Grady Ballenger Series

All the World’s a Laboratory: What the Sciences and Humanities Can Learn from the Performing Arts

Jennifer Blackmer, Associate Professor of Theatre, Director of Immersive Learning, Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry at Ball State University

Students today are suffering from an advanced case of “hardening of the categories.” As the world evolves, forging interconnectedness, web-based learning and the idea economy, our educational systems clamp further down, forcing knowledge into standardized tests, FTE hours, state rankings and government funding.  As institutions across the country accumulate mountains of data on student successes, our undergraduates find themselves learning how to learn in the most rigid of environments. Their experience of the world, however, is anything but rigid. Can the undergraduate experience, in four short years, accurately respond to the world these students are about to enter? Should it? Is there a way to merge fundamental, systematic learning with practical, meaning-making experiences?

In this talk, award-winning playwright and Professor of Theatre Jennifer Blackmer discusses her work in collaborative playwriting with undergraduates, resulting in such science and history-based plays as The Human Faustus Project, Daughters of Trinity, and If You Don’t Outdie Me, and explores the deep connections between the scientific method, research in the humanities, and the process of making of art. 

Jennifer Blackmer is the 2015 PEN/Laura Pels International Foundation for Theatre Emerging American playwright. Based in the Midwest, she is an Associate Professor of Theatre and Director of Immersive Learning at Ball State University. Her plays have been seen in New York, Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Berkeley and St. Louis, and include Human Terrain (The Lark, Mustard Seed Theatre, 5th Wall Theatre, IAMA Theatre Company), Unraveled (Theatre Unbound, Nashville Repertory Theatre), Alias Grace (Illinois Shakespeare Festival) and Delicate Particle Logic (Indra’s Net, The Playwrights’ Center, Break-a-Leg Productions at CUNY Graduate Center, NYC). Unraveled was named one of the ten best productions in the Twin Cities by Lavender Magazine, and Jennifer was lauded for superior achievement in playwriting. Her work has been a finalist for the David Charles Horn Prize for Emerging Playwrights (Yale Drama Competition), the Fratti-Newman Political Play Contest, the Firehouse Festival of New American Theatre, the O’Neill National Playwrights’ Conference and a semi-finalist for the Princess Grace Award and the Shakespeare’s Sister Fellowship. She is currently developing Human Terrain as a motion picture with B Powered Productions in Los Angeles. Recent directing credits include the American premiere of Lost: A Memoir at Indiana Repertory Theatre, and numerous productions at Ball State University.