Acknowledging the uncertainty of the current polarized times, the upcoming season at the Sheen Center for Thought & Culture in lower Manhattan spotlights stories in film, theater, talks and visual art designed to elevate and educate audiences, and highlights the ability of the human spirit to ascend in times of adversity.
The Sheen Center’s film/talkback series begins Thursday, Sept. 19, at 7 p.m. in the Loreto Theater with the 30th anniversary of the acclaimed film “Romero,” starring Raúl Juliá as Salvadoran martyr and recently canonized saint Archbishop Oscar Romero. The film explores the life and ministry of the 20th century martyr who was steadfast in faith in the midst of political turmoil. A post-screening talkback with screenwriter John Sacret Young (“China Beach” “The West Wing”) will follow.
American Slavery Project’s “Unheard Voices,” Oct. 15-16 at 11 a.m. and 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theater, marks the 400th anniversary of the arrival of enslaved Africans to the Jamestown colony with a monologue play with singing and traditional African drumming based on the lives of individuals whose remains are interred at the African Burial Ground in lower Manhattan. Post-show talkbacks will be led by American Slavery Project’s producing artistic director, Judy Tate.
The Gene Alexander Peters Collection of Rare and Historical African American Artifacts will be on display in the theater lobby, which will include historical documents of sale and other physical artifacts from the era, making tangible the transactional reality once imposed on human life.
“The Gospel of John,” Nov. 30-Dec. 29 in the Black Box Theater, is the theatrical centerpiece of the season, with a performance by award-winning Broadway actor Ken Jennings (“Sweeney Todd,” “Grand Hotel,” “Sideshow”) in a production that weds prayer and theater in a profoundly intimate retelling of the life of Christ.
The Justice Film Festival returns Nov. 12-16 with a collection of films accentuating deeply human stories that emerge from diverse social justice issues. The annual showcase of socially conscious feature films, documentaries and shorts celebrates stories of social justice, unexpected courage and redemption, including many followed by a talkback with filmmakers.
The first film to be announced is the documentary “Hesburgh,” about Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., longtime president of the University of Notre Dame, a formidable Catholic leader at a tumultuous time in U.S. history. The film explores his role in advancing the causes of peace and equal rights alongside 20th century giants.
The Sheen Center is a platform for engaged discussion on a broad range of issues, hosting thought leaders in media, academia, faith and politics. The new season sees the return of America Media president and editor in chief Father Matthew Malone, S.J., hosting the timely “The Popes & Presidents: Commemorating 35 Years of Diplomatic Relations Between the Holy See and the United States,” with Ambassadors R. James Nicholson, Miguel H. Díaz and Kenneth F. Hackett,” Tuesday, Sept. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Loreto Theater.
The Sheen Center is introducing a new series this season, “Virtue in America: Hope,” Monday, Oct. 7, at 7 p.m. in the Black Box Theater. National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez explores the meaning and aspirational dimensions of the virtue of hope in light of today’s dystopian discourse. She is joined by Peter Wehner, Michael R. Wear and Kristen Hanson, widow of former Marine and patients’ rights advocate J.J. Hanson. Wehner is the author of “The Death of Politics” and served as senior adviser to the George W. Bush administration. Wear is the author of “Reclaiming Hope” and was a member of the Obama administration’s faith-based initiatives outreach team.
Distinguished authors Mary Eberstadt, Father Wilson Miscamble, C.S.C., Randy Boyagada and Tim Carney will each discuss their new books at the Sheen Center’s Author’s Nights. They include:
• “A Life in the Public Square: An Evening With Author Randy Boyagada,” Friday, Sept. 27 at 7 p.m. in Studio Theater, commemorating the 10th anniversary of the death of one of the most influential figures in 20th century American Catholicism, Father Richard John Neuhaus. Focusing on his years serving as a priest in the Archdiocese of New York, author and biographer Randy Boyogada (“Richard John Neuhaus: A Life in the Public Square”) will be joined in conversation by First Things editor R.R. Reno.
• “Alienated in America: An Evening with Author Tim Carney,” Thursday, Oct. 10, at 7 p.m. in the Studio Theater. Washington Examiner editor Timothy Carney talks about his new book, “Alienated in America” and explains why failing social connections—as evidenced by declining numbers in marriage, voting, church attendance and volunteer work—are responsible for the great divide in America. He will be interviewed by Ms. Lopez.
The exhibition “Sacred Art Institute of St. Edmund’s Retreat: A Reflection of the Creative Genius of God,” will be displayed from Sept. 10 to Oct. 13 in the Gallery. The work will include examples of Byzantine iconography, illuminated manuscripts, calligraphy, stained glass and woodcarving. The Sacred Art Institute was founded to promote, preserve and rediscover the role of sacred art in the story of salvation. The exhibit will provide a glimpse into its mission and ministry.
A project of the archdiocese, the Sheen Center is located at 18 Bleecker St.
Information: SheenCenter.org or (212) 925-2812.