Georgetown University and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts are collaborating on a three-part series for students to attend free performances.

The Georgetown-Kennedy Center Seminar Series, launching in November, will enable Georgetown students to attend three performances at the center free of charge and engage in post-performance discussions centered on an annual theme, the university announced Oct. 17.

The seminar series is a joint collaboration between Georgetown College, the Georgetown Humanities Initiative, which promotes academic discoveries in the humanities on campus, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Designing the Future(s) Initiative, which designs new models of teaching and learning to facilitate educational innovation. The 2018-19 theme is “The Human Journey.”

Students will be able to attend performances of “Long Way Down” on Nov. 1, “Silent Night” on Nov. 14 and “Barber Shop Chronicles” on Nov. 28 and 29 for free. Each is designed to engage with the theme “The Human Journey” in a different way.

The collaborative seminar series aims to show students the opportunities afforded by Georgetown’s proximity to a cultural institution like the Kennedy Center and to enhance the student body’s understanding of arts’ applicability to today’s world, Vice Provost of Education Randall Bass said.

“All three of these performances are engaging with really big, powerful themes. There’s a lot going on here about race, resilience, human relationships, peace, violence and hope,” Bass said in an interview with The Hoya. “I hope it’s a way for students to really think about how studying culture and the arts can be a very vital, vibrant activity that engages faculty, artists and the public.”

Students have the opportunity to sign up for one of the three performances and will participate in an on-campus post-performance discussion led by performing arts professor Derek Goldman. These conversations will also include artists, other scholars and faculty members to help create a discussion about the process behind the performance’s production, and the issues that the shows bring up, according to Goldman.

“For each one we will try to bring someone into the room who will have something to add to that conversation. In some cases that will be artists who worked on the project, but in other cases it might be faculty from another discipline, like African Studies, where they would have something to add,” Goldman said in an interview with The Hoya. “So that’s part of the fun, trying to curate these conversations so that it’s not a template each time where it’s always the same, but where each one has its own distinct flavor.” 

Students wishing to devote more time to the seminar series have the option to become a seminar scholar. Between three and six students will be selected as seminar scholars and will participate in in-depth writing and reflection pieces on the performances, according to Goldman. These students will be mentored by visiting scholar and American University professor Isaiah Wooden (COL ’04).

“We also wanted to give some students, who could give a bigger time commitment, the chance to really have a sustained engagement across a full set of performances where they can really engage a little more deeply with the conversations that may extend between the different performances, even though these are different pieces that occur in very different art forms,” Goldman said.

Although all the slots for the seminar series in the fall semester are full, it will continue in the spring with a focus on three different performances.

“Our intent is that this [will be] the first of a very long running Georgetown-Kennedy Center seminar that, even if we experiment with different formats, will essentially have the same principle of connecting students and faculty with performances and the creative artists, as well as some community patrons, around the role of the arts in our culture,” Bass said.

As the seminar series is led in part by the Georgetown Humanities Initiative, it will hopefully help create a path for a center of humanities at Georgetown in the future, according to Bass.

“One of the hallmarks for a center of humanities at Georgetown will be partnerships between the University and cultural institutions in the city,” Bass said. “So for us, this is a really important prototype of a signature partnership with a great public cultural institution of the city.”

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