2021 Season :: June 26–August 29

From the President: How We're Approaching Summer 2021 Planning
Update Nov. 10, 2020

As promised in my email and video message to you last month, I am reporting now on outcomes from our Nov. 6–7 Chautauqua Institution Board of Trustees meeting, the status of planning for our 2021 Summer Assembly, and to invite your input. I want to thank you for your patience this fall as our staff has focused on keeping our grounds-based community safe while also planning for our forthcoming 148th gathering as a Chautauqua community. 

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While the days ahead are rife with uncertainty, Chautauqua will convene in 2021 to wrestle with the critical issues of our time, considering ways in which we as individuals, families and communities have been tested and have responded, and how we move forward.

Our theme weeks for the 2021 Season will evolve in response to the world around us; as our lives change, so too will we adapt our work in order to present the explorations that are most needed at whatever moment in time we find ourselves during the summer of 2021.

See 2021 events

Week One :: June 26–July 3, 2021

China and the World: Collaboration, Competition, Confrontation?

  • Under President Xi Jinping’s rule, the world’s most populous country has been working toward fulfilling the “China Dream” of global leadership, positioning itself inside a “superpower marathon” with the United States. Now, amid a trade war, the arrival of COVID-19 has been met with harsh rhetoric from both sides, further straining U.S.-China relations.
  • In this week of geopolitics, economics and cultural exploration, we consider China’s role in the world after COVID-19 and whether it emerges stronger or weaker politically and economically. How is it leveraging the pandemic in its recovery and in its efforts to overtake the U.S. as the global leader in technology, and how is the U.S. responding? Is China an unstoppable force or has it already peaked?

Week Two :: July 3–10, 2021

New Frontiers: Exploring Today’s Unknowns

  • There is so much left to explore and discover — and the more humans explore, the more we learn how much remains undiscovered. We consider these new frontiers in science, health, technology, the environment, and look to where new insights are being gained every day.
  • In this week, we welcome the new explorers, the next generation of innovators, to learn what work they’re doing on the cutting edge of these fields, exploring the extraordinary and making the unknown, known.

Week Three :: July 10–17, 2021

Trust, Society and Democracy

  • Recent work from the Pew Research Center indicates a troubling trend: a growing distrust in the public’s political wisdom when it comes to democratic decisions. This idea — that we no longer even trust each other — is a relatively new phenomenon, and reflects a larger picture of distrust in institutions across the board.
  • How can trust be restored, and what is the role of healthy skepticism? What do we do with institutions that society has declared broken, what must institutions do to rebuild trust with those they serve, and how can we work to regain trust with one another?

Week Four :: July 17–24, 2021

Many Americas: Navigating Our Divides

  • We are many Americas. We are many geographies, many economies, many cultures, many beliefs. We are a nation of differences and divides, and in a summer following a presidential election and a devastating pandemic that has thrown those divides into stark relief, we look to better understand those many Americas, the barriers—real or perceived—that keep us apart, and together consider how we navigate our differences in charting a future for our nation.

Week Five :: July 24–31, 2021

The Authentic Comedic Voice: A Week in Partnership with the National Comedy Center

  • The art of comedy is deeply personal, requiring artists and creators to tap into their own experience to hone a unique, resonant and authentic voice.
  • In this week, we examine how comedians working in an array of genres, media and styles have found their voices, developed their voices and mobilized their voices to communicate with audiences in impactful — and entertaining — ways.

Week Six :: July 31–August 7, 2021

Building a Culture of Empathy

  • Creating understanding and compassion, empathy is critical in navigating our world and building community. Empathy might have a reputation associated with emotionality or sentimentality, but what does it look like in action, from improving health care via the doctor-patient relationship and fostering strong childhood development to implementing effective public policy and leading through times of crisis?
  • Instilling and normalizing empathy has the potential to help us connect across our most polarizing differences and survive our most tragic times, so how can we work together to build a lasting culture of empathy?

Week Seven ::August 7–14, 2021

The State of the Economy: Where Do We Go From Here?

  • What drives the rebuilding of the economy in the wake of COVID-19? In the summer of 2021 — a year and a half after the pandemic plunged the U.S. into recession — we examine the state of “recovery” from Main Street to Wall Street; what has been lost and what has thrived; and what the crisis has laid bare in terms of necessary investments and structural reforms. How do we make our economy more resilient?
  • During this week we consider what building a new economy can and should look like, beyond high employment and growing businesses. Do we want an economy that looks like the one we had on January 1, 2020, or one that is more just in the distribution of wealth? What will we have learned during the months following the re-opening of the economy, and what are we learning from the approaches of other nations? What — and who — have we deemed essential in this new and evolving economy?

Week Eight :: August 14–21, 2021

The Human Brain: Our Greatest Mystery

  • Neurophysiologist and Nobel Laureate David Hubel once asked, “Can the brain understand the brain? Can it understand the mind? Is it a giant computer … or something more?”
  • In this week, we explore the folds and recesses of this distinctly human mystery, bringing together neuroscientists and psychologists to chart a path through the enigma of our consciousness, through the impacts of trauma and stress on our health, through the gray matter and the white matter, neurons and synapses, the wiring that embodies our cognition, that sparks our selves.

Week Nine :: August 21–29, 2021


  • What drives people to keep going when forces outside their control work against them? And what does that tell us about our humanity and hope for the future? We close our 2021 season looking at the resilience that emerged during a tumultuous 2020. From a global pandemic to the quest for racial equality, we reflect on a revealing, historic period by lifting up the stories and the lessons of those who refused to give up, give in or go away.
  • Week Nine also welcomes the return of the Chautauqua Food Festival.


Confirmed 2021 Programs

  • Friday, July 02, 2021 | 08:15pm EDT

    Michael W. Smith

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    Come give thanks through music with Michael W. Smith, one of the best-selling and most influential artists in Contemporary Christian music. 

    Location: Amphitheater -->


  • Wednesday, July 07, 2021 | 08:15pm EDT

    The Raleigh Ringers

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    This internationally acclaimed concert handbell choir dazzles audiences with unique interpretations of sacred, secular and popular music.

    Location: Amphitheater -->


  • Saturday, July 10, 2021 | 07:30pm EDT

    Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire™ in Concert

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    Get ready to fight a dragon, swim with merpeople, and find out just who put Harry’s name in the Goblet of Fire™! For the first time ever, audiences can rediscover the magic of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire™ while a live symphony orchestra performs Patrick Doyle’s unforgettable score.

    Location: Amphitheater -->


  • Friday, July 16, 2021 | 08:15pm EDT

    Wynonna & The Big Noise

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    As one-half of the legendary mother/daughter duo The Judds, Wynonna was once dubbed by Rolling Stone as “the greatest female country singer since Patsy Cline."

    Location: Amphitheater -->


  • Friday, July 23, 2021 | 08:15pm EDT

    Jay Leno

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    Acclaimed TV late-night show host, stand-up comedian, best-selling children’s book author and philanthropist, Jay Leno is renowned for his incredibly funny monologues, celebrity interviews, and of course his wry look at news headlines that never should have made it into print.

    Location: Amphitheater -->


  • Friday, July 30, 2021 | 08:15pm EDT

    Straight No Chaser

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    Straight No Chaser is the real deal, the captivating sound of ten unadulterated human voices coming together to make extraordinary music.

    Location: Amphitheater -->


  • Wednesday, August 04, 2021 | 07:30pm EDT

    An Evening with The Avett Brothers

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    Returning to Chautauqua for their third appearance, The Avett Brothers made mainstream waves in 2009 with their major label debut, I and Love and You, landing at No. 16 on the Billboard Top 200 and garnering critical acclaim.

    Location: Amphitheater -->


  • Friday, August 27, 2021 | 08:15pm EDT

    Jason Isbell and The 400 Unit

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    Jason Isbell is widely acclaimed as one of our best songwriters and possesses a devoted audience who have pushed his last two albums to the tops of the charts.

    Location: Amphitheater -->