MOUNTAIN CHAUTAUQUA STORIES will be online beginning July 4th, 2019. Director, Mark Stutzman has been working on the project since October of 2018 which blossomed into a multi-part series to coordinate with the Chautauqua's return to Mountain Lake Park.
"This has been an ambitious project," Stutzman said. "Each bit of history that I learned opened another door for exploration."
Over the course of the project, Stutzman amassed an archive of over 700 images from various sources and close to 70 historical film clips from the National Archives. "People were so generous with photos, postcards, documents, and stories about Mountain Lake Park's fascinating history. It would not have been possible without so much cooperation."
Stutzman has been a resident of Mountain Lake Park for 30 years and was somewhat familiar with its founding under the Methodist faith. He and his wife Laura were drawn away from the bustle of the Washington, D.C. suburbs in 1989 to the quiet town that was once accessible on the B&O Railroad passenger trains.
"Much has changed since the town's founding in 1881," says Stutzman. "But the appeal of cool summers, Victorian cottages, and majestic oaks allow you to melt back into the past."
Lori Youse and Mary Helen Spear are part of a planning committee to arrange this year's Chautauqua called Mountain Chautauqua Then & Now. They approached Stutzman in the Fall of 2018 about capturing stories from area residents that would tell the tale of a town that once hosted summer visitors and part-time residents in grand hotels, boarding houses, and private cottages.
"I am wildly pleased that Mark has created what is sure to be a lasting and enduring piece of history for future generations," Youse said after previewing the first episode of the series. Youse was also instrumental in finding subjects for on-camera interviews to talk about the history.
Muriel Franc, the subject of Stutzman's first interview, was the daughter of Felix and Lucile Robinson who revived the Chautauqua programming in the 1930s. The couple founded and managed the Mountain Choir Festival, a nondenominational musical presentation. Felix Robinson had numerous contacts with choirs and top-rated performers. His career with Columbia Records in New York City and Lucile's notoriety as an accompanist helped attract well-known talent to the 5000-seat Amphitheater that once stood at the entrance of Mountain Lake Park. Franc's recollections of the festival, that lasted close to a decade, illustrate a glorious time of culture, music, and community spirit.
Following Franc's interview, Stutzman began to round out the story of Mountain Lake Park's history from its founding to the present day. He credits much of the research to Karen Wooddell at the Mountain Lake Park Historical Association, Martha DeBerry and President Bob Boal from the Oakland Historical Society, historian Al Feldstein, Mountain Lake Park Mayor, Don Sincell, and other on-camera interview subjects. Each person played an important part in contributing to the overall story.
"This documentary by renowned artist and fellow resident Mark Stutzman is truly a PBS-worthy masterpiece that tells our story in a most compelling way and, more importantly, will preserve the remarkable history of our town for generations to come," said Mayor Sincell.
The framework for the documentary slowly started to form, according to Stutzman. "Creating episodes seemed the best way to tell the meandering story more fully and in digestible chapters." Each 40-minute episode focuses on the Chautauqua's founding, construction, the faith-based camp meetings, and the historic district that still houses the largest population in Garrett County.
As the history of Mountain Lake Park unfolded, it took Stutzman as far as Baltimore where he interviewed Marilyn Warshawsky, author of JOHN FRANKLIN GOUCHER, CITIZEN OF THE WORLD. Dr. Goucher, founder of Goucher College, was also an original founding member of the Mountain Lake Park Association and remained a principal shareholder for the duration of his life. He was also the second owner of Clayton Cottage which still stands on Allegany Drive today.
While in downtown Baltimore, Stutzman anchored the interviews at Lovely Lane United Methodist Church that was built by Dr. Goucher. Historian, Rev. Emora Brannan, Ph.D. helped arrange the visit and was well prepared when he took his place in front of the camera
"I was not expecting Rev. Brannan to have such a direct link to Mountain Lake Park," Stutzman said. Brannan's parents frequented Mountain Lake Park camp meetings and also chose the town for their honeymoon destination. "What a gift that he could relay such an important part of the Mountain Chautauqua experience through the eyes of his parents." Brannan shared programs, buttons, camp meeting photos, and even a red pennant bearing the words, "Mountain Lake Park."
With it being a nine-month project, Stutzman applied for a matching mini-grant from the Maryland Heritage Area Authority and the Mountain Maryland Gateway to the West. The Town of Mountain Lake Park stepped forward with match funding. "I was invested in this project, grant or not," Stutzman said. "I was so grateful for the funding and the endorsement to help offset the many hours of editing that go into putting a documentary of this scope together."
"I was not expecting Rev. Brannan to have such a direct link to Mountain Lake Park."
The goal of Mountain Chautauqua Stories was two-fold, according to Stutzman. He first wanted residents, visitors, and history enthusiasts to be able to learn about his home town through the series of videos. He also wanted the documentary to inspire people to attend this year's 3-day Chautauqua event that will be returning to Mountain Lake Park after close to 80 years. "It's where it all began and should be warmly welcomed by town residents. I'm so excited for this year's event."
"Mountain Lake Park has a wonderful ambiance and unique history," Stutzman explains. "If this documentary reflects the love I feel for my home town, then I've accomplished what I set out to do."
The documentary will be free online by visiting vimeo.com/showcase/6026664. A trailer highlighting the series can now be viewed on devices, desktops or smart TVs with an internet connection. Full episodes will be published on July 4, 2019.
Mountain Chautauqua Then & Now will be a 3-day festival in Mountain Lake Park from July 5th through July 7th, 2019. Stutzman will be one of the many presenters at this year's event. For more information, visit ArtsAndEntertainment.org/chautauqua, call 301-387-3082 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.