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New KET documentary showcases Kentucky Chautauqua program


New KET documentary showcases Kentucky Chautauqua program

For Release: 10/28/15 2:25 PM

Since its inception in 1992, the Kentucky Chautauqua® program has brought to life more than 70 people from Kentucky’s past – both famous and little known.

A new KET Kentucky Muse documentary takes viewers inside this flagship initiative of the Kentucky Humanities Council, Inc. to see first-hand how the stories of Kentucky’s historical characters are brought to life for audiences both young and old. The program airs Monday, Nov. 16 at 9/8 pm on KET and Wednesday, Nov. 18 at 10/9 pm on KET2.

The program includes abbreviated versions of six dramatic Chautauqua presentations filmed at Lexington’s Downtown Arts Center, and also looks behind-the-scenes at the extensive audition and year-long research and preparation process that actors undergo before joining the Chautauqua roster.

Characters and actors who are shown in shortened versions of their Chautauqua performances include:

  • Harland “Colonel” Sanders, founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken

Portrayed by L. Henry Dowell (Nicholasville)

  • Private William Greathouse, who fought against the British in 1813

Portrayed by Harry Smith (Cynthiana)

  • Lucy Blakewell Audubon, wife of the famous ornithologist John James Audubon

Portrayed by Kelly O’Connell Brengelman (Midway)

  • Simon Kenton, early Kentucky frontiersman

Portrayed by Mel Hankla (Hitchins)

  • Mary Settles, the last Shaker to live at Kentucky’s Pleasant Hill community

Portrayed by Janet Scott (Lexington)

  • Reverend Newton Bush, who served in Company E, 5th United States Colored Cavalry during the Civil War

Portrayed by Robert Bell (Louisville)

Additional Kentucky Chautauqua cast appearances include:

  • Daniel Boone

Portrayed by Kevin Hardesty (Lexington)

  • The Carlisle Brothers

Portrayed by Martin Harley and Greg Breeding (Lawrenceburg)

  • Henry Clay

Portrayed by George McGee (Georgetown)

  • Charlotte Dupuy

Portrayed by Elizabeth Lawson (Lexington)

  • Abraham Lincoln

Portrayed by Jim Sayre (Lawrenceburg)

“As we worked to create the program, I was so impressed to learn about the thoughtful attention paid to historical accuracy and portrayal of the Chautauqua characters – but not only are they historically accurate, but very engaging too. School children were literally sitting on the edge of their chairs as they watched Henry Clay and Abraham Lincoln perform for us,” said KET producer Matt Grimm.

Others interviewed in the documentary include Ben Chandler, executive director of the Kentucky Humanities Council; Julie Klier, Kentucky Chautauqua consultant, Kentucky Humanities Council; Kathleen Pool, associate director, Kentucky Humanities Council; Virginia Carter, former executive director, Kentucky Humanities Council; Dr. James Klotter, state historian of Kentucky; and Jim Rodgers, artistic director with the Kentucky Chautauqua program.

Kentucky Muse “Kentucky Chautauqua” is a KET production. Matt Grimm is the producer, and Teresa Day is the executive producer.

KET is Kentucky’s largest classroom, serving more than one million people each week via television, online and mobile. Learn more about Kentucky’s preeminent public media organization on Twitter @KET and and at


Todd Piccirilli
Senior Director, Marketing and Communications