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News Release

Date: June 7, 2006
Media Contact: Steve Simon, 301-251-7952; Elizabeth Homan, 301-251-7970

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Prolific Figures Come to Life at Montgomery College Chautauqua, July 11-14, at the Germantown Campus
Portrayals to Include Performer Robeson, Innovator Ford, Artist Da Vinci, Designer Chanel

PHOTO EDITORS: For a high-resolution image to accompany this release, click on this link: Chautauqua2006.jpg.

They’re more than just the bass-baritone voice in “Ol’ Man River,” the name under a car’s hood ornament, a legendary artist with a secret waiting to be debunked by a best-selling novel, or a perfume bearing a numerical name. For four nights, from July 11-14, Montgomery College’s annual Chautauqua program will present portrayals of Paul Robeson, Henry Ford, Leonardo da Vinci and Coco Chanel – celebrating both the fame they have each earned and some of their more obscure qualities.

The event features four nights of fun for the whole family. Each evening at 7 p.m. a different individual will be portrayed by an actor-scholar. Local musicians will open for the performances with a short concert of period pieces. All programs will be held in an outdoor tent at the College’s Germantown Campus, 20200 Observation Drive, Germantown, Md. In the event of inclement weather, the performances will be moved to Globe Hall, located inside the campus’s High Technology and Science Center. All Chautauqua events are free and open to the public.

The actor-scholar who portrays each individual will dress for his or her part and prepare a speech to create the illusion that the audience is meeting the actual figure. After the speeches, actor-scholars will answer questions from the audience, first in character, and then as him- or herself.

In keeping with this year’s theme of “Creativity and Imagination,” this year’s portrayals will include singer and actor Paul Robeson, innovator Henry Ford, artist Leonardo da Vinci and designer Coco Chanel. Robeson initially won fame through his performances in Show Boat and Othello. Later in life, his acting success was overshadowed by his radical political beliefs.

Henry Ford’s many innovations – the affordable automobile, the moving assembly line and the eight-hour work day – revolutionized industry in America. But as Ford fought against “moral decline,” incidences of corruption and feelings of anti-Semitism marred his public image.

Leonardo da Vinci is well known for paintings such as the Mona Lisa and the Last Supper. In addition to being a celebrated Renaissance artist, Da Vinci performed scientific research in fields as varied as anatomy, astronomy, geology, architecture and engineering.

Coco Chanel helped define the modern woman, by both her cutting-edge fashion designs and her independent personality. She advocated such enduring styles as the little black dress and women in pants.

The Chautauqua movement began in the 1800s, taking its name from a lake in upstate New York where summer educational programs and religious lectures gained a sizable following. Other summer communities began to develop from the Chautauqua model, and in the late 1900s, a couple of Chautauqua communities took hold in Maryland, including one in Glen Echo Park in Montgomery County.

Although Chautauqua’s popularity suffered with the rise of television and movies in America, its sentiment lives on since the 1970s in the public humanities program that bears its name. Today’s Chautauqua events are public forums in which scholars present their knowledge of an historical figure through an educational and entertaining performance as that figure.

The program schedule for Montgomery College’s Chautauqua 2006 events – all which will be held at the Germantown Campus – is as follows:

  • Tuesday, July 11, 7 p.m.

An Evening with Paul Robeson”, portrayed by Marvin Jefferson. The evening begins with a musical performance by Banger Dan.

  • Wednesday, July 12, 7 p.m.

An Evening with Henry Ford,” portrayed by Doug Mishler. The evening begins with a musical performance by Mary Sue Twohy.

  • Thursday, July 13, 7 p.m.

An Evening with Leonardo da Vinci,” portrayed by Jonathan Pevsner. The evening begins with a musical performance by Loralyn Cole.

  • Friday, July 14, 7 p.m.

"An Evening with Coco Chanel", portrayed by Annette Baldwin. The evening begins with a musical performance by Laura Baron with Pat Quinn.

Montgomery College is one of six Maryland colleges to host Chautauqua each year. Chautqauqua 2006 is sponsored by the Maryland Humanities Council.

All sites are accessible to persons with disabilities. If sign language interpretation is necessary, contact the Maryland Humanities Council at 410-685-0095 by June 21. For a complimentary reader with background on each character and suggested readings, call the Maryland Humanities Council at 410-685-4185. A reader can also be sought through the Council website at For more information on the Montgomery College Chautauqua, call 301-353-7746 or 301-353-7745 or visit

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Montgomery College is a public, open admissions community college with campuses in Germantown, Rockville, and Takoma Park/Silver Spring, plus workforce development/continuing education centers and off-site programs throughout Montgomery County, Md. The College serves more than 55,000 students a year, through both credit and noncredit programs, in more than 100 areas of study.

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