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Celebrating Oregon history

New York Times columnist and Oregon native Nicholas Kristof will be the featured speaker when the Oregon Shakespeare Festival hosts the second in a series of Chautauqua 150 events Wednesday, Aug. 12, in Ashland. The theme is Oregon history. Tickets, even if free, are required for many events. The final event in the series is slated for Oct. 24.

The Chautauqa 150 was developed in conversation with Oregon audiences, artists and historians.

The event is intended to provide a forum for cross-disciplinary and cross-cultural examination of three aspects of Oregon's past, present and future: the environment, interaction with the world beyond our borders, and Oregon communities (with the Rogue Valley as a focus.)

While Chautauqua 150 activities stand alone, Alison Carey, the director of the OSF's U.S. History Cycle, says they may also serve as a starting point for the creation of a piece of Oregon-themed theater that could be part of one of 37 plays OSF envisions coming out of its history project.

"This will be grist for the mill," Carey says.

She says she wants to hear people's stories about their families and communities. She says participants will split into three groups and talk about their experiences.

"For the fall event I'll take material from these two events and put them together in a short piece of art," she says.

That's similar to the way the community-based Cornerstone Theatre, where she and OSF Artistic Director Bill Rauch worked, functioned in Los Angeles.

Here's a schedule:

10 a.m. — New Theatre. "From Chautauqua 1893 to Shakespeare Under the Stars." OSF Associate Producer Kimberley Jean Barry will talk about OSF's roots in the Chautauqua movement. Barry has been with the OSF company for 30 seasons. Cost is $5.

Noon— Carpenter Hall. "Chautauqua Readings: Who We Are and Where We've Been." OSF actors and others will read plays, poetry and prose exploring Oregon's interaction with the world. OSF actors include Michael J. Hume, Juan Rivera LeBron and Liisa Ivary. Cost is $8.

1:15 p.m. — Carpenter Hall. "Weaving our Way Then and Now: Indians in Southern Oregon." Southern Oregon Historical Society's Tom Smith will show how Southern Oregon's earliest inhabitants lived, worked, hunted.

Smith will discuss social, familial and leadership structures, including personal responsibility for the survival of tribal bands, governance by consensus as well as the honor codes employed by the warrior societies.

2:30 p.m. — Carpenter Hall. "Community Story Circles: Making and Remaking Oregon." American Revolutions director Alison Carey will lead the discussion. The talk will repeat at 3:30 p.m. in the Bill Patton Garden.

For more than 20 years before coming to OSF, Carey worked with artistic director Bill Rauch and Cornerstone Theater Company to make community-based theater in towns around the country. She will talk about the art they made and how they did it.

Participants will learn how to contribute their stories about Oregon, Ashland and OSF to help create a short performance piece for the Oct. 24 Chautauqua event.

3:45 p.m — Carpenter Hall. Oregon Encyclopedia Editor-in-Chief William Lang will talk about the encyclopedia developed by Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society.

6 p.m. — Lithia Park Band Shell. "Oregon and Beyond." Pulitzer Prize winner Kristof, who grew up on a sheep farm near Yamhill, will talk about conflicts of values that cross various borders.

Kristof's new book, co-written with Sheryl WuDunn, "Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide," will be released in September.

Bloomsbury Books will take advance orders at Kristof's talk in the park, as well as provide book plates that he will sign. Plates can be attached to books when they are received in September.

New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof will be among the speakers at the Chautauqua 150 event at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. - Nicholas Kristof