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New Old Time Chautauqua is the new vaudeville

Audience members at this weekend’s local shows of New Old Time Chautauqua should be forewarned.

Seeing either Friday’s or Saturday’s show might want you to join the traveling performers. That’s exactly what happened when Heather Weihl was an audience member in 1989.

At the time a 32-year-old veterinarian in Seattle, Weihl was so impressed with the 1989 show that she decided to learn how to play trombone that night.



Fast forward to today and Weihl is a proud trombone member of the New Old Time Chautauqua’s The Fighting Instruments of Karma Marching Chamber Band/ Orchestra, as well as board president for the nonprofit organization.

“I played with the band nine months after seeing them,” Weihl reminisced Monday. “I was terrible but the band was forgiving and now I can play.” Her band plays eclectic dance music.




Besides the band’s set, the New Old Time Chautauqua shows will include singers, magic, juggling, comedy and movement performances.

“This is vaudeville nouveau, the new vaudeville,” added Utah Phillips, from Nevada City and on the organization’s advisory board. Phillips will sing a few songs and tell some stories.

Other performers this weekend include Faith Petric, Jim Page, Frank Olivier, Joey Pipia, Dusty Rhodes and her Handsome Cowboy, Rayona Visqueen’s Traveling Haute Trash Fashion Show, Fyodor Karamazov, Noodlini, Noodlini, Jr. and Mamazon.

New Old Time Chautauqua was founded in 1981 by performers, health-care practitioners and educators to provide family oriented entertainment to rural Northwest communities with limited access to live performing arts. Some of the founders still travel in the summer traveling shows.

“The Chautauqua started as a way for skilled performers to take a vacation. It’s family time for the traveling nation,” Phillips said.

While traveling, the groups take their show to venues such as hospitals, nursing homes, detention centers and prisons.

“We want to bring what we do to those who can’t come to us,” Weihl explained. The Chautauqua group has donated its time this week to do shows at Lutz Center and the Sierra Nevada Memorial Hospital.

In addition, New Old Time Chautauqua members will present workshops Saturday on juggling, mask-making, folk singing and song swap, magic, quilt-making and hat-making. (See the adjacent story.)

The performers travel for three weeks every summer as a way to revive the vaudeville shows and bring together community, Weihl said.

“By 1920, 25 million people had seen the Chautauqua whose idea was education, speeches and then popular entertainment,” Phillips noted. “The whole movement vanished because of TV and radio and recorded music. People then spent less time with each other and more time at home.”

KNOW AND GO:

WHAT: New Old Time Chautauqua

WHEN: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday performances

WHERE: Center for the Arts, 314 W. Main St., Grass Valley

ADMISSION: $15 for adults and $10 for children

INFORMATION: 274-8384


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