Realism Needed for Amphitheater

To the Readers’ Forum:

I read with interest The Post-Journal’s coverage of the Historic Preservation Panel’s report to Chautauqua Institution regarding how the Institution might proceed with the amphitheater reconstruction/rehabilitation project. One suggestion made is that the institution proceed with limited or decreased programming which could be accommodated by the existing amphitheater.

I started attending amphitheater events at Chautauqua approximately 50 years ago. As I recall, at that time the sound system consisted of a single, somewhat large, speaker box which hung over the amphitheater stage. Changes, visible to me, made to the amphitheater over the years include the hanging of a number of light bars from the ceiling, cuts in the ceiling to accommodate a booth which I assume is for various lighting and technical performance related purposes, bleacher seating outside the rear of the amphitheater and a fence surrounding the entire amphitheater limiting the free access that existed for years.

I believe all these changes were made to what was referred to in the report as a ”sacred space” without a great deal of opposition. I further believe that each of these changes was made to accommodate the changing and evolving needs of the programming offered in the amphitheater. What would today’s programming be like if the changes I cite had not been made? I would hate to think that future programming in the amphitheater would be limited in any way because we chose to protect the current structure from changes that desired programming might require.

The dialogue surrounding the issue of a new or rehabilitated amphitheater is useful and if anything underscores how important the amphitheater is to those attending the many events if offers. However, I am willing to trust the leadership of the Institution to develop a plan for an amphitheater that will continue to serve as the ”hub” of the Institution, be esthetically acceptable and also be a suitable venue for the needs of the various innovative programs for which the Institution is famous.

Tyler Swanson

Bemus Point

and Punta Gorda, Fla.