Reports are out that the rulers of the Chautauqua Institution will be holding a meeting next week on December 30 to determine the fate of the historic Chautauqua Amphitheater (the Amp). A few months ago actions on bids for demolition and replacement of the open air theater were put on hold because costs for construction came in higher than expected. Reportedly, the Board has since been entertaining options for lowering the project cost. Renovation of the existing structure is said to not be one of the options being studied. Statements listed on the Institution web site noted that this cost reduction process should not result in lowering the quality of design and amenities in the new venue, but will likely come from improved logistics during demolition and construction. If costs are brought into line it is assumed the board will vote to send the existing historic structure to landfill and then proceed to build a new venue that is designed to pretend it is historic. In that case this coming summer will be the last performance season for the Amp.
The Institution did not commit to revealing how costs will be brought into line. Based on the Institution bylaws they may not have to reveal this information. The Institution governance is apparently done mostly behind closed doors. This secretive means of running the private resort village was brought into the spotlight as many Chautauqua residents tried to find out how decisions were arrived at in the planning for a new performance pavilion. A movement has been started to change the institution’s operating rules but this effort might be too little too late to save the Amp.
To many, the Amp is the heart of the institution. It seems that to the Chautauqua board, the Amp is simply in the way. They have developed a plan which will remove the venerable outdoor performance pavilion to replace it with a replica. Their communication and actions over the past year indicate that they fully intend to destroy the Amp and replace it with a Disney style replica, which they say will maintain the “historical vibrancy and significant character-defining qualities of the Amphitheater’s place and purpose. ” To me this is a meaningless public relations phrase. What they are really doing is planning to fabricate a fake replacement designed to fool the unsuspecting into believing that fake is as good as the real thing. The Amp is an important part of America’s Heritage. It deserves better than to be converted to a Disney prop.
You can make your voice heard in opposition to this short-sighted plan to destroy this irreplaceable piece of our American history. Write to the Trustees of the Institution. Let them know that you object to this ridiculous plan. Let them know that “fake” is not what Chautauqua is about. Let them know that real history is important to Chautauqua. You can write to them at this address: email@example.com . All letters pro and con will be forwarded to the trustees private email addresses. You can help even more by donating to the Save the Amp at Save the Amp.