Don’t overlook summer learning

You may (or may not) have noticed that the subject of education has not really figured into the ol’ C-U Blogfidential. Certain factors feed directly into its absence, primarily the lack of film-making anything at our local colleges and a baffling absence of promotion for film events at the University of Illinois that do not readily invoke the name “Roger Ebert.” I find this sad, particularly in regards to UIUC’s Unit for Cinema Studies; they never seem too interested in extending a grapevine in my general direction through which I could learn about their non-course showings and guest speakers and then pass the information along to you, especially for events open to the public.

It usually takes the on-campus appearance of a heavyweight – Spike Lee, Michael Moore, Morgan Spurlock – to spur interest, although that usually favors the primary issues discussed in the artists’ work and not the art form itself. I pine for the days when disparate auteurs like Jean-Luc Godard and Russ Meyer would show up (within weeks of each other, no less) to provide our community with a cinematic shot in the arm that didn’t necessarily arrive under a cloud of political agenda. Even when registered university organizations do manage to land interesting independent filmmakers as guest speakers, such as Nisha Ganatra (CHUTNEY POPCORN) or Greg Pak (ROBOT STORIES), I usually find out about them through outdated posters hung in places I normally don’t frequent. Hrumph.

Outside of academic environs, however, we do have options. I’ve posted before about Avon Theater owner Skip Huston and his genre film classes offered through Decatur‘s Richland Community College. The Head Honcho’s summertime series, boldly referencing a particular C-U film festival, features one hand-picked, underappreciated movie per evening with lively discussion afterwards. The following is the catalog listing for the class, courtesy of the Avon mailing list:

Overlooked Films Part V – WKS 8585
Sect. 01: Thurs., June 7 – July 26      Time: 6:30 – 9:00 p.m.
Instructor: Skip Huston
Place: Avon Theatre, Downtown Decatur      Cost: $80

Here is the latest edition of the most popular of the Avon Film Class series! Avon Theatre owner and film historian Skip Huston handpicks movies from many different genres that you have probably never heard of, yet will be some of your newest favorite films! Many fabulous films with major stars and critical acclaim simply fly below the radar in the ultra-competitive film business. This means you never have a chance to see some really great movies! Now, thanks to the Overlooked Film Classes, you can spend 8 weeks in the summer screening and discussing many movies that will astound you with their quality yet might be ones you have no prior knowledge of at all! Find out how hundreds of Decatur people spend their summers at The Avon for Overlooked Film Classes!

Meanwhile… If your interest is acting out creatively, then you might want to consider the 10-week program offered by Bloomington playwright and performer Kymberly Harris. Almost like clockwork, I’ll find her ubiquitous yellow flyers in and near the Coffee House in downtown Normal every spring touting these classes, geared towards “[enhancing] your individual creativity, literacy, self esteem, musicality, movement, sense of fun, self confidence, performance, and theatre skills.” Four concurrent classes will cater towards different age groups: ages 3-7, 8-12, 13-17, and Adult. More description and contact information can be found at this Web site, or you can write Harris directly if you want to sign up. The sessions begin next week starting on June 4 and will be held downstairs at the Coffee House.

Harris earned acting or theatre degrees from Knox College in Galesburg, IL, Illinois State University in Normal, and the Actor’s Studio Drama School in NYC. She has written five produced stage plays and is Artistic Director of Fresh Bread Productions, Inc., a non-profit theatre troupe. Her on-screen credits include SEX IN THE CITY on HBO, the short films THE BORDERLINE and THE NAVIGATOR, and the made-in-Wisconsin horror feature WITCHES’ NIGHT.

~ Jason Pankoke

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