The Humanities Plunge

Humanities Plunge

Spring Break 2018 (March 26-March 30, 2018)


Music • Theatre • Dance • Architecture • History • Neighborhood Cultures • Art

Immerse yourself in Chicago’s rich cultural landscape with five days of theatre, art, music, architecture, and history, guided by expert scholars and artists!

Peek behind the scenes at major cultural institutions! Sample new foods in new neighborhoods! Discover plays, museums, performances and walking tours! This serious humanities course will be seriously FUN as you encounter the broad range of institutions and activities available just next door by exploring Chicago’s neighborhoods and cultural scene.

2018 Humanities Plunge

General Information

  • All Northwestern undergraduates are eligible to apply for the Humanities Plunge—all majors, years, and schools are welcome.
  • All costs associated with the program are covered by the Kaplan Humanities Scholars Program, including event tickets, transportation, and some meals; however, students are responsible for their own housing and for meals outside the hours of Humanities Plunge programming.
  • The Humanities Plunge will run from Monday, March 26-Friday, March 30, 2018. Participants are expected to attend ALL events and excursions during this time.
  • Students accepted into the Humanities Plunge are required to register for the course in Spring 2018, which is for ½ course credit and graded pass/no pass. There are no class meetings during spring quarter. However, in addition to three blog entries posted by each student during spring break, a short reflective paper will be due early in spring quarter.
  • Please note that tuition remains constant for students enrolled in 3.00 to 5.5 units of credit. Enrollment in more than 5.5 units of credit, overload enrollment, will result in additional tuition charges. See the Undergraduate Financial Aid website for information about tuition and financial aid for overload enrollment.
  • If you have any special needs or questions, or if you have individual concerns about registering for ½ course credit, please contact
  • Click for application instructions and deadline.


2017 Humanities Plunge

Humanities Plunge student composition of type and paper at Spudnik PressMonday - The Written and Spoken Word
The creative process of literary production from "idea stage," to manufacture of a printed text, to the performance of reading

  • Storytelling workshop with Rives Collins (Associate Professor of Theatre)
  • Letterpress and bookbinding workshop at Spudnik Press
  • Live lit reading and discussion with authors Megan Stielstra and Parneshia Jones at Women and Children First independent bookstore
  • Dinner at Ethiopian Diamond

Humanities Plunge students outside The Field Museum

Tuesday - Spaces of Art
The politics/history/aesthetics of art curatorial practices and exhibition
  • Tattoo exhibit at The Field Museum with Mary Weismantel (Professor of Anthropology)
  • Guided tour of National Museum of Mexican Art 
  • Pilsen neighborhood murals walk
  • Lunch at La Cebollita


 Wednesday - The Materials of Performance
The relationship between performance, theatrical spaces, and the labor that goes into making the end result

  • Lyric Opera of Chicago behind-the-scenes tour
  • Chicago History Museum costume collection storage session and Making Mainbocher exhibit viewing
  • Lookingglass Theatre Company production of Beyond Caring
  • Dinner at Gino's East PizzaPilsen mural

Thursday - Improvisational Comedy
Exploration of improvisation/comedy as history, practice and performance.Chicago History Museum

  • Northwestern Library Archive Collections of Commedia dell'arte and improvisational theatre teacher Viola Spolin
  • Improvisation workshop at The iO Theatre
  • Performance by The Improvised Shakespeare Co.
  • Lunch at Reza's Mediterranean and Persian
  • Dinner at Opart Thai
Friday - Re-thinking the Humanities in Chicago Urban Spaces

Consider the relationship between Chicago neighborhoods and the arts therein to catalyze conversation about how we navigate the city, encounter its history, and experience the humanitiesImprov workshop at iO Theatre

  • Tour of Chicago via chartered CTA train car with guide Bill Savage (Associate Professor of Instruction, English)
  • Tour the Rebuild Foundation and Stony Island Arts Bank
  • Visit the Black Cinema House exhibit
  • Presentation of documentary materials with filmmaker Bruce Orenstein
  • Catered Dinner by Soulwich


2016 Humanities Plunge


  • Tour of Chicago by Chartered CTA ‘L’ train, with guide Paul Durica of Illinois Humanities & Pocket Guide to Hell
  • Garfield Park Conservatory
  • Tour of The Plant (a collaborative community of agricultural and other food producing businesses in a repurposed meat packing plant)
  • Lunch: Los Comales Taqueria #3 + Pilsen neighborhood exploration


  • Introduction to Commedia dell’Arte and the Viola Spolin Collection at the Northwestern Library Archives
  • The Second City improvisation workshop
  • Goose Island Brewpub with Goose Island history by one of the brewers
  • The Second City’s 104th Revue: Fool Me Twice, Déjà vu
  • Lunch: Reza’s Mediterranean and Persian Restaurant


  • Material history of the book presentation with Professor Jules Law
  • Letterpress and Bookbinding workshop at Spudnik Press
  •  “Writing, Reading, and Publishing in Chicago” reading and discussion with authors and live lit performers Megan Stielstra & Samantha Irby at Women & Children First bookstore
  • Dinner: Ethiopian Diamond


  • Gallery visit with contemporary music ensemble eighth blackbird
  • Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago exhibition Pop Art Design 
  • Lookingglass Theatre Company: Blood Wedding by Federico Garcia Lorca + post-show discussion with members of the creative team
  • Al fresco lunch: Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches


  • Tour the Rebuild Foundation
  • Stony Island Arts Bank archiving project  
  • Washington Park Arts Incubator tour
  • eighth blackbird concert Ghostlight with Bonnie “Prince” Billy at MCA
  • Lunch: Currency Exchange Café
  • Dinner: Gino’s East of Chicago


2015 Humanities Plunge  


  • Chicago Architecture Foundation walking tour “Chicago Old and New: Intersections”
  • Lunch at Reza’s (Middle Eastern) in Andersonville neighborhood
  • Music Box Theatre and It Follows film; post-film discussion with Nick Davis (English, Gender & Sexuality Studies)


  • “Histories of Botanical Illustration” with Environmental Humanities Postdoctoral Fellow Sheila Wille
  • Botanical drawing class at the Chicago Botanic Garden
  • Marie Antoinette at Steppenwolf Theatre; post-performance talk back with Derek Matson


  • Introduction to Commedia dell’Arte and the Viola Spolin Collection at the Northwestern Library Archives
  • The Second City workshop on fundamentals of improv comedy
  • Dinner at Ethiopian Diamond in Edgewater neighborhood
  • The Second City's 103rd Mainstage Revue


  • Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) Doris Salcedo Retrospective
  • "How To Get Power: The Seldoms Dance with LBJ and the 60s" with Michael Kramer (History)
  • MCA Main Stage Premier of "Power Goes" by the Chicago-based dance company The Seldoms
  • Dinner at Francesca’s on Chestnut (Italian) in Streeterville neighborhood


  • Lyric Opera Chicago behind-the-scenes tour and sneak peek of new mariachi opera El Pasado Nunca Se Termina
  • Chicago Symphony Orchestra “Beyond the Score” production of Brahms Symphony No. 3
  • Dinner at Turquoise (Turkish) in Roscoe Village neighborhood