Fairfield Alumna and Theatre Major Jennifer Katona ’99 brings arts-focused community outreach program to the University’s Quick Center.
There is a great world of opportunity in arts education.
— Jennifer Katona '99, PhD, lecturer and program director for The City College of New York Educational Theatre Program
Fairfield University welcomed 100 Bridgeport students from Bassick High School’s junior class for an all-day visual and performing arts immersion experience at the Quick Center for the Arts on Friday, October 27. The community outreach program was spearheaded by Fairfield alumna and theatre major Jennifer Katona ’99, PhD, who was excited to have the opportunity to return to campus and collaborate with the Fairfield University Art Museum, Quick Center, and the College of Arts and Sciences’ Visual and Performing Arts Department on the educational initiative.
“As an undergrad, I was very passionate about theatre and arts education, and that connection started for me at Fairfield,” said Dr. Katona, who is now a lecturer and program director for The City College of New York Educational Theatre Program. “It was the kind of work I always wanted to do, so it feels great to come back to campus and bring things full circle.”
During the all-day arts initiative, the visiting high school students were divided into groups of three and rotated through a series of 45 minute workshops that included a tour of the University’s Walsh Gallery, a hands-on arts project, an on-stage English and performing arts workshop with Dr. Katona, and a discussion with Visual and Performing Arts Professor Marti LoMonaco, PhD. Dr. LoMonaco’s discussion set the tone for the day and explored how the themes presented in the Greek tragedy Antigone - the complimentary play students would attend later that afternoon - fit into today’s global conversation and the injustices happening in society. After lunch, students attended a special matinee performance of Theatre Fairfield’s sold-out production of Antigone, and participated in an interactive talk back with members of the cast and production team.
“Anytime you can introduce students to live theater, you’re shifting their perspectives and exposing them to a new point of view,” explained Dr. Katona. “The majority of students at Bassick have never been to the theater before, and many have never even been on a field trip. We want to inspire these students to ask questions and think about the world in a different way. We want them to see themselves and their world reflected in the art they experience.”
Dr. Katona is committed to “playing the long game” and hopes this type of educational programming and artistic collaboration with Fairfield’s Visual and Performing Arts Department becomes a regular part of the Bassick culture.
“We approached Bassick with this opportunity because we wanted to partner with a school that was open to us building some roots and creating an annual program that fosters a theater culture,” she said. “We also want to use the program to create a shared experience for these students and show them that there are options beyond high school. At the same time, we hope to show Theatre Fairfield students that their career in theater isn’t limited to the stage. There is a great world of opportunity in arts education.”