Clay Jenkinson as Meriwether Lewis
Monday March 25, 7:30 p.m.
Hilton Garden Inn, Kitty Hawk
Lewis was my first Chautauqua character. He’s fascinating on so many fronts. When he was keeping his journal, he was easily the most interesting writer of the expedition, by magnitudes. He regarded himself as the Enlightenment’s personal emissary in the American West. His relationship with Clark is complex, nuanced, and ultimately tragic. His attitude towards American Indians is essential for any understanding of that vexed subject in American history. Sometimes I fantasize about having been a member of the Lewis & Clark Expedition, to have seen Montana in 1804 when hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of bison grazed the plains in a tense equilibrium with elk, grizzly bears, coyotes, wolves, pronghorn antelope, and prairie dogs. (Of course, I would almost certainly have been a copy clerk back in Philadelphia, and probably could not have held up for more than a few days given the physical demands of the journey). Lewis had a rich, somewhat odd, sense of humor, which I try to explore in my dramatic interpretations.