CHAUTAUQUA SUMMER by Rebecca Chace

CHAUTAUQUA SUMMER

Adventures of a Late 20th Century Vaudevillian

KIRKUS REVIEW

 Depressing report of life in a hippie vaudeville caravan. According to trapeze-artist Chace, ``Chautauqua'' is the old-fashioned name for vaudeville tent-shows that toured America around the turn of the century. The shows died out when movies came around--that is, until the Flying Karamazov Brothers resurrected a Chautauqua in 1969 in the Pacific Northwest. Chace stumbled upon the caravan after years of independent vaudeville work in N.Y.C. and Paris as a tumbler, juggler, and tap dancer. Chautauqua offers all she desires: a vaudeville family; the chance to rub elbows with the best performers around; a romance with the group's founder, Paul Magid, a.k.a. Dmitri Karamazov. Chace burrows in as the troupe meanders through the summer from one small town to another, scaring or amusing the local populace, camping on land owned by Dugout Dick, The Hooey Man, and other unrepentant hippies. It's ``all very tribal,'' Chace reports: The group enjoys pseudo-Native American rituals; pointless gatherings (``the Circle turned into a meeting that lasted four hours. Most of that time was spent discussing whether or not we were having a `meeting' or a `Circle' ''); petty jealousies. The performers--Magical Mystical Michael (magician), Artis the Spoonman (musician), Toes Tiranoff (tap dancer), et al.- -wow the crowds with first-rate routines. Dmitri has it out with his estranged wife; someone puts garlic in the chewing gum; the starry-eyed troupe drops its pants to moon the moon. These juvenile antics are related in a flat voice almost devoid of affect: The few moments of intense emotion sound so contrived (``I could taste her pain in my mouth as the tears ran down my throat'') that they may provoke laughter rather than empathy. If this is vaudeville, it's easy to see why the Great Ones- -Will Rogers, Ed Wynn, Jack Benny, and the like--opted for the movies. About as appealing as a pie in the face.

Pub Date: May 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-15-117011-8
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Harcourt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1993




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