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Thursday, December 09, 2010

Steve Martin to play Chautauqua in 2011

Sure, you're cold and wet and miserable.

Chautauqua Institution aims to cheer you up by thinking summer. The venerable establishment -- soon to be featured in a major PBS documentary -- has added some pretty good shows for its 2011 lineup: Steve Martin, Natalie Merchant, Clint Black, and Anna Deavere Smith.

Martin and his Steep Canyon Rangers will perform "An Evening of Bluegrass & Banjo" on July 1 at 8:15 p.m. Yes, Martin is a gifted musician as well as comic and actor. He won the Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album in 2009 for "The Crow: New Songs for the Five-String Banjo."

He'll tour in 2011 with North Carolina's Steep Canyon Rangers. Tickets will be $39.

Also, Natalie Merchant returns home to play the amphitheater with a 28-member orchestra on July 8. Of course, she got her started in Jamestown, N.Y. with 10,000 Maniacs. Her latest project, "Leave Your Sleep," debuted at No. 17 on Billboard's Top 200. Tickets for that show will also be $39.

Country star Clint Black is also confirmed for Chautauqua; he plays on Aug. 12. Black debuted in "Killin' Time" in 1989 and has been killing audiences ever since. Before country veered toward pop, he played with a sense of tradition and respect.

Actress, playwright and MacArthur "genius" fellowship recipient Smith will perform on Aug. 8. She's best known for plays, done in a documentary, theater style, that feature multiple, diverse characters -- all played by Smith. She's the "ultimate impressionist," says the New York Times. "She does people's souls."

Tickets for amphitheater specials, including previously announced shows with Bill Cosby (Aug. 27) and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (June 25) will go on sale March 7, 2011.

The PBS special, by the way, is titled "Chautauqua: An American Narrative" and will debut on Jan. 31 on PBS. The bulk of it was filmed during Chautauqua's 2009 season and includes interviews with Sandra Day O'Connor, David McCullough, pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk (who returns July 13), and Chautauqua leader Tom Becker, among others.

Erie Insurance, by the way, was one of the sponsors for the documentary, that was filmed by Buffalo PBS station WNED.

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