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The Humanities Plunge

Spring Break 2020: Take the Plunge!


Music • Theatre • Art • Architecture • History • Dance • Neighborhood Cultures

The Humanities Plunge immerses students in Chicago’s rich cultural landscape with five days of theatre, art, music, architecture, and history, guided by scholars and artists.


2018 Humanities Plunge

The focus of the 2018 Humanities Plunge was considering how the humanities help us reflect on the ways that culture is presented, and how it is linked to a city's identity.

Monday - The Story of the CityHumanities Plunge 2018-CTA train tour.jpg
Build a foundation for the week by exploring the ways that residents of Chicago construct the cultures of their neighborhoods.

Tuesday - Museum spaces and the exhibition of history and culturehumanities-plunge-2018-students-viewing-sculpture-national-museum-of-puerto-rican-arts-and-culture-2018-03-27-300x260.jpg
We will think critically about the idea of a museum as a “neutral space” and the representation of indigenous and “ancient” peoples in a museum of “natural history.”

Wednesday - Performance and the city
Explore and critically reflect on the relationship between performance, theatrical spaces, and the labor that goes into making the end result.2579-chicago-shakespeare-theater-kaplan-institute-humanities-plunge-2018-03-28-300x260.jpg

Thursday - Improvisational comedy
Explore and critically reflect on improvisational comedy as history, practice, and performance.

Friday - Socially engaged art
Critically reflect on the relationship between art and social engagement through an exploration of the history and importance of jazz and blues on the South Side of Chicago.

2017 Humanities Plunge

Monday - The Written and Spoken Word
The creative process of literary production from "idea stage," to manufacture of a printed text, to the performance of reading

Humanities Plunge student composition of type and paper at Spudnik Press
Tuesday - Spaces of Art
The politics/history/aesthetics of art curatorial practices and exhibition
Humanities Plunge students outside The Field Museum



 Wednesday - The Materials of Performance

The relationship between performance, theatrical spaces, and the labor that goes into making the end result
  • Lyric Opera of Chicago behind-the-scenes tourPilsen mural
  • Chicago History Museum costume collection storage session and Making Mainbocher exhibit viewing
  • Lookingglass Theatre Company production of Beyond Caring
  • Dinner at Gino's East Pizza


Thursday - Improvisational Comedy
Exploration of improvisation/comedy as history, practice and performance.

  • Chicago History MuseumNorthwestern Library Archive Collections of Commedia dell'arte and 
  • Improvisational theatre teacher Viola Spolin
  • Improvisation workshop at The iO Theatre
  • Performanc
  • e by The Improvised Shakespeare Co.
  • Lunch at Reza's Mediterranean and Persian
  • Dinner at Opart Thai


Friday - Re-thinking the Humanities in Chicago Urban Spaces

Consider the relationship between Chicago neighborhoods and the arts therein to catalyze conversation about how we navigate the city, encounter its history, and experience the humanitiesImprov workshop at iO Theatre

  • Tour of Chicago via chartered CTA train car with guide Bill Savage (Associate Professor of Instruction, English)
  • Tour the Rebuild Foundation and Stony Island Arts Bank
  • Visit the Black Cinema House exhibit
  • Presentation of documentary materials with filmmaker Bruce Orenstein
  • Catered Dinner by Soulwich


2016 Humanities Plunge


  • Tour of Chicago by Chartered CTA ‘L’ train, with guide Paul Durica of Illinois Humanities & Pocket Guide to Hell
  • Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Tour of The Plant (a collaborative community of agricultural and other food producing businesses in a repurposed meat packing plant)
  • Lunch: Los Comales Taqueria #3 + Pilsen neighborhood exploration


  • Introduction to Commedia dell’Arte and the Viola Spolin Collection at the Northwestern Library Archives
  • The Second City improvisation workshop
  • Goose Island Brewpub with Goose Island history by one of the brewers
  • The Second City’s 104th Revue: Fool Me Twice, Déjà vu
  • Lunch: Reza’s Mediterranean and Persian Restaurant


  • Material history of the book presentation with Professor Jules Law
  • Letterpress and Bookbinding workshop at Spudnik Press
  •  “Writing, Reading, and Publishing in Chicago” reading and discussion with authors and live lit performers Megan Stielstra & Samantha Irby at Women & Children First bookstore
  • Dinner: Ethiopian Diamond


  • Gallery visit with contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago exhibition Pop Art Design 
  • Lookingglass Theatre Company: Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca + post-show discussion with members of the creative team
  • Al fresco lunch: Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches


  • Tour the Rebuild Foundation
  • Stony Island Arts Bank archiving project  
  • Washington Park Arts Incubator tour
  • eighth blackbird concert Ghostlight with Bonnie “Prince” Billy at MCA
  • Lunch: Currency Exchange Café
  • Dinner: Gino’s East of Chicago


2015 Humanities Plunge  


  • Chicago Architecture Foundation walking tour “Chicago Old and New: Intersections”
  • Lunch at Reza’s (Middle Eastern) in Andersonville neighborhood
  • Music Box Theatre and It Follows film; post-film discussion with Nick Davis (English, Gender & Sexuality Studies)


  • “Histories of Botanical Illustration” with Environmental Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow Sheila Wille
  • Botanical drawing class at the Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Marie Antoinette at Steppenwolf Theatre; post-performance talk back with Derek Matson


  • Introduction to Commedia dell’Arte and the Viola Spolin Collection at the Northwestern Library Archives
  • The Second City workshop on fundamentals of improv comedy
  • Dinner at Ethiopian Diamond in Edgewater neighborhood
  • The Second City's 103rd Mainstage Revue


  • Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Doris Salcedo Retrospective
  • "How To Get Power: The Seldoms Dance with LBJ and the 60s" with Michael Kramer (History)
  • MCA Main Stage Premier of "Power Goes" by the Chicago-based dance company The Seldoms
  • Dinner at Francesca’s on Chestnut (Italian) in Streeterville neighborhood


  • Lyric Opera Chicago behind-the-scenes tour and sneak peek of new mariachi opera El Pasado Nunca Se Termina
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra “Beyond the Score” production of Brahms Symphony No. 3
  • Dinner at Turquoise (Turkish) in Roscoe Village neighborhood