When Laura Ingalls Wilder began writing the series of books chronicling her life, she had no way of knowing the tremendous popularity these books would enjoy. Fondly referred to as The Little House books, the stories of Laura’s experience homesteading in the American West have endured through the decades and continue to hold a place dear in the hearts of American readers.
But, a further study of the life of Laura Ingalls Wilder indicates that her significance surpasses these much beloved novels. In addition to recording her experience of homesteading in America, Wilder was also an advocate for farmers in the early 20th century and took an interest in the opportunities for women that were beginning to be available at the time. In fact, Laura Ingalls Wilder personifies the very heart of the American experience in the early 20th century. From covered wagons as a child to modern airplanes as an older woman, Wilder’s life journeys truly reflect the journey of the American consciousness.
Portraying Laura Ingalls Wilder is Karen Vuranch, of West Virginia. As well as a Chautauqua scholar, Karen is a traditional storyteller. She has toured nationally and internationally with Coal Camp Memories, a play she wrote based on oral history, chronicling a woman’s experience in the Appalachian coal fields. Homefront is a play based on oral history she collected about women in World War II. Karen also recreates author Pearl Buck; labor organizer Mother Jones; humanitarian Clara Barton, and Indian captive Mary Draper Ingles. Grace O’Malley, a 16th century Irish pirate, Wild West outlaw Belle Starr, the television cook Julia Child, Hollywood gossip columnist, Louella Parsons and writer Edith Wharton. Karen has participated in a number of Chautauquas in West Virginia, Ohio, Oklahoma and Nevada. She participated in the Nu Wa Storytelling Exchange to China in 2002.
Karen teaches Theatre at Concord University in West Virginia. In addition to serving as the Director of the Theatre Department., she teaches Theatre and Appalachian Studies classes. Karen has an undergraduate degree from Ashland University in Theatre and Sociology and a M.A. in Humanities from Marshall University, with a major in American Studies and a minor in Celtic Studies. She has eight publications and has released two CD’s of stories and a DVD of Coal Camp Memories.
Find out more about this year’s Two Rivers Chautauqua event here.
The 2017 event schedule is here.