Just last night I received a call to do a performance in character for a local organization. The caller assumed I could whip up a specific person (I was given two to choose from) in a week or two. When I said that I usually took a year of study to prepare for a new presentation, the caller was disappointed, but since I could offer another type of presentation that would fit the bill based on my four decades of performing as a professional magician, I was able to help.
What this brings to mind is the idea that Chautauqua scholars are just improvising from a Wikipedia outline or just working from somebody’s prepared script. I would guess that even many of the most consistent Chautauqua audience members don’t realize the dedication of time and attention that the performers give to their characterizations.
Even when the scholar is asked to revisit a character that he or she has done before, the leap is not automatic and additional research is required if, for no other reason, the curve of forgetting has taken its toll. It may even be harder in that the performer who did very well originally may be lulled into a sense of complacency. Without careful introspection, a resurrected character might lack the spark and the specificity that comes after intensive study.