Illinois Humanities Council boosts Virginia Woolf conference with grant

Official poster of the International Conference on Viriginia Woolf. Poster art and design by Chicago artists Ginny Sykes and Ruby Barnes.NIU has received a grant of $4,500 from the Illinois Humanities Council (IHC) to support cultural events affiliated with the 24th annual International Conference on Virginia Woolf, co-sponsored by the NIU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Loyola University Chicago.

The grant from the IHC will enable students, clients, and staff of northern Illinois educational institutions and community service agencies to attend performances of Sarah Ruhl’s play “Orlando,” adapted from the Woolf novel. The grant will provide complimentary tickets and financial support for travel expenses.

The grant also supports “talk-backs” with the audience after the performances led by the play’s director, Ann Shanahan of Loyola University Chicago, Chicago artist Anna Henson and Woolf scholar Jaime Hovey. The performances take place at  7:30 p.m. Thursday, June 5, and Friday, June 6, at the Newhart Family Theatre in the Mundelein Center for the Performing Arts on the north shore campus of Loyola University.

“Orlando” is a witty and wide-ranging romp through literary and social history of the past four centuries, focusing on artistic creativity and changes in gender and sexual identities. Orlando, the hero/heroine of the play, begins life as a male in the 1600s and by the end of the play is a 36-year-old woman in 1928. Sometimes his/her lovers are women, sometimes men. Throughout his/her centuries of life, shaped by historical and gender changes, s/he writes poetry.

The play offers humorous, provocative, and productive insights on a myriad of current social issues including sex/gender differences, creativity, and power. The talk-back afterward will also introduce audiences to knowledge about the historical diversity of gender norms and social values about gender and sexuality.

Diana L. Swanson

Diana L. Swanson

“We thank the IHC for helping us to share these events with folks who otherwise would probably not be able to attend the performances and discussions,” said Diana L. Swanson of NIU, who is co-organizing the Woolf conference with Pamela L. Caughie of Loyola. “This grant enables us to bring a variety of voices and perspectives into the conversation about Virginia Woolf’s continuing social relevance and about the power of literature and drama to illuminate our lives.”

“The Illinois Humanities Council is proud to support not-for-profit organizations that promote the importance of the humanities in private and public life. Through their efforts, Illinoisans have greater access to lifelong learning opportunities,” said IHC Executive Director Angel Ysaguirre. “These champions of the humanities make their communities and our whole state more vibrant.”

The IHC’s Community Grants program is its oldest.

Since 1974, the IHC has welcomed grant proposals from not-for-profit groups that have a story to tell about the state or that have a way to use the humanities to enrich community life. Not-for-profit organizations can apply for Mini Grants up to $2,000 and Major Grants up to $10,000.

For more information about the Illinois Humanities Council, contact the IHC offices at (312) 422-5580 or ihc@prairie.org.

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