Meet our 2014 Chautauquans

Hal Bidlack as Alexander Hamilton

Alexander Hamilton was a man who thought broadly. He believed our nation would be best served by men who were "continental in their thinking." He meant this in the fullest possible meaning: geographically, politically, economically, culturally, and legally.

Hamilton was a soldier, a political philosopher, a propagandist, a financier, and a founder. By the time of his death at the age of 47, Hamilton had become the chief architect of the American economic system, the midwife to its legal system, and the enemy or friend of the most powerful men in the nation. Read Hal's entire essay here.

Hal Bidlack has performed around the country as Alexander Hamilton for nearly twenty years. His work as Hamilton has been seen on both national and local television. His performances have been seen in auditoriums, libraries, and museums around the country. He has performed Hamilton for a wide array of audiences, including federal judges, schoolchildren, and historians.

Bidlack is a retired career military officer. During his years in the military, he served as Deputy Director of the Air Force Institute for National Security Studies, was posted to the United States Department of State in Washington, and was as an ICBM launch officer and instructor. He also served at the White House, as Director of Global Environmental Affairs for the National Security Council. He taught Political Science at the United States Air Force Academy for 17 years. Bidlack holds academic degrees from the University of Michigan, including a doctorate in Political Science. He currently serves on the staff of a United States Senator.

Additional information can be found here.


Brian "Fox" Ellis as John James Audubon

A man of many firsts, Audubon was the first to paint every known bird in North America, more than 465 species, including more than a dozen birds that he was the first to scientifically describe, naming them for his friends. He was the first man in America to band a bird, proving that they migrate. He followed their migrations and wrote 5-10 pages about every bird he painted, published in seven volumes as the Ornithological Biographies. Less well known, he was a best-selling author of his day, publishing 50 short stories about his travels and travails known collectively as the "Delineations of American Scenery." He was also the first to attempt to paint all of the four legged animals that give birth to live young, Viviparous Quadrupeds. Read Brian's entire essay here.

Brian "Fox" Ellis is an internationally renowned storyteller, author and naturalist. He has been a featured speaker at regional and international conferences on environmental concerns. Fox is also a museum consultant who has worked with The Field Museum and The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. He is the Artistic Director for Prairie Folklore Theatre, a unique theatre company that celebrates ecology and history through original musical theatre. Fox is the author of fifteen books including the critically acclaimed Learning From the Land: Teaching Ecology Through Stories and Activities, (Libraries Unlimited, 1997/2011), and The Web at Dragonfly Pond, (Dawn Publications, 2006).

Additional information can be found here.


Annette Baldwin as Jane Addams

Jane Addams was among the first generation of America's college-educated women. Her personal struggle to oppose the conventions of society and to find a deeply meaningful purpose to her life, led ultimately to her decision to cofound Chicago's Hull-House, the first major social settlement in the United States. Addams would become an inspiring and influential leader among the most intellectual and productive reformers in the late 19th and early 20th century Progressive Reform Movement, which sought to alleviate the myriad of economic, political and social ills rising from the Industrial Revolution and the rampant growth of America. Read Annette's entire essay here.

For 20+ years, actor and lecturer Annette Baldwin, who resides in Illinois, has been creating and performing first-person portrayals of unconventional and inspiring women. She has appeared in nearly 200 cities across 18 states, performing at public libraries, historical societies and museums, professional associations, community organizations, colleges and universities, and government agencies. Her Jane Addams has been performed at Hull-House, Chicago; for the Hull-House Association, Chicago, and at the National Museum of American History at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. Ms. Baldwin's portrayals of fashion designer Coco Chanel, Civil War spy Elizabeth Van Lew, journalist Dorothy Thompson, woman's rights advocate Susan B. Anthony, and sculptor Louise Nevelson have appeared variously on the Chautauqua stages of Maryland, New Hampshire, Illinois, Missouri, Nevada, and Colorado (High Plains, Greeley). In 2009, Annette performed on the Two Rivers Chautauqua stage as Coco Chanel.

Additional information can be found here.


Becky Stone as Rosa Parks

Becky Stone as Rosa ParksRosa Parks is often thought of as quiet and demure, a devout Christian and a stoic supporter of non-violent civil disobedience. Those who knew her well understood that this was only part of the picture - the public part. She had always been an activist and a bit of a rebel.

Rosa's mother and her maternal grandparents raised her. She was greatly influenced by grandparents who had very different responses to their lives as slaves. Her grandmother was a Christian who stood strong in her faith in God and His gospel of Love. Her grandfather, the son of his slave mother and their master, was driven by his hatred of white people. He stood armed and ready to fight the Ku Klux Klan whenever their home in Pine Level, AL, was threatened and he dreamed of following Marcus Garvey back to the motherland in Africa. Rosa was a blend of the two. Read Becky's entire essay here.

Becky Stone is a storyteller who also has training as an actor. She has performed as a storyteller, actor, singer, and dancer for 45 years when raising four children, teaching, directing, and small magazine publishing with her husband has allowed.

In 2002, the Greenville, South Carolina Chautauqua Society contacted the Asheville-Buncombe North Carolina Library to see if they could recommend someone to portray Pauli Murray the following year. They were put in touch with Becky. That began her Chautauqua career. She has portrayed Pauli Murray, Harriet Tubman, and Rosa Parks for Greenville and several other Chautauquas. She also regularly performs these characters using the Chautauqua format for schools, churches, libraries, and universities.