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Interfaith Engagement

Recognizing the moral imperative of fostering deeper, more meaningful dialogue among people of different faith traditions, Chautauqua launches a series of programs throughout 2018 that engage religious leaders and communities in public and private dialogue. We build upon Chautauqua’s historic convening power and 20-year Abrahamic Program, and its growing role as a lived interfaith community, with multi-year work that brings leaders and scholars into conversation — with one another and with the broader community — and challenges us all toward interfaith learning and understanding.

Week One :: June 23 – 30

The Life of the Written Word

Language is a living and dynamic thing, passed along through writing. Words and the act of writing can erase or reclaim history, identity. We write to communicate our truths, and we read to understand, to gain new perspectives, new knowledge and new empathy. For these reasons, the literary arts find themselves at the forefront of cultural, political, and artistic conversations in the U.S. and around the world. As the line between writer and reader is blurred, we recognize that human beings are storytellers as well as story readers. In this weeklong festival, Chautauqua builds upon its traditions as a literary community, and we hold up the power of language and pledge to be responsible stewards of that power.


  • COMMUNITY Three Taps of the Gavel address
  • LITERARY ARTS The Chautauqua Prize presentation
    Tyehimba Jess, author, Olio
  • THEATER An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
  • CTC Young Playwrights Project
  • VISUAL ARTS 61st Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art


Week Two :: June 30 - July 7

American Identity

Who are we as Americans? Everyone has their own definition of the American identity, and most agree it’s being lost. A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that 71 percent of Americans feel the United States is losing its national identity — that is, the beliefs and values the country represents. During this week, we reach across the aisles of both politics and faith. We examine how we’ve defined American identity throughout our history and the stories we’ve told to shape that identity; the political, economic and social factors that shape our contemporary definitions; and what these different national identities — at times in conflict with one another — mean for our democracy and the prosperity of all Americans. We’ll consider whether a new foundation of American identity is necessary — or even possible.


  • COMMUNITY Annual Community Band concert
  • ENTERTAINMENT Cirque Montage
    “Verdi Requiem” with Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus
    Independence Day Pops Celebration
  • THEATER An Octoroon by Branden Jacobs-Jenkins
  • VISUAL ARTS 61st Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art


Week Three :: July 7–July 14

The Art of Play

Play is critically important in the social and emotional development of a child, but research also tells us that play shouldn’t end when we grow up. This week, we take a multigenerational approach to play, to the act of instructive fun. How does play help people of all ages build community, keep our minds sharp and strengthen the relationships with those we love? From the free-spirited, free-form play of youth to the intellectual challenge of puzzles and games to the creative problem-solving exhibited in board rooms, we examine the science behind the importance of play, the changing culture of play and gaming, and the innovative work aimed at improving our personal and professional lives through play.


  • THEATER New Play Workshop No. 1
  • OPERA Don Giovanni by W.A. Mozart
  • VISUAL ARTS  61st Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art


Week Four :: July 14 – July 21

Russia and the West

A quarter-century has passed since the collapse of the Soviet Union — and the promise of new relationship with the West — yet we find ourselves at what some consider the brink of a new Cold War. What has happened to damage relations between Russia and the West over 25 years, how have power dynamics changed in the age of digital and information warfare, and what must we understand about the recent history of Vladimir Putin’s Russia and its relationship with the West and the world? Building upon the work of the Chautauqua Conferences on U.S.-Soviet Relations of the 1980s and 1990s, we reaffirm our need for a deeper cultural understanding of Russia, its history and its people.


  • THEATER Airness by Chelsea Marcantel
  • VISUAL ARTS 61st Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art


Week Five :: July 21 – July 28

The Ethics of Dissent

If dissent is the “highest form of patriotism,” at what point does dissent become harmful subversion? How does the First Amendment color the American debate on this subject, and what about other countries where these protections are nonexistent or less explicit? Is violence ever justified, and, if so, at what cost? In this week, we’ll examine the obligations of active citizens and cultural critics, look at the role dissent has played in the development of democracy and a muscular civic dialogue, and consider how dissent has changed — in the forms it takes, how it is responded to, and the rules by which society allows or prohibits it.


  • MUSIC Chautauqua Piano Competition
  • OPERA Candide by Leonard Bernstein
  • THEATER Airness by Chelsea Marcantel
  • VISUAL ARTS Chautauqua School of Art Annual Student Exhibition


Week Six :: July 28 – August 4

The Changing Nature of Work

The state of work in America exists in contradictions. Wealth creation is up, but the per-capita GDP is stagnating. Working-class wages have been flat for decades, but the “gig economy” is booming. This week we study the nature of work in this country, examining the future of automation, the changing role of labor unions, the identity politics of the working classes, and the disappearing line in work-life balance. We look across generations and social classes, seeking to find who we are in a culture that ties identity to the jobs we hold, and reclaiming and honoring the dignity of work.


  • MUSIC Fry Street Quartet
    + So Percussion
    Sasha Cooke, mezzo soprano
    Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets™
    + So Percussion
  • OPERA Candide by Leonard Bernstein
  • THEATER New Play Workshop No. 2
  • VISUAL ARTS Chautauqua School of Art Annual Student Exhibition
    Stroll Through the Arts


Week Seven :: August 4 – August 11

The Arts and Global Understanding: A Week Featuring the Silkroad Ensemble, Culminating with the Silkroad Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma

Art can create a culture; it can cross borders; it can sing of possibility. In this week of performances, lectures and workshops led and influenced by the work of The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma, we focus on the role of art — particularly music — in a culture, with an eye toward cross-cultural collaboration and global understanding. We explore and celebrate cultures different than our own; we examine critically the path of good intentions leading from cultural tourism to cultural appropriation; and we look for ways that earnest understanding and a shared loved of our art and each other can perhaps change the world. The Silk Road Ensemble opens the week’s lecture platform exploring the notions of home through distinct traditions and personal stories, and continues its Chautauqua residency with master classes and performances. The week culminates with a morning presentation and evening performance by renowned cellist and Silk Road Ensemble founder/artistic director Yo-Yo Ma.


    Old First Night Run/Walk
    Old First Night
  • CLSC Recognition Day
  • MUSIC The Silk Road Ensemble with Yo-Yo Ma
  • OPERA As One by Laura Kaminsky, Mark Campbell and Kimberly Reed
  • THEATER Galileo by Bertolt Brecht
  • VISUAL ARTS Open Studio Night at School of Art


Week Eight :: August 11 – August 18

The Forgotten: History and Memory in the 21st Century

It is said that those who do not remember their history are doomed to repeat it. So we look to that history, and to the communities, movements and ideas existing at the fringes in our world today. What do we forget, at our own peril? How can we be stewards of remembering, and what must we remember? We are responsible for the histories of our societies, our families, and of our own individual selves. How can we preserve, honor, and ultimately learn from what was and what is? This meeting of the past and present hinges upon what — and who — we must remember.


  • THEATER Galileo by Bertolt Brecht
  • MUSIC Calidore String Quartet


Week Nine :: August 18 – August 26

Documentary Film as Facilitator: Storytelling, Influence and Civil Discourse
A Chautauqua Film and Food Festival

With crowdsourcing, social media campaigns and new distribution channels, films aimed at effecting social and cultural change have found audiences unlike any time in the history of the art form. But how do we measure the impact of such feature and documentary films — from changing minds to changing policy? To close the 2018 season, filmmakers and film lovers gather for a weeklong festival featuring screenings and conversations in venues throughout the grounds, all alongside the Institution’s renowned lecture and arts programs. We consider the filmmaker’s role and intentions as artist, storyteller, journalist, advocate and activist; the business decisions that influence the distribution and marketing campaigns behind such films; and the effectiveness of films to create empathy — and prompt action — in its audiences.


  • COMMUNITY Three Taps of the Gavel address
  • ORCHESTRA Season finale performance

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