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Mars, zombies and the ethics of voting open DePaul University Humanities Center season

Events are free and open to the public

The DePaul University Humanities Center opens its fall season with film, music and art inspired by Mars. (Image courtesy of iStock)

CHICAGO — A NASA scientist who turns Mars Curiosity rover data into art, the filmmaker of cerebral zombie flick “Pontypool,” and a discussion on the ethics of voting will kick off the DePaul University Humanities Center’s 2016-17 season. The center fosters discussion and research in the arts and humanities on campus and among the greater community. Events are free and open to the public and will be held in the Student Center, Room 120, at 2250 N. Sheffield Ave. on DePaul’s Lincoln Park Campus.

“One of the center’s themes this year is an investigation into the relations among the humanities, arts and space sciences,” said Professor H. Peter Steeves, director of the center. “We will feature NASA scientists, and Chicago’s Beethoven and Bach ensemble will play rarely heard works for strings, fortepiano and voice.

“For this year’s Horror of the Humanities, we will watch one of the greatest, scariest, and most semiotically nuanced zombie films ever made, ‘Pontypool,’” said Steeves. Fall events include:

The Humanities in Spaaaace!: Mars
Oct. 17
Film screening of “The Martian” 4:30-7 p.m.
Performances and lectures 7-9 p.m.

A NASA scientist and baroque quartet will appear during this celebration of the red planet. The evening will begin with a screening of the 2015 movie “The Martian.” Following the film, Chicago’s Beethoven and Bach Ensemble will perform works including “The Descent of Mars” from Jean Baptiste Lully’s “Thésée” (1675), as well as music composed by lutenist  Vicenzo Galilei, the father of ancient astronomer Galileo. Lectures will address science fiction’s treatment of Mars, as well as the melding of science and art in visualizing telemetry data from the Mars Curiosity rover. The great “canal controversy” of the late-1800s, which led to claims about Martian landscape, geography and culture, also will be discussed. Martian treats will be provided to the first 100 audience members in attendance. Guests include:

  • Chris Pak, editor of “The Science Fiction Research Association Review.”
  • Rachel Binx, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory.
  •  K. Maria D. Lane of the University of New Mexico’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies.
  • The Bach and Beethoven Ensemble, which includes Brandi Berry on baroque violin, Kiyoe Matsuura on baroque violin, Anna Steinhoff on viola da gamba and Dave Walker on theorbo. 
The Horror of the Humanities IV: “Pontypool”
Oct. 26
Everyday horrors haunted house presentation 6-6:30 p.m.
Film screening of “Pontypool” 6:30-8:15 p.m.
Conversation with film director Bruce McDonald and star Stephen McHattie 8:15-9 p.m.
The DePaul Humanities Center’s fourth-annual Halloween event begins with an avant-garde “haunted house” featuring multimedia, interactive posters, installation art, and exhibits pointing to the horror of everyday life. The display also explores the relationship between horror and the history of the humanities. The evening continues with a screening of the zombie film “Pontypool,” and concludes with a talk and Q&A with the film’s director, Bruce McDonald, and its star, Stephen McHattie. 

Transformations: "Why You Shouldn’t Vote Tomorrow"
Nov. 7, 7-9 p.m.
The final event this fall is a discussion about the ethics of voting. “This event promises to be a lively and untraditional take on the U.S. election and political process in general,” said Steeves. “I think it will challenge those in attendance to consider their own political beliefs and identities.” Following the on-stage discussion, there will be time for questions and comments from the audience. Scheduled participants include:

  • Colman McCarthy, former columnist for The Washington Post, and current director of The Center for Teaching Peace in Washington, D.C.
  • R.L. Stephens II, Chicago activist, labor organizer and co-founder of Orchestrated Pulse.
  • Stephanie McMillan, cartoonist, author and organizer.
  • Jibran Ludwig, a student from Shimer College.
  • The Meijer Twins, authors, teachers, artists.      
More events are scheduled for the winter and spring, including a discussion with Royal Ballet Principal Edward Watson, Feb. 16. In June, the final event of the season will celebrate 50 years since the release of the Beatles’ “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” Learn more about the center and upcoming events at

H. Peter Steeves

Media Contact:
Kristin Mathews