Chautauqua Opera Company Blog

Online Opera Chats: The Mother of Us All

On March 24, Chautauqua Opera held their first of four online preview events for the 2020 Season, which they are calling Opera Chats. The first conversation featured Steven Osgood, General and Artistic Director, and Keturah Stickann, stage director, talking about the opera The Mother of Us All, by Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein. Three more Opera Chats are scheduled during April and May, and more information can be found at chq.org/opera-chats.

Watch the conversation:

 

Listen to the conversation:

 

Read the transcript of the conversation:

Steven:

Well, Hi there, everybody. My name is Steve Osgood and as General and Artistic Director of the Chautauqua Opera Company, it is my pleasure to welcome you here today to the first of four webinars that we have planned leading up to our 2020 season. I want to start by acknowledging right out of the gate that we're living in challenging and unsettling times now as the world battles COVID-19, and our hearts go out to everyone around the globe who is affected by this crisis. The Chautauqua Institution and all of its constituent organizations, including us, the opera company, will continue to monitor every development. The health and wellbeing of our employees, our company, our audience is our first priority. We are currently planning full steam ahead for our complete seasons. We have had these webinars scheduled for a couple of months now before the world turned upside down. And so since these webinars are 100% social distancing approved, what better way to start gearing up for the summer?

So for the 2020 season, Chautauqua Opera has three mainstage productions, Puccini's masterpiece Tosca, a contemporary chamber opera by Kamala Sankaram and Susan Yankowitz, Thumbprint (it's a piece that I had the privilege of conducting the world premiere of in 2014), and mid-twentieth century American masterpiece The Mother of Us All, by Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein.

Today's conversation is about The Mother of Us All. It's the story of Susan B. Anthony and the women's suffrage movement in the United States. We will have only one performance of The Mother of Us All on Saturday, August 1st in the Chautauqua Amphitheater. Well before 2015, when I took over leadership of the opera company, I was well aware of the resonance of 2020, the Centenary of the 19th Amendment, which gave, or better, restored women the right to vote in the United States.

The suffrage movement was centered in Western New York. Susan B. Anthony and other suffragettes spoke from the Amphitheater stage at Chautauqua. The idea of Susan B. Anthony's voice returning to the Amphitheater during 2020 was tantalizing to me even before I had the ability to decide on our company's repertoire. So this production that we have planned is really a dream come true for me.

My guest today is Keturah Stickann, stage director of this summer's production of The Mother of Us All. Keturah was the first stage director that I engaged at Chautauqua Opera for our 2016 production of Verdi's La Traviata, also in the Amp. She returned in 2017 for another production in the Amp, the U.S. stage premiere of Respighi's realization of Monteverdi's L'Orfeo. And it is the combination: this experience with Chautauqua, her knowledge of our community, of the Institution as a whole, the Amphitheater as a venue for opera, along with her deep connection to contemporary American opera repertoire that made Keturah really the natural choice for The Mother of Us All. Keturah joins us today from her home in Knoxville, Tennessee. Welcome, Keturah!

Keturah:

Thank you. Happy to be here.

Steven:

So, for all of our attendees, Keturah and I will spend the next 15 minutes or so talking about The Mother of Us All in general, along with some of our specific plans for this summer at Chautauqua. We'll leave about 10 minutes or so at the end to answer questions from those of you who have joined us live for this event.

So, Keturah let's dive into our conversation. This is your third time directing for Chautauqua Opera Company. Talk to me a little bit about your experiences directing La Traviata and L’Orfeo, both of which were in the Amphitheater and how they have affected your preparation for this summer's production.

Keturah:

Well, the Amp is a particular performance space that I think is different than most performance spaces I've worked. Coming into La Traviata, I didn't realize the massive differences that that space was going to have and feel once I was in it. So I approached Traviata like I approached any proscenium piece and basically tried to turn the space into a proscenium theater, in a way that, once I was in the space, I realized, didn't do justice to what the audience was experiencing. And so I made a couple of small changes while I was in the middle of that. Putting some people up on top and trying to make the space itself tell a little bit of the story, but I didn't realize it as well as it could have been, once I knew what was there.

Steven:

You can't hide that it's the Amphitheater.

Keturah:

No, you can't. And there's no way to pretend that you're not in this massive space and open and sort of with the world just coming in whenever it wants to. And so for L’Orfeo I took a completely different tack and I decided that especially because it was the new, (the Amphitheater had been...)

Steven:

That was the first year after it was rebuilt.

Keturah:

Correct. And so I think both of us really wanted to show that off. And so I came in, understanding the space, knowing what it meant to sit there and watch a show in it. And so, L’Orfeo became sort of a valentine to the space itself. And I used it really site-specifically. I mean, we started the chorus in the audience. I utilized all the space up and around and I didn't try to hide the architecture the way that I had with Traviata. And so ultimately I felt much more comfortable with the way I was approaching the space for Orfeo. And I think moving into The Mother of Us All, I'm pushing that even a little bit further, especially knowing that Susan B. Anthony had been in that space. I feel like it's important that the space be part of the show.

Steven:

We talked going into L’Orfeo about that celebration of the Amphitheater as a space, a celebration of community, but especially as the community lives in the Amphitheater, the central location gathering place for Chautauqua. And that resonates even more for me as we plan for The Mother of Us All, which is, in so many ways, a celebration of community...of who we are as a people together and as a society. And picturing it in the Amphitheater, you know, obviously, makes me smile.

Keturah:

Yeah, me too.

Steven:

This is my second time conducting the work. I conducted it in 2014 at Manhattan School of Music. Have you directed it before?

Keturah:

Never.

Steven:

And when we first started talking, now, gosh, you know, 18 months ago about you coming back to do this production, it seemed like something that from the repertoire as I kind of laid it out--Tosca and Thumbprint, then The Mother of Us All --it seemed like it was the title that most kind of caught your eye. Why? Why was that?

Keturah:

You know, I think there's been something...I've been feeling really like it's important for us as opera artists to start telling American stories. More and more, there are more and more stories now that I think recall the American experience, but I feel like The Mother of Us All  truly is one of the first that really, you know, gets to the heart of it. And, so it's been on my list for a long time of ones that I'm interested in. As I start to look around at what tales we can tell about us, I feel like this piece really sits within that quite solidly.

Steven:

And it doesn't come up all that often in opera companies' programming. Even this year with the Centenary of the 19th Amendment, it has shown up, you know, probably a half a dozen times. Maybe a little bit more once you involve the university and symphony orchestra circuit, but not like Candide was last year with the Bernstein Centennial. Then *everybody* had to do Candide. So every director who possibly wanted to direct Candide has now had a chance. But The Mother of Us All really is kind of one of those rarities. I love the piece and I'm so excited to share it with our community at Chautauqua.

Diving into the conversation about the opera itself: There are a gazillion characters in it. I think actually technically it's 27 of them who have names. How do you break down that kind of cast? How do you look at that wide a variety of personages that are presented on the stage and even start to kind of like unpack it for an audience?

Keturah:

Well, you know, I'm looking at my notes because I can't talk about these characters without notes, because...(Keturah laughs). You know, I think as you mentioned, this piece is about community. And I think as we look at these characters, we start to...So many of them are famous, and I actually had sort of written it out, that I believe there are 14 of them who actually existed, with a number of those actually being quite well known people.

Steven:

Susan B. Anthony, Daniel Webster, Ulysses S. Grant...

Keturah:

...Virgil Thomson, Anthony Comstock, John Quincy Adams, Lillian Russell, Andrew Johnson, Thaddeus Stevens. Yeah, there's a ton.

Steven:

And just to note in that list, you included Gertrude Stein and Virgil Thomson, the creators of the opera who appear as characters in it.

Keturah:

Yes, it's an incredibly self-reflective piece on Gertrude Stein's part…which, I think everything Gertrude Stein wrote was self-reflective. I mean, she basically just wrote autobiography after autobiography, sticking herself into other characters.

Steven:

But once we get past the two of them into those historic figures, there are clearly recognizable names in there.

Keturah:

Absolutely. But I'm not sure how important it is to recognize all of them. I think for me it's the archetypal idea that is, that's more important. I mean in this list and in the existent characters as well as the ones that she made up are pulled from various sources. I think there's those who represent the establishment. There's those who represent the anti-establishment. There's the influencer, the disenfranchised, the counterculture...that all of the people that make up a community of politically minded people are represented within this group. And I think that those are the important things to recognize. Certainly knowing who these famous people are and who these not-so-famous people are, gives you a little bit more insight and you might be able to pick out some of the small details that she's placed in there, but I don't think it's necessarily paramount in order to enjoy the piece itself.

Steven:

It reminds me of contemporary movies and all the "Easter eggs" that you can find if you're part of the Marvel Universe aficionado clan. You know, you can find those, but you don't need them in order to enjoy the opera.

Keturah:

Yes. And I think Gertrude Stein actually was the queen of "Easter eggs", which is wonderful for people who do come in with a little extra knowledge of, say, Daniel Webster or Thaddeus Stevens. I think it's lovely.

Steven:

Right, and then within then there are the characters, as you kind of mentioned, who are more archetypes: Jo the Loiterer, Chris the Citizen, Jenny Reefer, in a way. Who have kind of roles in society, which kind of give a much more kind of broad way of jumping into the characters, I imagine.

Keturah:

Yeah. And I think, you know, Jo the Loiterer and Chris the Citizen are actually a really interesting pair. I think Jo the Loiterer is actually based on... (And I just read this the other day, because there's been all these different places where I've read, "Oh, he's based on this. He's based on this." This one seems right.) He's apparently based on her friend Joseph Barry, who was a G.I.. She met him, she befriended him in Paris after the war and when he was a student at the University of Michigan, he'd been picked up for loitering. And so that's how Jo the Loiterer came about. So Jo the Loiterer is actually a person that she knew. The Chris the Citizen exists as his foil, I believe, you know, they're different sides of the same coin. One being, of course, the disenfranchised being Jo the Loiterer and Chris being the one who has a little bit more ability to walk forward inside of the political spectrum.

Steven:

So Gertrude Stein wrote the libretto for The Mother of Us All. And it was her second collaboration with Virgil Thomson. Their first opera together was Four Saints in Three Acts, which is really kind of mind-blowing as a piece. So you talked a little bit about the structure of the piece and that kind of "Easter egg" quality. But what should we expect from the text? Gertrude Stein...Is it scary?

Keturah:

I actually think her text here is pretty accessible. I think it's whimsical, it's moving. It's especially moving as we reach the end of the piece. I find that it becomes more...her text becomes more linear as we reach the end of the piece. I just want to digress here slightly just about that. Stein was dying of cancer when she wrote this libretto. And so much of her work is, as we said, it's autobiographical. She saw so much of herself in Susan B. Anthony. And so there's this part of me, when I hear the end of this piece, and she sings that aria,..that there's this tinge of melancholy, this reflective thing that's going on in there. And it became her epitaph. I mean, I think that she really was writing the end of her life, as well as Susan B. Anthony's in there.

Keturah:

So I think that there is a lot of understanding inside of it, but that doesn't mean that there's also not the repetition and the strange phrases that come out of nowhere. Everything she wrote had symbolic meaning, had specific meaning. But, I think the best way to listen and to experience Stein's writing is to just let it wash over you and let the tidbits that want to get in there get in there because they stick, but if you try to chase after every one of them, you'll get lost in the middle of it and it'll get frustrating. I mean, for me, I'm a modern dancer, so my whole life has been like trying to explain to people that you don't have to get every little bit. The pieces that you are meant to receive and understand will be there for you. It's about opening yourself up to it.

Steven:

And you mentioned the repetition in the text, which is very particularly, you know, a Gertrude Stein aspect of all of her writing. It's funny how that resonates with some of the challenges of contemporary opera where, you know, our current style of text, of dialogue, of scene, of narrative is so linear that doesn't always offer these opportunities for repeated texts, for repeated musical gestures, for repeated verbal textual gestures. And as I have been looking back over the score these past weeks, I'm just kind of captivated by how many opportunities you have to hear an important phrase of text in the beginning scene, later at the very end...and it is in that echo, the resonance of those over the course of the whole hour and a half evening that they do start to really make sense.

When I was preparing for the Manhattan School production, I remember my first dive into the piece and I looked at this text, and I thought, "Oh my God, what does ANY of this mean? What are they saying to each other?" But then two weeks into rehearsal, once the director is in creating characters, creating scenes, creating dialogues, I would look back at the same text and think, "Oh my gosh, it's so obvious. How could I ever NOT have understood what this debate was about?" And I think that that's clearly, not to put the pressure on you, but the role of the director, to create those situations in which this text seems both logical and inevitable in a way.

Keturah:

Well that's the whole, I mean, that's the whole thing. And the thing about that debate, you know, is interesting. It's another sort of diversion of Stein's normal writing because she took exact quotes from Daniel Webster's speeches and Susan B. Anthony's speeches, and that's what created that debate. So if the syntax feels different than what we're used to with Stein, there is a little bit of difference that's happening within there, which I find fascinating as well. But I, you know, it's how I try to stage it. I'm going to wring out all of the meaning that I possibly can from everything staging it, and then step back and let the words sort of speak for themselves.

Steven:

So The Mother of Us All premiered in 1947. So only 27 years after the ratification of the 19th Amendment. It's easy to see how timely a topic it was when Virgil Thomson and Gertrude Stein set out to write this piece. What for you makes it timely now in 2020? Obviously it's the Centenary of the 19th Amendment. But what else is resonating?

Keturah:

Well suffrage isn't over. No, we're still fighting for these issues. We're still dealing with these issues. We're still thinking about voter turnout, voting rights, who has them, who doesn't have them, the purging of voter rules, voter suppression laws, the fantasy or reality of voter fraud...all of this is still very much in the forefront. It still shows up in the news all the time. I think that we can't and shouldn't stop talking about the importance of the vote. And, this piece, of course, is about Women's suffrage, but it goes deeper than that, and actually in Stein's libretto it goes deeper than that. And I think that these issues of people being able to raise their voice and say, "this is important for us as a community, that we need our government to listen." These are things that are still happening on a daily basis for us. So I think that anything that's speaking about people being able to talk to their government and say what they need is going to resonate. It's relevant.

Steven:

And as we know, Chautauqua, in the Institution and its broader programming, collects things by theme, by weekly theme. We had programmed The Mother of Us All as the production that we would have in the Amphitheater. So that really set it as a performance on Saturday, August 1st, 2020, [that] was kind of what we were required to do because of all of the moving parts of programming in the Amphitheater. I had hoped, or kind of thought, that the Institution would probably program a week about the Centenary of the 19th Amendment and they did. And the fact that the Institution chose to place that week of programming in Week Five, the week that leads up to the Saturday of our performance, was really tremendously delightful to me. It means that the conversation that we'll be having around The Mother of Us All, and as it relates to the voices of women in Tosca and the voices of women in Thumbprint, will be [part of] really the global conversation around the whole Institution. So our Festival Week, when people can see Tosca, Thumbprint, and The Mother of Us All on three consecutive nights, we'll be surrounded by really kind of 24/7 programming all about the vote and all of these issues around the Institution, kind of Chautauqua style.

Keturah:

Yeah, absolutely.

Steven:

Let's talk a little bit about the music of the piece before we turn to questions from our attendees. Thomson was obviously an American composer writing in the middle of the 20th century, which for many composers meant kind of tapping into an Americana style. He was writing parallel to Aaron Copland who was a much more widely known...

Keturah:

Can I just say for two seconds that he wasn't an American composer; he was a Midwestern composer, from Missouri. And, I mean, being a Missourian, I think he's right in the Heartland, which says so much about the music influences he's bringing in.

Steven:

Yeah, there's hymns, there's ballads, there's marches. There are so many major chords in this piece. It is so kind of open. You talk about the Midwest. If there's something about Thomson's music on a visual level, it just feels like it is just open and it IS the prairie that you can see in these chords. How does that play into your work as a director and as you imagine this, you know, coming to life?

Keturah:

His music is imminently listenable. It's incredibly listenable. When I wrote you, I said, I think it goes back and forth between like one of those great 4th of July bands that you, you know...and sort of like, exactly, that Ken Burns documentary where you really are like, "Oh my gosh, this is America." And I think this piece lends itself to that, needs that...This piece is about American voices and American politics in the 19th century, and certainly moving forward. And for me, as a director, the American-ness puts us in a place of nostalgia. But also it's like this...this surface of "Apple Pie" that I think goes. Also, there's a deeper cynicism that can ride through that, that I think is really interesting. We all have these immediate thoughts when we hear American anthems, and I don't mean our National Anthem, but American music that makes us think of just the nation itself and our history and our nostalgia, that I think that we can play against that pretty heavily because all of us have gone back and forth with our feelings about what that music evokes for us.

Steven:

Yeah, and it really leaves so much room for the text to ring out. As many major chords as there are, there are that many rests in between them that just give this space for the text to spill out in an, kind of, imminently conversational style. Kind of disarmingly conversational, because when you get into the Gertrude Stein text, you realize, 'wait a second, that was a very circular sentence right there.' So it's very inviting.

Keturah:

Yeah. Agreed.

Steven:

Well, let's turn to some questions from our attendees. Jim Lifton, who's joined us on zoom, says that he understands there's only one full performance scheduled, but he's wondering if there are any plans to do pieces of it either in a "pop-up" format around the grounds or in the Jamestown area. So, let me dive into this. Yes, there's only one performance because the Amphitheater is so heavily booked, and it's hard. We only actually get two rehearsals in the Amphitheater, both of them in the afternoons. So that final performance of it is really the coalition, the culmination of all of the work that we've done, and our only chance to get to see it as well. It's very exciting, to say the least.

But as far as other places for it, we're definitely looking at maybe not some specific aspects of The Mother of Us All, but kind of thematic programming around it, about the voice of protest. That's one of the things that Keturah and I have talked a lot about, so we're looking at some kind of one of our Opera Invasions, probably in Week Four, will be themed around the idea of protest songs, of voices of people in America and around the globe. There will probably be some tidbits of The Mother of Us All that pop up in there, but it'll really be kind of using it as a launching pad for a broader discussion. Keturah, that idea of the protest songs, and maybe kind of a revival of our "Ballads from Balconies" idea for Opera Invasion two years ago, maybe "Protest Songs from Porches" that'll lead people around the Institution...that came from an idea that you brought to the table in your research about protest and "silent sentinels." Talk to me a little bit about that element that you've been exploring.

Keturah:

You know, I've read so much about the women's suffrage movement and Alice Paul, who was actually sort of an adversary of Susan B. Anthony, but working in the same direction. She employed many women to go, and they stand...you've seen the pictures of these women with these huge banners that say things like, "Mr. President, when will you listen and allow women to vote?" They were called “silent sentinels” because they were instructed not to speak. They would stand in places where there was heavy traffic and they would stand there with their sign and they would say nothing and just let people do what they would and pay attention to the sign and then move on. And the whole notion was that if they saturated the city with them, that everywhere people turned, they would see one of these sentinels and so I think that was where I sort of, that was my jumping off place for talking about this. Like, I love [the idea of them] just being everywhere.

Steven:

The Voices of People. That is really, in so many ways, the galvanizing theme for our whole season. Tosca's quest for a voice in her own defense; Mukhtar Mai's quest for a voice for women in Pakistan; and everything that women's suffrage represents for women, but [also] all Americans here.

Cheryl Gorelick asks about Stein and Thomson's relationship. She's wondering how they met, you know, what was it, why did they click, their relationship in Paris...I must say that so much of my research on their lives together and their working relationship was, you know, six years ago prepping for the Manhattan School, so it's a little bit rusty. Keturah, what's your insight into that? And I know you certainly have a story about them as they worked on this piece before it was written by Virgil Thomson.

Keturah:

So Stein met, you know, and I don't have all the actual details of how they met, but, you know, she held salons in her house in Paris a lot and people would show up and be brought in by other people that she knew. And I think that they met somehow in that way. They created a really lovely friendship. They started talking about making work together. But they were friends long before this happened. And that's where a Four Saints in Three Acts came out of them sort of talking about this. They had a huge falling out after Four Saints in Three Acts over the contract OF Four Saints in Three Acts. So they didn't speak for several years and then when they came back and started to speak again, it was an agent that sort of put them together. They started talking about doing this second opera and, as the opera was being written, as Stein was finishing the libretto, their relationship never quite got back to what it was. The warmth was not quite there. They were much more professional with each other. And so it was just little bits of sniping that were constantly happening.

Steven:

And Virgil Thomson was back in America at that point, right?

Keturah:

He was back in America. That's right. He was writing for a magazine, I believe at that time. But so they were also having this long distance relationship, which is of course different than when you're living next door to each other. But, Stein wrote the libretto while she was dying and I'm assuming that she knew she was very sick. And Thomson had come to a party in Paris and they got into an argument at a party and had a falling out and she contacted her agent and said, "I'm writing Thomson's character out of the libretto."

Steven:

You're out!

Keturah:

Mind you, not one note of music had been written yet. So Thomson, he had not contributed anything to this yet. Well, her agent, I don't know if he talked her out of it, but he did say, "really, you shouldn't do this. Keep it as it is." And, about a month later, she passed away during a surgery for her cancer. And so we actually don't know what would've happened had she lived. But, as it was, Thomson never knew that that was the case, that he was about to be written out. And he wrote the music for The Mother of Us All after Gertrude Stein had died. So Stein actually never got to hear a note of this piece, which I just find incredibly interesting. It's just a fascinating story about her, because she was such a micromanager about her own work that it's very interesting that this piece premiered without her 100% stamp on top of it.

Steven:

That goes for me about Susan B. Anthony's relationship with the suffrage movement. She was such a driver of it and yet she didn't live to see it. She didn't live to see the 19th Amendment ratified, and, in a way, that is reflected in the end of the opera. The final scene of the opera is dominated by a statue of Susan B. Anthony and people gathered for the unveiling of the statue. And so it's her voice from beyond that we hear at the end, talking about her long life and the long journey towards suffrage.

Keturah:

Well, and I look at Susan B. Anthony sitting with [the character] Anne, who is Anna Howard Shaw, who was her companion in her old age. And I can't help but think that Stein looked at Alice B. Toklas and saw a lot of herself and her life and her relationship in what she was researching about Susan B. Anthony.

Steven:

There's a question about access to the libretto to this piece so people could study it if they want. And it's something that we actually have looked into in great detail over the past months because there is not a published libretto to the piece. And so we've been talking to the publisher about what it would take for us to get the rights, or if they wanted to print something. That conversation still goes on. It's definitely a piece that is worth looking at. I see another question about if there are any recordings. And that is definitely one way of accessing a libretto. I know that the recording that we did at Manhattan school that's available on Albany Records has a copy of the libretto printed in the CD booklet. Now that's assuming that you're still buying actual CDs that have actual booklets in it as opposed to downloads. But that is definitely one way in. And we as a company are still trying to look about and find ways that we can give people access to the text, both of The Mother of Us All but also to Thumbprint, which will be a new piece that people are not necessarily aware of and certainly is not part of the standard repertoire yet. There was also a recording that Santa Fe Opera made back in the 60s, I believe, but those are the two that are commercially available.

There's a question about the history of suffragettes at Chautauqua--whether there are historical photos, activities on the grounds...and yeah, there is a long, long history of the suffrage movement and speaking at Chautauqua. Susan B. Anthony herself was at Chautauqua in 1891 for, what was called, a "platform meeting in the interest of political equality." In 1892, she spoke to the Girls Club. She was given a reception in the Hall of Philosophy and she stayed in the Athenaeum. And in 1900, she was there with Anna Howard Shaw and Carrie Chapman Catt for “Women's Day”, which is when she spoke from the Amphitheater stage. I haven't dug into the Chautauquan Daily Archives, but I understand that they are digitally searchable online. And so if you type in Susan B. Anthony or suffrage there's a lot of contemporary reflection of what was going on throughout the entire movement at the stage at the Amphitheater and around the grounds.

Keturah, we're kind of winding up our time here together. Michael Miller sent in a question which kind of echoes what was going to be my culminating question for us as we wrap up this conversation...the question is: What have been some of your favorite research sources for the piece? We as a company have been, or as a collective internally, we've been building a bit of a reading list that we intend to share out to everybody in our company, but also through the education platform, through the bookstore, through the library...a list of these pieces. But what are you reading now and how is it affecting, how has it affected your research?

Keturah:

Well, right now I'm reading a very large book called "Votes for Women" and it's the National Portrait Gallery's exhibit plus a whole bunch of essays about the women's suffrage movement. The essays are fascinating, but what is really amazing about that book are just the photographs and the ephemera from that era, that I think really allow you to really understand what these women were going through on a daily basis. So, I've been fascinated by that. The book that really, really touched me, I think, the most, was a book called "Why They Marched" by Susan Ware. It's a series of stories, Susan B. Anthony is one of them, about women who were dealing with the suffrage movement. And not just during that time, but earlier and also a little later. And there are more obscure tales, not the ones that you're seeing in every book, which I love. So those are my two things.

Steven:

That was one of the first ones that you kind of put on my radar as we've been trading ideas. And so it's been sitting actually right across the room on the table for me. I've only read the preface to it right now, but I was like immediately on line with you upon reading this because it's kind of anchored around the experience of this one suffragette who...I'm in Ossining right now at home, and in Briarcliff Manor [is] Juniper Ledge, which was the home of another icon of the suffrage movement, and you can go down to the street and see, you know, the entrance way that says Juniper Ledge and what happened, these landmarks that she placed on her property, and she kind of created these trees as memorials for people in the movement and people around the world.

This has happened to me a couple times in the research for this piece and for our whole season at Chautauqua, that the proximity that we all live in to these historical events, to these people, is amazingly close. One of the first books I read, starting to kind of say, 'okay, who are these women's voices that I don't know enough about?'...I read a biography of Sojourner Truth. And this is now going back two years ago leading up for this. And it turns out, again, maybe it's because we're in Ossining, and the proximity to New York and with Western New York, but Sojourner Truth lived for a couple years down the street from us here in Ossining, on this kind of religious cult property. And we live in a community that was a religious revival camp ground in the summers. And so the idea that there is a very good likelihood that Sojourner Truth preached in the barn that's part of our community here was, you know, it was kind of amazing to live through. And I intend on one of these sunny days in social distancing to go over to the Juniper Ledge columns and get a picture for us, for us of this. I would say, in a way, to our Chautauqua community, let's start collecting pictures of where you are in proximity to the history of suffrage in America. And…you can tell Sara Noble, our Director of Marketing is quivering right now as I put this out there…but send us your pictures of you and sites of the suffrage movement so we can kind of build that collection of experience and how close it is, how close we are to it in our daily lives.

So we're at our time. Keturah, thank you so much for joining us today. On behalf of everyone at Chautauqua Opera, I want to thank you all who have joined us for this first 2020 season preview event. If you know of anybody who was not able to join us today, who you think would be interested, please share it with them.

We have three more pre-season webinars scheduled, all of them at 1:00 PM Eastern. On Tuesday, April 14th, I'll be talking to Kamala Sankaram, Susan Yankowitz and Omer Ben Seadia. Kamala and Susan are the creators of Thumbprint and Omer will be joining us to direct our production this summer. Tuesday, April 28th I will talk to Sarah Ina Meyers, the director of our production of Tosca. And then on Monday, May 11th, we're going to look at our Festival Week talking about all three productions again. Keturah will join me again to talk about the bigger festival, along with Liliana Duque Piñeiro, who is the set designer for our entire season. In addition to directing The Mother of Us All, Keturah is also acting as curator and festival advisor for Chautauqua Opera Company's Festival Week, July 27th through August 1st. So with the activities that we have scheduled, and all of the rest of the Institution's programs for Week Five, there's going to be tons of stuff going on, and Keturah and I will kind of unpack that as we discuss them on May 11th. All of this information, along with full details on our season, can be found at opera.chq.org.

Thank you, Keturah, for being here for part of this event, and I can't wait to be in the rehearsal hall with you this summer for The Mother of Us All. Thank you everybody who joined us online for this preview webinar. Stay safe, stay healthy. We will get through this together and I'll see you this summer at Chautauqua.

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