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Lecture series spell back-to-school for the non-matriculated

In the late summer after I graduated from college, I remember my feelings of blissful accomplishment and freedom-at-last dwindling into a slow-burning jealousy as some of my younger friends were picking out courses for the coming semester. Perhaps you've felt something similar, but going back to school — or even taking a course here or there — just isn't in your time or bank budget.

The good news is that among the many opportunities for continuing your education are the numerous lecture series offered by area institutions. With specialized series focusing on science, literature, photography, art, politics, and theater, there's truly something for everyone, for little expense and time commitment. And attending can connect with others who have similar interests. Check out the following select series, and visit our online calendar at rochestercitynewspaper.com for more events.

Uncommon Voices

Founded in 1989, Rochester Arts & Lectures is a not-for-profit cultural organization that produces an annual six-part series of lectures by authors and artists. Each has made important contributions to the exchange of ideas in the fields of literature, criticism, art, science, and public affairs.

Past speakers have included bestselling novelists, American literary icons, Pulitzer Prize-winning authors, historians, scientists, poets, and Nobel Prize-winners. Some familiar names include Isabel Allende, Margaret Atwood, John Updike, Kurt Vonnegut, Norman Mailer, Jane Smiley, Frank McCourt; Daniel Boorstin, Stephen Jay Gould, Maya Angelou, Morris Dees, Garry Trudeau, and August Wilson.

In addition to the annual series, Arts & Lectures has produced special events including a lecture by Alice Walker at Nazareth College and lectures by Lily Tomlin and Beverly Sills at the Eastman Theatre, as well as several themed mini-series.

The 2015-2016 series kicks off October 15, with a lecture by Meg Wolitzer, a celebrated novelist and chronicler of contemporary American life and author of bestselling novel "The Interestings." The work follows the divergence into adulthood of six teenagers who became close at summer camp the year that Nixon resigned.

The remainder of the series: November 5, Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter and National Book Award winner Timothy Egan, whose writing topics have included survivors of the Great American Dust Bowl and the photography of Edward S. Curtis; December 3, Roxane Gay, author of "Bad Feminist"; March 3, essayist and novelist Leslie Jamison; April 7, Laila Lalami, author of "Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits"; and May 19, Daniel Mendelsohn, whose books and essays draw from pop culture, history, and autobiographical experience.

All lectures are held on Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., at the Downtown United Presbyterian Church (121 North Fitzhugh Street). The series tends to sell out quickly, and advance purchase of the entire series ($155) is recommended. Occasionally, individual lecture tickets are made available on a first-come, first-served basis beginning October 1. Tickets purchase and information: artsandlectures.org.

Stage Whispers

The College at Brockport's Stage Whispers series stems from an official alliance between Geva Theatre Center and Brockport's Department of Theatre and Music Studies. The alliance also entails having one of Geva's staff members teach a course at Brockport each semester and assigning one of Geva's directing fellows to direct one of the department's Mainstage productions. In addition, in the Stage Whispers series, under Geva's aegis theater professionals give public talks at the college about a life in the theater. In turn, the department supplies interns who work in both Geva's administrative offices and on their stages.

The Stage Whispers season opens October 29, with a talk by actor from Geva's production of "Red," about abstract expressionist Mark Rothko's struggle to create a series of grand-scale paintings for New York's Four Seasons restaurant. "Red" director Skip Greer will also join the talk.

The rest of the series: December 3, Geva Theatre's literary director and resident dramaturg Jenni Werner discussing an upcoming Hornet's Nest, readings of contemporary plays dealing with hot-button issues; February 11, an actor from Geva's production of "An Iliad," a re-telling of Homer's epic; and April 14, an Irish actor from "A Moon for the Misbegotten," which Geva is co-producing with the Theatre Royal (based in Rochester's Hibernian sister city of Waterford).

The talks, which are free and open to the public, are at 10 a.m. in the Tower Fine Arts Center (180 Holley Street, Brockport). Information: brockport.edu/finearts or 395-2787.

The George M. Ewing Canandaigua Forum

Honoring the legacy of the late publisher of the Canandaigua Daily Messenger Messenger-Post suburban weeklies, the George M. Ewing Canandaigua Forum is an annual series of three lectures held in the auditorium of Finger Lakes Community College (3325 Marvin Sands Drive, Canandaigua).

Past speakers have included Politico editor-in-chief John Harris, Emmy Award-winning writer and producer Michael Winship, former CEO of the UN World Food Program Catherine Bertini, former Deputy Secretary of State Jim Steinberg, Pulitizer Prize-winning journalist and author David Cay Johnston, and internationally known sculptor Albert Paley.

This year's series opens on September 20 with a program titled "Women's Rights Worldwide," commemorating the 20th anniversary of the last UN World Conference on Women. Speakers are Alyse Nelson, president, CEO, and co-founder of Vital Voices, a San Francisco-based organization that mentors emerging women leaders from all over the world, and Chouchou Namegabe, activist, radio journalist, and founding director of South Kivu Women's Media Association in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Next up: October 18, "The Long March to Camelot: How JFK's Presidential Campaign Revolutionized American Politics," marking the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy-Nixon debates. The speaker: Tom Oliphant, former Pulitzer Prize-winning correspondent for the Boston Globe, who is writing a book on Kennedy's political rise.

The season concludes on January 24, with "Capitalism vs Climate" by author Naomi Klein, author of five books including "The Shock Doctrine."

The lectures are at 4 p.m. on Sunday afternoons. Tickets are $15 per event ($40 for all three), or $40 for each event with admission to a reception ($115 for all three with reception). Reservations: Meg Ewing, 393-0281 or gmeforum.org.

Science on the Edge

For more than three decades, the Richard C. Shultz Science on the Edge lecture series at the Rochester Museum and Science Center has provided insight about current research in a range of scientific topics for members of the general public.

Talks are at 6:30 p.m. on Thursdays in the museum's Bausch Auditorium (657 East Avenue). The series: October 1, "Discovery of the God Particle: A Brief History," Dr. Carl Hagen, one of the scientists who developed theories of the Higgs mechanism and Higgs boson particle; October 15, "Green Infrastructure: Solutions to Stormwater Pollution," Caroline Kilmer, a stormwater consultant; October 29, "Playing an Instrument Changes Your Brain," Milly Jaynes, PhD candidate at the UR Medical Center; November 5, "Completion of a Dream: The Seneca Art & Culture Center," Peter Jemison, manager of the Ganondagan State Historic Site.

And: December 3, "Is Climate Change Real or Is It Just a Myth?" with Chiara Borelli, UR research fellow in oceanography and paleoclimatology; December 10, "Are We Wired to Think or Just Thinking of Wires?" with John O'Donnell, UR Medical Center PhD candidate; and December 17, "Physics of Photovoltaics: From the Beginning to Next Generation Nanotechnologies," Dr. Stephen Polly, of RIT's NanoPower Research Labs.

Seating is limited, so pre-registration is highly encouraged. Tickets are $15 per lecture ($13 for RMSC members, $8 for students, and $7 for RMSC members/students). To register, call 697-1942.

Wish You Were Here

The George Eastman House offers a varied lineup of travel photography lectures focusing on nature, people, and culture throughout the world. Last season's speakers, for instance, included NASA Astronaut Donald Pettit, who has arguably traveled farther than any other photographer on the series' roster.

This season's series: September 10, "Lands End," with photographer-sculptor John Chiara, who creates one-of-a-kind, hand-built cameras, the largest of which is a 50" x 80" field camera transported on a flatbed trailer; November 12, "This is Where I Live," with Wendy Ewald, who spent the past 2 1/2 years traveling in Israel and the West Bank, distributing cameras and asking participants to document families and surroundings; and December 12, series sponsor Tom Tischer, who will share images from his own cruises, and will trace the history of the modern cruise industry.

All lectures take place at 6 p.m. in the Dryden Theatre at Eastman House (900 East Avenue). Admission is $6 for adults, $3 for students (unless otherwise noted), and free to museum members. For more information, call 271-3361, or visit eastmanhouse.org.

Debut Novel Series

After a successful inaugural season, Writers & Books will continue its Debut Novel Series this fall, celebrating new novelists with a sequence of forums, seminars, and classes surrounding two author visits. Last season's authors included Mira Jacob, author of "The Sleepwalker's Guide to Dancing"; Boris Fishman, "A Replacement Life"; and Karen Thompson Walker, "The Age of Miracles."

The 2015-2016 series selections authors are Lauren Acampora, author of "The Wonder Garden," a collection of linked stories set in a suburban town; and Carola Dibbell, author of "The Only Ones," about a post-pandemic world, in which a young woman exploits her immunity by selling and renting herself, until the scheme goes awry.

Acampora's events: a publishing forum, 7:30 p.m. November 19; public reading and book signing, 7:30 p.m. November 20; and a master class, 10 a.m. November 21. Dibbell will visit Rochester May 18 through 21; those events have not yet been announced. Also in the series: a seminar by Karen vanMeenen, the coordinator of W&B's "If All of Rochester Read the Same Book," 7 p.m. October 19.

Some events have fees associated with them, and require registration. Information: Karen@wab.org and wab.org/debut-novel-series.

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