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2023 Oklahoma Chautauqua: American Aviation:  Barnstorming to Mach 1

2023 Performers

  1. Elsa Wolff as Amelia Earhart - Queen of the Air
  2. Selene Phillips as Eula “Pearl” Carter Scott - A Pearl in Oklahoma Skies
  3. Ilene Evans as Rose Cousins - A Rose Among Aviators
  4. Karen Vuranch as Jackie Cochran - Fastest Woman Alive
  5. Doug Mishler as Chuck Yeager - The Right Stuff

Schedule of Workshops and Evening Performances


All workshops and evening performances will be held at the Albert Johnson, Sr. Conference Center, 91 NE Maine Street, Lawton. The Conference Center is on the EAST side of the Douglass Learning Center on Gore Blvd. in Lawton.

Workshops: 10:00 am - 11:00 am & 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm
Evening Performances: 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm

Tuesday, June 20

  • Workshop: 10:00-11:00 am 

Selene Phillips- Practicality Meets High Fashion: Women’s Aviation Uniforms: We’ll take a look at women aviators’ stylish journey from A-2 leather aviator jackets, to the trainee’s Khaki slacks (called “general’s pants”), to single-breasted Air Force Blues.

  • Workshop: 2:00-3:00 pm

Doug Mishler - Chuck Yeager, “The Beast,” and Beyond:  This multi-media workshop will be an in-depth focus on Yeager’s test pilot years with all its ups and downs - from the start in Ohio flying the first Jets in 1945, on through the X-1 and X-1A days to his F-104 crash in 1963.

  • Performance: 7:00-8:30 pm – Albert Johnson, Sr. Auditorium


Wednesday, June 21

  • Workshop: 10:00-11:00 am 

Ilene Evans - The Tuskegee Airmen Legacy:  Black Wings in Blue Skies – stories behind the black pilots trained in the Civilian Training Programs.  These men changed America’s policies toward African Americans and shattered long held assumptions about their abilities in advanced science and military operations.

  • Workshop: 2:00-3:00 pm 

Elsa Wolff - Amelia Earhart:  The Final Flight into Mystery - “What happened to Amelia?” Eight decades later and we still want to know.  Theories are many, from the plausible to the outrageous. Learn about Amelia’s last flight and the theories behind her disappearance including the newest developments in the on-going search.

  • Performance: 7:00-8:30 pm – Albert Johnson, Sr. Auditorium 

Selene Phillips as EULA “PEARL” CARTER SCOTT 

Thursday, June 22

  • Workshop: 10:00-11:00 am

Karen Vuranch - Fly Girls:  In World War II, aviation was a new and growing field.  Air power would prove to be an important weapon of modern warfare and every pilot in the Army Air Forces and the Navy was needed in Europe and the Far East.  The WASP, Women Air Service Pilots, was formed to for women pilots to serve in non-combat positions. Over 1,000 women ferried planes to war zones, tested aircraft, towed targets for practice and completed a number of other tasks. This workshop will look at the WASP organization and the brave women who served.

  • Workshop: 2:00-3:00 pm 

Selene Phillips - Miles and Miles of Clear Oklahoma Skies:  Set in rural 1920s Oklahoma, the 2009 movie Pearl explores the life of the youngest pilot in American History.  The workshop will discuss this special movie, filmed in Oklahoma and created by Chickasaw Nation Productions, and the girl who became a commercial pilot and local barnstorming celebrity before reaching adulthood thanks to her father and a special relationship with Wiley Post. .

  • Performance: 7:00-8:30 pm – Albert Johnson, Sr. Auditorium

Ilene Evans as ROSE COUSINS 

Friday, June 23

  • Workshop: 10:00-11:00 am 

Doug Mishler - The Cold War and the Race for Space:  A brief overview of what led to this intriguing part of the cold war competition and the characters and issues that were involved.

  • Workshop: 2:00-3:00 pm

Ilene Evans - The Mystery and Adventure of Flight:  This workshop includes both literature and cinema – from Captain Midnight (the old-time radio show) to the Great Flying Ace (Snoopy) with excepts of film and aerial photography, poems, songs, and the wonder of flight.

  • Performance: 7:00-8:30 pm – Albert Johnson, Sr. Auditorium 


Saturday, June 24

  • Workshop: 10:00-11:00 am

Elsa Wolff - Women Aviators of WWII: A Brief and Personal look at women pilots from Europe during the 2nd World War - Hear dramatic first-person narratives from one of the infamous “Nachthexen” (Night Witches) of Russia; one of the ATA Ferry Pilots from England and Hanna Reitsch, German aviator and test pilot during WWII.

  • Workshop: 2:00-3:00 pm

Karen Vuranch - Women of NASA:  Since the 195’s, America has been sending astronauts to space.  As nation, we watched space orbits and moon landings with fascination.  Although the early astronauts were men, over the years many women have been a part of the space program.  They served as engineers, technicians and specialists in many fields. But in 1983, Sally Ride became the first woman astronaut. Since then, many women have been on space missions.  This workshop will explore the contributions of women to NASA.

  • Performance: 7:00-8:30 pm – Albert Johnson, Sr. Auditorium

Dr. Doug Mishler as CHUCK YEAGER


2023 Chautauqua Companion Reader

Learn more about the weeklong events!
2023 Chautauqua

Volunteers Needed

Contact 580.581.3450 to volunteer.

Previous Chautauqua

  • 2022: Surviving the Sixties: Sex, Drugs & Rock 'n' Roll
  • 2021: 20th Century Visionaries: Catalysts for Change
  • 2020: Postponed due to COVID19
  • 2019: From Pizarro to Picasso: Hispanic Legacy in America Today
  • 2018: The Modern Age: Moving Forward from World War I
  • 2017: Cowboys and Cattle Trails
  • 2016: The Cold War: The Early Years
  • 2015: The Dust Bowl: Strong Winds, Strong Characters
  • 2014: A Crisis of Confidence: The War That Changed the World
  • 2013: Anything Goes: America in the 1920s
  • 2012: Behind the Screen: Hollywood's Impact on American Culture
  • 2011: It's All Make Believe: Hollywod's Golden Age
  • 2010: The Wounds of War: A Tale of Two Americas
  • 2009: Lincoln's Legacy of Equality: Voices on the Fringe
  • 2008: A Time for Every Purpose: America in the 1960s
  • 2007: OK Centennial: 100 Years of Oklahoma Heroes
  • 2006: Throw the Book at 'em: Outlaws and Authors of Oklahoma
  • 2005: Portraits of the Renaissance: Poets, Pirates and Playwrights
  • 2004: Civil War: Love and War
  • 2003: Lies and Compromises: America in the 1850s
  • 2002: From Sea to Shining Sea
  • 2001: Behold the New Century
  • 2000: The Evolution of the West: Myth and Reality
  • 1999: 1895-1920: The Age of Excess and Opulence
  • 1998: Early America: The Struggle for Freedom
  • 1997: Prime Times, Scoundrel Times: Post War America
  • 1996: The Progressive Era: 1890-1920
  • 1995: Voices of the '30s: Defining Modern America

Chautauqua Recordings

Videos of previous Oklahoma Chautauqua workshops, evening performances, and book reviews can be viewed here:


Upcoming Chautauqua

  • 2024: Civil Liberties
  • 2025: 
  • 2026:

What Is Chautauqua?

Modern-day Chautauqua programs present a variety of historical enactments, workshops, and informal discussions. Evening performances include first-person presentations and time for audience questions to the historical figure in-character and to the scholar portraying the character. Ten daytime workshops and five evening lectures explore the cultural and political nuances of the era. The events are all free of charge, and are targeted to audiences of all ages, cultures, and socio-economic demographics.

The first Chautauqua Assembly took place on July 1, 1874, and was located on Chautauqua Lake near Jamestown, New York. John Heyl Vincent (1832-1920), secretary of the Methodist Sunday School (and later bishop of the Methodist Episcopal Church) and Lewis Miller (1829-1899), an Akron, Ohio businessman, were the two founders. The Chautauqua Assemblies, which began as summer camp meetings, were held under the sanction and direction of the governing Sunday School Board of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

It didn’t take long for an eight-week educational camp to become popular. Within a decade, the Chautauqua assemblies (or Chautauquas, for short) sprang up all over the United States, bringing learning, culture and entertainment to small towns and villages. Over the years, the range of subjects at the Chautauqua grew. Prominent personalities were paid to give speeches on religious, political and scientific topics, such as Samuel Clemens and William Jennings Bryan.

Circuit Chautauquas, also called Tent Chautauquas, began in 1904. The programs were performed in tents for a few days, then folded up and moved to a new location. By the mid-1920s, when circuit Chautauquas were at their peak, they appeared in more than 10,000 communities.

In 1976, Everett Albers, Executive Director of the North Dakota Humanities Council, launched the modern Chautauqua in America. It was expanded from the original traveling tent with one-person presentations to a group of five scholars who present historical characters in a first-person dramatic performance.  Each scholar performs one evening presentation in character and two daytime workshops from the scholar’s own perspective. This was the start of a new movement, resolving the dilemma that faced many humanities organizations: how to make it possible for scholars to interact with the public in an open and accessible forum.

By 1980 the Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and South Dakota humanities councils joined with the North Dakota Humanities Council to form the Great Plains Chautauqua Society.  A century after the original circuit began, Chautauqua scholars were once again touring, this time presenting characters from the past organized around a central theme.  Starting in 1991, the Arts and Humanities Council of Tulsa and the Oklahoma Humanities Council united to present Chautauquas in Oklahoma.  

The Oklahoma Chautauqua returned to Lawton in June 2008. By 2012, the Lawton Chautauqua Committee decided to bring the evening performances inside because of the extreme hot weather. The City Hall auditorium was decided on as a perfect venue.