Some iconic Americans are coming to town.

Andrew Jackson, Alexander Hamilton, Malcolm X and Jackie Kennedy may have departed the American scene years ago but they’re being brought back to life by historical interpreters as a part of Greenville’s 2019 Chautauqua Festival.

More than two dozen admission-free performances are scheduled, June 14-23, in and around Greenville.

The theme for the festival this year is “It’s Revolutionary!” – exploring various meanings of that idea.

Most Chautauqua performances follow a time-honored routine: An actor portrays a historical figure, then takes questions from the audience – first as the character, then as the interpreter himself or herself.

The interpreters often have devoted months or years of studying the character to offer authentic performances, down to accents, demeanor and outlook on life.

The performances, enjoyed by thousands annually, take place in a variety of venues in Greenville, with many under a big tent at Greenville Technical College.

Chautauqua Festival
Larry Bounds will portray Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States, as a part of Greenville’s 2019 Chautauqua Festival. (Photo courtesy of Greenville Chautauqua)

Larry Bounds, a perennial Chautauqua fixture, will portray Andrew Jackson, seventh president of the United States.

Jackson was a hugely controversial figure in his time – and remains one today. He was the great champion of the common man who expanded democracy but also was known for forcibly removing thousands of Native Americans from their traditional territories.

Bounds, who just retired after teaching English for 19 years at Wade Hampton High School, is taking on Jackson for the first time – although he’s portrayed at least eight other characters for Greenville Chautauqua throughout the years, including Winston Churchill, Harry Houdini, Davy Crockett and Wade Hampton III.

The Greenville Journal caught up with Bounds by phone recently:

The Journal: Why is Andrew Jackson and his time interesting?
Larry Bounds: In the history of Jackson, you’ve got everything from his “bootstraps” story of success to the sex scandals in Washington – and lots of dueling. No American president duels as much as did Jackson.

Greenville Chautauqua Festival
Greenville’s 2019 Chautauqua Festival features interpreters who portray historical figures, clockwise from top left, Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, Jackie Kennedy and Malcolm X. (Photo courtesy of Greenville Chautauqua)

The Journal: He was tremendously controversial.
Bounds: There were those who loved him and those who despised him. He was a champion of freedom and, to others, he was “King Andrew.” Jackson has been described as a gamecock. If you were one of his hens or one of his hatchlings, he would protect you. If you were one of his opponents, he would go after you, beak and spur.

The Journal: What do you admire about Jackson?
Bounds: His ascension into office in 1828 is the rise of the common man. He was the first president who was not an aristocrat. He did not have the background of one of the wealthy well-established, highly educated families. He was not part of the power elite.

The Journal: He was the first president to be a self-made man?
Bounds: He was born as poor as you can imagine on the frontier. He started with basically nothing. He is our first log-cabin president, born in the Carolinas. He father died just weeks before his birth. He was raised with his two older brothers by a single mother. He lost both brothers and his mother during the American Revolution and almost died himself. He came out of the Revolution with no money but built himself into one of the richest presidents who ever served.

The Journal: His presidency also is remembered for its brutality toward Native Americans.
Bounds: He was personally responsible for the Indian Removal Act of 1830. In every State of the Union Address for eight years, he always brought up the issue of Indian removal. He would make a personal fortune from seizing Indian land. He had a long and bloody history of Indian removal. But he also adopted an Indian boy who was found parentless on the battlefield and raised him as his son – at the same time he’s doing all these other horrific things.

Paul Hyde, a longtime Upstate journalist, writes about the arts for the Greenville Journal. Follow Paul on Facebook and Twitter: @PaulHyde7.

Chautauqua facts: 

  • The Greenville festival gets its name from the Chautauqua movement, which combined education with entertainment in events across the nation and was particularly popular in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The name comes from Lake Chautauqua, where such events were first held.
  • President Theodore Roosevelt once called Chautauqua “the most American thing in America.”
    Greenville Chautauqua
    Greenville Chautauqua performances are free and open to the public. (Photo courtesy of Greenville Chautauqua)

If you go: Following are the free Chautauqua performances in Greenville. Other performances take place in Spartanburg, Brevard and Asheville. (For a full list of performances, visit greenvillechautauqua.org or call 864-244-1499.)

  • Friday, June 14, 7:30 p.m.: Alexander Hamilton (Under the tent at Greenville Tech)
  • Saturday, June 15, 10 a.m.: Jackie Kennedy (Greenville downtown airport)
  • Saturday, June 15, 2 p.m.: Malcolm X (CCES Hartness Center, Greenville)
  • Saturday, June 15, 7:30 p.m.: Andrew Jackson (Under the tent at Greenville Tech)
  • Sunday, June 16, 2 p.m.: Hamilton’s women (CCES Hartness Center, Greenville)
  • Sunday, June 16, 7:30 p.m.: Jackie Kennedy (Under the tent at Greenville Tech)
  • Monday June 17, 11:30 a.m.: Malcolm X (Phillis Wheatley Center)
  • Tuesday June 18, 11:30 a.m.: Andrew Jackson (Younts Center, Fountain Inn)
  • Tuesday, June 18, 7:30 p.m.: Alexander Hamilton (Falls Park; bring lawn seating)
  • Wednesday, June 19, 9 a.m.: Coffee & Conversation about Andrew Jackson (Upcountry History Museum)
  • Wednesday, June 19, 11:30 a.m.: Alexander Hamilton (Kroc Center)
  • Wednesday, June 19, 8 p.m.: Jackie Kennedy (Trailblazer Park, Travelers Rest)
  • Thursday, June 20, 9 a.m.: Coffee & Conversation about Alexander Hamilton (Upcountry History Museum)
  • Thursday, June 20, 11:30 a.m.: Malcolm X (Kroc Center)
  • Friday, June 21, 9 a.m.: Coffee & Conversation about Malcolm X (Upcountry History Museum)
  • Friday, June 21, 11:30 a.m.: Hamilton’s Women (Centre Stage)
  • Friday, June 21, 7:30 p.m.: Alexander Hamilton (Under the tent at Greenville Tech)
  • Saturday, June 22, 9 a.m.: Coffee & Conversation about Jackie Kennedy (Upcountry History Museum)
  • Saturday, June 22, 2 p.m.: Andrew Jackson (Pelzer Auditorium)
  • Saturday, June 22, 7:30 p.m.: Malcolm X (Under the tent at Greenville Tech)
  • Sunday, June 23, 2 p.m.: Jackie Kennedy (CCES Hartness Auditorium Greenville)
  • Sunday, June 23, 7:30 p.m.: Andrew Jackson (Under the tent at Greenville Tech)

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