Two Rivers Chautauqua


Western Voices is our theme this year. It’s going to be an exciting event in a new venue – The Avalon Theatre!

Visiting us this year will be Mark Twain, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and Georgia O’Keeffe.

We will also have The Legendary Ladies – Helen Hunt Jackson, Josie Bassett, Katherine Lee Bates, and Mary Rippon.

And, of course, our Chautauqua would not be complete without our talented Young Chautauquans from local schools.

Check our Event page here for more information!



Chautauqua takes its name from a movement that began near Lake Chautauqua, New York, in the 1800s. It began with Sunday school teachers gathering for a week of study, but it became a touring program through which local communities could enjoy traveling speakers, politicians, plays, and music. Many communities still have the Chautauqua parks where these outdoor events were held, usually under a big tent. We’ve been told that at its height in 1924, Chautauqua programs visited over 12,000 towns and entertained over 32,000,000 people nationwide. But new technologies – radio and TV – led to the demise of the old-fashioned Chautauqua.

Today, Chautauqua has been reinvented as a way to bring the humanities, especially history, back to life. Organizations across the country bring in professional scholar-actors (Chautauquans) as historical characters, bringing history to life for their audiences. Local talent provides a great variety of daytime programs. These modern-day Chautauquas are usually sponsored by state humanities councils and other non-profit entities.



trc logoTwo Rivers Chautauqua got its start in 2006, thanks to the Museum of Western Colorado, Colorado Humanities, and local donors. It is a two-day event held each year on a Friday and Saturday in September.

You’ll notice that some of our Chautauquans portray very well-known American icons; others are not so well-known. We believe that part of the fun of Chautauqua is learning more about our country’s history through historical figures we may not know so well, or at all. Here’s a year by year theme:

  • 2006 – The Call of the West with Kit Carson, Jessie Benton Fremont, Teddy Roosevelt, and Marie Curie 
  • 2007 – 1776 with Benjamin Franklin, Phillis Wheatley, Thomas Jefferson, and Hector St. John de Crevecoeur
  • 2008 – World War II with General George Patton, Eleanor Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Ernie Pyle 
  • 2009 – Larger than Life with Irene Castle, P.T. Barnum, Coco Chanel, and Babe Ruth 
  • 2010 – The American Civil War with Abraham Lincoln, Harriet Tubman, William Lloyd Garrison, and Robert E. Lee 
  • 2011 – Lighten Up! with Mark Twain, Dorothy Parker, and Will Rogers
  • 2012 – Inventive Minds with Henry Ford, Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley, Albert Einstein, and Dr. Seuss
  • 2013 – Colorado Riches! with Margaret “Molly” Brown, Otto Mears, Teddy Roosevelt, and el vaquero, Diego Martín 
  • 2014 – American Dreams with Alexander Hamilton, John James Audubon, Jane Addams, and Rosa Parks
  • 2015 – Rascals and Rogues with Benedict Arnold, Belle Starr, Aimee Semple McPherson, and Huey Long
  • 2016 – Character Forged in Conflict with Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Eleanor Roosevelt, and Nikita Khrushchev

Click the titles below to expand more content:

In the Classroom

Young Chautauquans


Susan Marie Frontczak, national Chautauquan, first introduced Wingate Elementary teachers and students to the Young Chautauqua program. With the support of Colorado Humanities and local donors, up to 200 students per year participate by researching historical characters, preparing individual monologues and performing in costume as their characters, both for school audiences and at Two Rivers Chautauqua, sponsored by the Museum of Western Colorado. Fourth graders choose Colorado history characters, fifth graders have often tacked American history characters, and middle school students have had the opportunity to choose characters from a wide variety of interests including American or world history, well known authors and others of influence. Local schools participating in this fine program include Wingate, Broadway and Pomona Elementary, East and Mt. Garfield Middle Schools. A few students have committed to performing every year and are now well into their high school studies.

Susan Marie Frontczak, storyteller and adult Chautauquan with Colorado Humanities, has performed at Two Rivers Chautauquan as Madame Marie Curie, Eleanor Roosevelt, Mary Shelley and Irene Castle. John Stansfield, performing as Dr. Charles Fox Gardiner, Enos Mills, John Denver and Charles Fox Gardiner also coaches young people. Part of their work as Chautauqua coaches is the support and teaching of students in research, writing and performance techniques.

The in school programs require students to spend their literacy time for five to six weeks in research, writing and performance preparations. With parents’ help, and the support of local businesses, they work with classroom teachers and Young Chautauquans to prepare for performance day when they present their characters to their classes and families. The climax of performance week is the “People’s Choice” assembly that features two characters from each classroom chosen by their peers as outstanding presenters. A summer class is also offered for those students whose schools do not host the Young Chautauqua program.

“Young Chautauqua,” says Susan Hall, who coordinates the Young Chautauqua program for the museum, “gives young people a chance to integrate literacy and social studies – writing, drama, history, interpretation and research. When students have a chance to experience history in a personal way, connections are made about social, political, economic and cultural events and attitudes that influence our present day communities. History truly ‘comes alive’ for students and their audiences. Students and audiences are challenged to consider current events and attitudes in light of what we have learned or not learned from history. This format is ideal for opening and supporting discussions about the difficult issues each generation must tackle and hope to solve.”

Two Rivers Chautauqua salutes local teachers who seek to inspire young people through our rich culture of arts and humanities. If you would like more information about the Young Chautauqua programs or if you know a young person who would like to participate in Two Rivers Chautauqua, please email Mrs. Hall by clicking here or contact the Museum of Western Colorado or Colorado Humanities.