Winter 2020

Message from the Dean

Arts and Sciences Dean David V. Powers, PhD

The next several months will include some of the most important work toward the future of the university in many years.

The newly approved University Strategic Directions outline vision and goals for the university over the next five years, charting a course for success and excellence through the shifting tides of higher education in the United States. With those strategic directions in hand, the college will finalize our own strategic plan to support and complement the goals of the university. You can find the university documents here, and we will announce opportunities to view and contribute to the College’s plan over the coming months.

Meanwhile, have a peek at some of the many amazing things going on in the College of Arts & Sciences.

David V. Powers, Dean
College of Arts and Sciences
Seattle University

Seattle U Theatre: 45 Plays for 45 Presidents

Does the idea of a play about US presidential history bring back flashbacks of memorizing them, in order, in grade school? (The older you are, the easier it was.) Or maybe school plays with kids in powdered wigs and stovepipe hats, “We have nothing to fear but fear itself,” and “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country”?

45 Plays for 45 Presidents by Andy Bayiates, Sean Benjamin, Genevra Gallo-Bayiates, Chloe Johnston, and Karen Weinberg could not be more different. Following closely on President’s Day this year, Seattle University’s theatre program offers this decidedly 21st Century perspective on our country’s leaders and American history. The play comes to the Lee Center for the Arts at Seattle University, February 19 through March 1, under the direction of Jane Nichols. Tickets are available online here.

"Hilarious, difficult, insightful, revelatory and totally unforgettable. Like Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, (the play) helps illuminate, in [a] speculatively subversive manner." David Cashman, Chicago Weekly News

Photo of Rosa Joshi“Our production of this remarkable collection of 2-minute plays is particularly timely,” said Rosa Joshi, who points out that Washington State’s newly scheduled primary is March 10. “45 Presidents clearly supports the message of civic participation, and we are excited to promote voter registration and participation during the run of the play.”

Jasmine MahmoudDr. Jasmine Mahmoud, Professor, Arts Leadership, is spearheading efforts to develop talkbacks after most performances of the play. “We are partnering with other SU departments like Political Science, Women and Gender Studies, the Institute of Public Service to offer a wide variety of perspectives and engage audiences in further discussion,” she said. Additionally, Lily Noto, ’21, and Stefania Giroud Zuluaga, ’22, the program’s Theatre Communications Fellows, are developing plans for the voter registration and participation activities.

In 2002, the writers and performers at Chicago’s Neo-Futurists premiered what was then 43 Plays for 43 Presidents.  “The idea and development of the play were informed by the push and pull of the personalities in the 2000 election,” explained co-creator Chloe Johnston in a recent conversation. “It expanded as we explored the importance of the figurehead and symbolic power.”

Chloe Johnston and Coya Paz Brownrigg(Chloe Johnston will be in residence at Seattle University during the opening of the play, as part of a parallel event with the SU Arts Leadership Book Club, featuring “Ensemble-Made Chicago: A Guide to Devised Theater” coauthored by her and Coya Paz Brownrigg. See below.)

Over the past 18 years, the play has expanded, first in offering the audience the opportunity to choose between candidates’ plays during each election year, and then adding plays for our 44th and 45th presidents. A number of the plays have also been rewritten during that time. Johnston says, “How we feel about history has changed and evolved since the play premiered in 2002. There was an original major oversight in not acknowledging that President Washington owned slaves. The two President Bush plays have also changed.”

"Deeply moving, stealthily patriotic... (the creators) have delivered a dramatic work of considerable originality and comic integrity." Wendell Brock, Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Neo-Futurists’ website describes them as “a collective of wildly productive writer/director/performers who create theater that is a fusion of sport, poetry and living-newspaper and non-illusory, interactive performance that conveys our experiences and ideas as directly and honestly as possible.” Johnston explains, “In the Neo-Futurists, you never play a character. You are not stepping into this other persona and you’re not trying to suspend audience disbelief.”

This means that any performer may play any role in 45 Presidents. The Neo-Futurists have long embraced casting beyond gender and ethnicity (well before Hamilton became renowned for its remarkably diverse representation of America’s Founding Fathers and other historical figures.) “We are creating a visual of ‘this is our shared history, if I’m on stage, I can play the character’. You aren’t doing an impression of Bill Clinton or imitating Barack Obama.” One recent production even featured an all-female cast.

 “This play is an incredible opportunity for our students to stretch their skills in ensemble based work,” said Joshi. “The actors are challenged to play multiple roles in a fast paced, physically driven, hyper theatrical world.”

At a time when politics and elections feel more divisive, a question of partisanship rises when talking about 45 Presidents. Johnston comments that responses have not necessarily fallen along partisan lines and that push back is part of the conversation. “We couldn’t have imagined the incredible life of this play, largely with colleges, high schools, and small theatres,” she said. “It has been produced in small towns all over the country. Based on location, I have to believe it has been staged by people of all political bents.” She also says that the creators see push back as part of the conversation they hope to prompt.

"The creators juxtapose the word with image, sound with light, humor, with sentiment, with just the right touch of insight and sociopolitical commentary." Tim Sauers, Gay Chicago

There have been interesting moments unrelated to current politics. Audience members certainly have “favorite” presidents; in Massachusetts, the theatre received numerous angry emails about the portrayal of John Quincy Adams. President Carter attended a performance in Atlanta. The cast was a little nervous, meeting President and Mrs. Carter afterwards, only to have her comment that “you were so hard on all of the presidents but you were so kind to Jimmy.”

45 Plays for 45 Presidents is a statement of history, of being American, of being in America,” said Johnston. “It is kind of feel good, which feels weird to say, considering there are certainly dark parts of history, especially at this moment when we are really reckoning with that. There is a lot for a lot of people to get out of the show, but the play changes so quickly, it’s very energizing.” She also pointed out that the play is pretty all ages and many families have attended together. “You can tell when a kid’s favorite president comes on stage.”

Buy your tickets now, here online.

(Images, top to bottom: Chloe Johnston and Coya Paz Brownrigg; Rosa Joshi; Dr. Jasmine Mahmoud.)

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Angela Saini, Award-Winning Science Journalist and Author

author Angela SainiThe 2019-20 Seattle University Common Text Program presents Science, Race and Power: Angela Saini on February 4, 6:30 p.m. in Pigott Auditorium. Tickets are $12 and are available online here.

(A limited number of free tickets are available to Seattle University students; contact Dr. Jeff Philpott by email, for information.)

Award-winning science journalist, author and broadcaster Angela Saini talks with Seattle University faculty member and journalist Ruchika Tulshyan about her latest book, Superior: The Return of Race Science, which explores the murky history of race science and the ways in which it is being resurrected in the 21st century.

Combining science, history and politics, she explains how race maps out biologically, the abuse of the idea of race, and how those on the far right are attempting to repackage racism.

Book Cover: Superior, The Return of Race ScienceSuperior: The Return of Race Science will be available for purchase at the event and Ms. Saini will sign books following the program.

Read about the book here.

Sponsored by Seattle University’s Core Curriculum, College of Arts and Sciences, and College of Science and Engineering.

Seattle U Gives

Logo for Seattle U Gives with two hands reachingJoin us as a Seattle U Ambassador for the College of Arts and Sciences

Seattle U Gives is the university’s day of giving and a celebration of the uncommon generosity and impact of our community. For 24 hours, Seattle U alumni, students, parents, friends, staff and faculty come together to invest in what matters most to them at Seattle University.

This year, Seattle U Gives is on February 6 from 12:01 a.m. to 11:59 p.m. PST, online here.

The College of Arts and Sciences’ Seattle U Gives campaign provides support for extraordinary students like these:

Thea Mercer, 2020, Arts LeadershipThea Mercer, ’20, Arts Leadership, recipient of the Mary H. and David A. Gallant Endowed Scholarship.

“Discovering the BA in Interdisciplinary Arts Leadership at Seattle University is allowing me to transition from an instructor in the hairdressing trade into a second career as an arts administrator. I have a keen interest in learning about fundraising for cultural preservation within the arts sector. This program is providing the theory and practical application of working in the field as an arts administrator. I am very much looking forward to this new direction when I graduate in Spring 2020.


Mariana Renteria, 2020, Criminal Justice and PsychologyMariana Renteria, ’20, Double Major, Criminal Justice and Psychology, recipient of the Ann and Bruce Blume Criminal Justice Endowed Scholarship

“I intern for the Seattle University Immigration Clinic through which I interview detainees in immigration detention centers in order to assist a legal team and psychologist in creating petitions for asylum. I also intern for Obsidian Forensics and assist in creating psychological evaluations that seek to support the behavioral, academic, and emotional needs for youths with trauma. I am a Serve Local Ambassador for the Center for Community Engagement and a Shinnyo Fellow. I am a research Assistant for Dr. J. Helfgott for a revision of her textbook.

Matthew Conde, 2023, Communication and JournalismMatthew Conde, ’23, Communication with Specialization in Journalism, Sullivan Leadership Scholarship

One day, I aspire to provide the world with reputable news that brings people together, rather than growing distant. Being a Seattle University student brings me closer to my dreams because they provide me with a rigorous academic program. Having an interesting philosophy class, I question the ethics and moralities of the US Mass Media System. Seattle University prepares me for life beyond graduation, as its curriculum allows me to cultivate my public speaking skills and to fight against injustices, while helping me grow in my spiritual,  athletic, intellectual, and personal self--cura personalis.

Learn more about these remarkable students.

You can give to the College of Arts and Sciences or to the program of your choice. Before February 6, bookmark our giving page. To designate your gift to your favorite Arts and Sciences program and/or department, please select “other” and include a note in the comments field.

Seattle U Gives is also your opportunity to share what you most value about the university with your networks of family, friends, and colleagues. As an Ambassador, we will give you the tools to promote your support as widely as you wish.

Contact Katie Chapman by email or call her at (206) 398-4401 to find out how to become a Seattle U Gives Ambassador or to answer any questions you might have.

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