons, Ethan, Harry and Ross. Betsy and Ethan are also Kentucky Chautauqua performers.

Billy Herndon: One Man’s Lincoln

Portrayed by Robert Brock, Glasgow

Friends and law partners for 18 years, Billy Herndon felt he knew Abraham Lincoln better than Abraham Lincoln knew himself. That’s why he was confident his biography of Lincoln would tell a story that was honest and true to Lincoln’s character. In 1861, as he was leaving to be inaugurated president, Lincoln told Herndon to keep his name on the shingle outside their office because he intended to return someday. After Lincoln’s assassination, Herndon dedicated his life to collecting materials for a definitive biography of the 16th president. When it was published 24 years later, many labeled Herndon as an angry, contemptuous alcoholic who painted a negative portrait of Lincoln and his wife, Mary Todd. In Herndon’s eyes, however, he presented Lincoln unvarnished, a great man in all his humanity, neither saint nor villain.

Robert F. Brock has been the artistic director at Kentucky Repertory Theatre in Horse Cave since 2002. Prior to that, he served as the theatre’s education director for four years. He has worked with Actor’s Theatre of Louisville, the Folger Theatre Group, the Fulton Opera House and Off-Broadway. He received a master of fine arts degree in acting from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, and a bachelor of arts in theatre from the University of Kentucky. He has worked closely with the Governor’s School for the Arts, teaching audition workshops and helping with the selection process. He also teaches part-time for Western Kentucky University’s Glasgow campus. Brock presented Billy Herndon both in Horse Cave and on tour around Kentucky and Alabama. He also participated in the Kentucky Humanities Council’s production of Our Lincoln at the John F. Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.


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