Buncombe Chautauqua features "They Came to America"
by Rob Neufeld
Starting tomorrow, Buncombe County Libraries brings back its perennially popular “Chautauqua”—four days of actor-scholars conversing as great historical figures.
Gathering in Ferguson Auditorium, A-B Tech, the traveling show leads off with psychoanalyst, mythologist, writer, and experiencer of America, Carl Jung, acted by long-time Chautauqua leader, George Frein.
“How can we become conscious of national peculiarities,” Jung once said on his travels, “if we have never had the opportunity to regard our own nation from outside?”
And so, this year’s series, titled, “They Came to America,” highlights outsiders: Golda Meir, performed by Joan Wolfberg, Tues.; Oba King, performed by Denmark Vesey, Wed.; and Winston Churchill, performed by Larry Bounds, Thurs.
Vesey came to America as a slave, won a lottery, purchased his freedom—yet without being allowed to free his wife and children—became a Charleston businessman, led the slave uprising of 1822, and was hanged.
Though he spoke three languages, he leaves no written record—and historians go to old oral histories and the trial transcript.
Golda Meir grew up in Milwaukee, her family having fled Russian pogroms. At age 23, in 1921, she immigrated to Palestine with her husband; and, in 1948, in order to help create Israel, returned to America for a historic fundraising mission.
Meir had a wit that could flip any westerner.
When Henry Kissinger, Nixon’s Secretary of State, told Golda that he was an American first, then the Secretary of State and then a Jew, she replied, “That was fine, but “in Hebrew, people read from right-to-left.”
Winston Churchill’s mom had been American; so when Great Britain needed America’s support in World War II, he went to his mother country.
His rallying cries and quotable quotes are classics in literature. “A riddle wrapped in an enigma” is his phrase, describing Russia.
“Nothing in life is so exhilarating as to be shot at without result,” he proclaimed. “I expect that history will treat me kindly, for I intend to write it,” he mused.
Characterizing the U.S. in the 1930s, he quipped: “Toilet paper too thin. Newspapers too thick!”
“They Came to America” also takes the stage in Greenville and Spartanburg through June 23, with an additional character, the Marquis de Lafayette, portrayed by Ben Goldman.
Chautauqua 2012 in Asheville is sponsored by the Friends of Buncombe County Public Libraries, Inc. A musical program begins each evening at 7 p.m., followed by the featured program at 7:30. There is a suggested donation of $4 per night or $12 for the four-night series.
For more information, call Pack Memorial Library at 250-4700.