Arts Now: Theater Now and Much More

Instructors Tony Wallace and Bill Marx accepting CAS's 2013 award for excellence in undergraduate instruction.

Instructors Tony Wallace and Bill Marx accepting 2013 CAS award for excellence in undergraduate teaching

Arts Now: Making Learning Real

Bill Marx and Tony Wallace, Senior Lecturers and Co-Directors of Arts Now, Arts and Sciences Writing Program, Boston University.

Arts Now is a curriculum-based initiative to support the arts at BU. We are jointly funded by the College of Arts and Sciences and the BU Arts Initiative. In expanding from Theater Now to Arts Now, we’ve developed a small constellation of arts-related writing seminars with a strong emphasis on outside-of-the-classroom learning. The Theater Now model has proven adaptable enough to transfer successfully to other Now courses within the Writing Program, and beginning next fall the BU Arts Initiative will promote the development of Arts Now courses outside the Writing Program. Our project is called “Arts Now” to suggest the immediacy of what is taking place right now at the present time and place. We want “Now” courses to have a sense of immediacy, spontaneity, and contemporary relevance — including the use of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, and our web page. “Now” courses emphasize interaction with students outside the classroom in a way that is more academically substantive than simply taking them on a “field trip.” Outside-the-classroom activities relate in a fundamental way to the goals of the writing seminar and of the BU Arts Initiative, which goals we believe are not only compatible but closely related.

Arts Now brings students together on and off campus, inside and outside the classroom, in real space and in digital space. In “Now” seminars, students and faculty explore culturally and artistically enriching points of interest in the greater Boston area; such exploration provides additional motivation as well as material for the writing assignments at the heart of all WR courses. Students experience the arts in a fully three-dimensional way, and they write about and discuss those experiences with passion and discernment. To supplement plays and related films, we’ve hosted large-group discussions with prominent guest speakers (with undergraduate project assistants “tweeting” the events in real time). Students can see an academic “conversation” taking place in real time, and not only see it but actively participate in it. Because we bring all sections of the course together for outside-of-the-classroom activities and discussions, we not only establish a vibrant “experiential” learning community but expand that community both in size and scope. More recently, we have tried to expand the concept of outside-the-classroom learning to include writing and publishing for an audience outside the classroom. As writing instructors, we want to “make learning real” — our motto — with the aim of making writing real as well.

This academic year we are offering WR seminars on Theater Now, Jazz Now, Poetry Now, and Museums Now. Future Arts Now courses might include Boston Symphony Orchestra Now, Dance Now, and Boston Writing Now.


WR100/WR150: The Theater Now

This seminar will investigate different approaches to the performance and interpretation of three plays scheduled to be produced in the Boston area during the semester. We will attend performances of the plays; read and discuss the plays and related secondary readings; and meet for panel and large-group discussions with Boston area playwrights, directors, and performers. In order to expand the conversation about various approaches to performance and interpretation, we will also view film versions of the plays when they are available.

BU Uncommon Discussion story on Theater Now!

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Tony Wallace first came to Boston as a Teaching Fellow in BU’s Graduate Creative Writing Program, where he studied fiction writing with Leslie Epstein and Allegra Goodman, and literary translation with Rosanna Warren. He is a Senior Lecturer in the Arts and Sciences Writing Program, where he has taught seminars on American literature for the past thirteen years. He has published poetry and short fiction in literary journals such as CutBank, The Atlanta Review, River Styx, Another Chicago Magazine, The Florida Review, and The Republic of Letters. He has twice been a finalist for the Flannery O’Connor Short Fiction Award. His short story “The Old Priest” won a 2012 Pushcart Prize, and in 2013 his personal essay “In a Room with Rothko,” which he wrote while researching the play RED with his Theater Now students, received a Pushcart “Special Mention.” In 2013 he was also awarded the Drue Heinz Literature Prize for his short story collection The Old Priest, which has been published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Most recently The Old Priest has been named a finalist for the 2014 PEN/Hemingway Award.

A BU Today interview with Anthony Wallace: “PEN/Hemingway Finalist Will Be Honored Sunday Persistence pays off for CAS lecturer as The Old Priest gathers honors”


Bill Marx came to Boston University from the world of journalism: For over two decades, he has written about arts and culture for print, broadcast, and online. He has regularly reviewed theater for National Public Radio Station WBUR and has contributed features on stage, books, and film to NPR programs “Morning Edition” and “All Things Considered,” WBUR’s “Here and Now,” NPR.org, and the WGBH/BBC co-production “The World.” He has won United Press International and Associated Press awards for his radio reviews.

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He has also written about the arts for a number of print publications, regularly critiquing books and theater for the Boston Globe and the Boston Phoenix and contributing essay-reviews to a variety of national publications, including Parnassus, Ploughshares, Washington Post Book World, the Nation, the Boston Review, the Los Angeles Times, the Columbia Journalism Review, and The Village Voice. He has been a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Reviewer’s Citation three times.

In 2007 he created The Arts Fuse, an online magazine dedicated to covering arts and culture in New England.

In 2002, he created and edited WBUR Online Arts, a cultural webzine that, along with arts reviews and commentaries, presented multimedia features, blogs, a podcast, and a calendar. WBUR Online Arts was a finalist for an Online Journalism Award for Specialty Journalism that year, and won the award in 2004. In 2005, Bill’s weekly column on the website was named a finalist for the Online Journalism Award for Online Commentary.

From 2009 to 2013 was one of the fiction judges for the Best Translated Book Awards.


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Sarah Campbell, PhD has been involved in theater for years; unfortunately, most of it is medieval theater. For example, in June 2010, while on a Fulbright research grant in Wales, she produced a medieval Welsh play called The Strong Man that had not been performed for over 400 years. The actors delivered their lines in the original Welsh and the Welsh speakers in the audience really enjoyed the play.

In addition, as a lecturer in the Writing Program at BU, she has taught rhetoric (oratory), an essential skill for actors, politicians, and lawyers. She is very excited about the Theater Now adventure, despite the fact that we’ll be experiencing post-1500s plays.


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Ted Kehoe earned an MA in fiction writing from Boston University’s Creative Writing Program. He was a Teaching/Writing fellow at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. His fiction has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Southwest Review, Epoch, Shock Totem, and Damnation Books. He recently won the Bernice Slote Award for Best New Author.


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Carrie Bennett is the author of biography of water (Words Works’ Washing Prize, 2004) and A Quiet Winter (dancing girl press, 2012). Her poetry has been published in Boston Review, Caketrain, Denver Quarterly, Horse Less Review, Indiana Review, Interim, Prose-Poem Project among many others. She lives in Somerville, MA and was awarded a Massachusetts Cultural Council Artist Fellowship in 2012. She currently teaches a writing seminar on the Harlem Renaissance, along with Theater Now.


WR100ESL: Boston Jazz Now

This seminar will examine Boston as a leading center for jazz in the US. We will study the evolution of jazz as a musical art form, focusing on the development of jazz in Boston with special attention to different schools and the clubs both past and present. Because each of the three major essays is based on a live performance, we will attend these concerts as a class. Readings for the course will come from a variety of genres including biography, reviews, historical accounts, and scholarly articles.

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Dr. Thomas Oller is currently a member of the Search Committee, the Curriculum Committee, the Portfolio Assessment Committee, and the Little Red Schoolhouse Working Group. His academic interests include: Jazz as performance and in its historical and cultural context; US History (the late Colonial and early Federal periods); the transition from the Articles of Confederation to the Constitution; and the formation and development of political parties in the US. His extracurricular activities include hiking, fencing (epée), and music (saxophone and clarinet).

A BU Today story on Thomas Oller and Jazz Now: “It’s Got a Great Beat, and Helps with Your English CAS jazz class uses music as gateway for nonnative speakers”


WR100X/WR150X: Poetry Now

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This seminar invites students to be contributors to a single issue of Poetry Now, an online journal that will include students’ own poems, critical writing about poetry, and written responses based on classroom discussion with and public readings by contemporary poets who live and work in the greater Boston area. We will read early books by a number of North American poets, as well as essays by and about these writers, in order to appraise the varied ways in which poetry engages with the world.

Using creative writing to explore the thematic, linguistic, and formal intentions of published poets, students will experiment with — and ultimately publish — their own poetry and argumentative prose. Here is the inaugural issue of The First Experiment, created by students in Poetry Now.

A Powerpoint presentation detailing a semester of Poetry Now: Poetry Now

If you haven’t gotten your loved ones a valentine yet, consider stopping by the GSU today, from 11-2, and having Poetry Now students type one up for you. The proceeds benefit a good cause.

Here’s a link to the BU Today story about the event.

Jessica Bozek is the author of The Bodyfeel Lexicon (Switchback, 2009), as well as several chapbooks: Squint into the Sun (Dancing Girl, 2010), Other People’s Emergencies (Hive, 2009), Touristing (Dusie, 2009), and correspondence (Dusie, 2007). Her most recent manuscript, The Tales, won the 2012 NOS Book Contest. Based largely on the Reading Disaster seminar she has been teaching at BU since Fall 2007, The Tales will be published by Les Figues in Fall 2013. Recent poems appear in Black Warrior Review, Guernica, Sixth Finch, and The Volta. Recent book reviews appear in Zoland Poetry and Galatea Resurrects. Jessica has served as a poetry editor at Verse and Perihelion. She currently runs the Small Animal Project Reading Series, which was awarded a project grant from the Cambridge Arts Council and Massachusetts Cultural Council in 2012.


WR100/WR150: Museums Now

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The course focuses on the value of museums to civic life in Boston and the importance of international research and archaeological inquiry for launching exhibitions. Students explore the 19th c. legacies of collecting and excavation through the lens of 21st c. renovations and new installations at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Readings include academic essays and policies which will serve to ground our discussions in conversations happening now — in Boston and beyond.

Students will be expected to visit both institutions to assess permanent and traveling exhibitions; they are also expected to participate in one or more of the events offered to the public. In addition, the class will explore how the expanding sphere of digital humanities enhances the civic participation of Boston’s museums locally and globally. For their final project students are asked to contextualize the place of Boston’s museums as participants in city-wide and global arts initiatives.

Christina Luke is an anthropological archaeologist who specializes in cultural heritage, ethnography and comparative field archaeology. She is especially interested in landscape studies as they relate to past and present land-use. She has two primary geographic areas of interest, Central America and the eastern Mediterranean, especially the Balkans and western Anatolia. Her current writing projects focus on Bronze and Iron Age datasets from field survey in western Turkey as well as a working book manuscript on cultural policy and development in Turkey, 17th c. to present. Her work is funded by the National Endowment of the Humanities (NEH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). She is chair of the Cultural Heritage Policy Committee for the Archaeological Institute of America and editor of the Journal of Field Archaeology.


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Chris Walsh is Associate Director of the College of Arts and Sciences Writing Program at Boston University. He holds degrees in English and Psychology from the University of Rochester, and a Ph.D. in American Studies from Boston University. A former Peace Corps Volunteer in The Gambia and Fulbright Professor in Burkina Faso, Walsh has published in journals such as Essays in Criticism, Raritan, and the Yale Review. He is currently finishing a book manuscript about cowardice, called Cowardice.

He teaches (from time to time) a Boston Writing Now course. On November 14, 2012 about 40 BU students and teachers met in the CAS Writing Center for an event called “The Writing Life.” Nine writers — CAS students Anne Whiting (’13) and Emily Hopkins (’13); Zac Bos, administrator of the Core Curriculum; CAS Writing Program lecturers Dora Goss, Michelle Hoover, Diane Greco Josefowicz, Kim Shuckra-Gomez, and Jason Tandon; and William Pierce, Senior Editor of Agni — each briefly described their literary lives and then conversed with audience members. Convened as part of the Boston Writing Now course, and in cooperation with the Boston University Literary Society and the Writers’ Corridor, this event paid tribute to BU’s rich tradition in creative writing by exploring how that traditions lives on today. Here is what one participant wrote about the “aristocratic literary event.”