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Chautauqua Preview: The Pursuit of Happiness

The Pursuit of Happiness is the theme of Week Five at the Chautauqua Institution.  And as WBFO's Mark Scott reports in his Chautauqua Preview, this week will also feature a first-ever collaboration involving the Institution's various artistic entities.

Cast rehearses for the "Romeo and Juliet Project"

Thomas Jefferson himself is among the speakers, explaining why he included the pursuit of happiness among the inalienable rights in the Declaration of Independence.  For many of us, happiness is very personal.  We often try to obtain happiness by buying that trendy car or that beautiful necklace.  But Chautauqua President Tom Becker says the concept of happiness advanced by Jefferson was much deeper.

"In his (Jefferson's) time, the concept of happiness was not about self-gratification," Becker said.  "It was about finding your way to a meaningful life."

Chautauqua's Religion Director Joan Brown-Campbell says happiness is something we all strive for.  But it can be elusive.

"Perhaps for some people, (happiness) comes from helping others," Brown-Campbell said.  "It comes out of having a purpose."

Friday morning's lecture will be delivered by PBS President Paula Kerger.  Chautauqua's Education Director Sherra Babcock says Kerger leads an institution that at its core seeks to bridge divisions and engage viewers with thoughtful programming.  Babcock says a happy life is often an enriched life.

"The life well lived.  The life that includes art.  The life that includes recreation.  The life that includes knowledge and learning --  in (Kerger's) case, through public television," Babcock said.

WBFO will air Paula Kerger's Chautauqua address Friday night at 8:00.  

Friday also marks the debut of the second opera of the Chautauqua season.  Opera Director Jay Lesenger says they're celebrating the 200th anniversary of Verdi's birth with a production of Falstaff.

"It's one of the great comedies -- period," Lesenger said.  "It was Verdi's last opera and some say his greatest."

A performance of Falstaff is also scheduled for Monday, July 29th at Chautauqua's Norton Hall.   

This Saturday night marks a first-ever inter-arts collaboration at Chautauqua.  Theater Director Vivienne Benesch is the leading force behind what's being called "The Romeo and Juliet Project."

"My challenge has been storyboarding and working with each of the artistic directors about what has to be told in dance or what has to be told in song," Benesch said.

The massive co-production features three sets of Romeos and Juliets — actors, dancers and singers — joined onstage by 86 other performers and a 74-piece orchestra that fuses Shakespeare’s words with music.  It will be staged one night only, Saturday at 8:15, at the Amphitheater.  

One other highlight of the week, Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy speaks at Chautauqua's Hall of Philosophy Monday afternoon at 3:30.

This week's full schedule is available at theChautauqua Institution's website.

Chautauqua Theater Director Vivienne Benesch talks about the "Romeo and Juliet Project."

Opera Director Jay Lesenger talks about "Falstaff" and the "Romeo and Juliet Project."