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Porgy and Bess

Wayne Shirley’s edition of The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess will enjoy a full-length performance by the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, and the University Musical Society, on Saturday, February 17, 2018. With a book by DuBose and Dorothy Heyward, additional lyrics by Ira Gershwin, and with music by George Gershwin, Porgy and Bess has long been considered on of the great American operas. (See the UMS website for information on attending this event.)

As a response to this performance, we will be holding a multi-day academic symposium on the opera that not only will provide an historical and contextual overview of the work and its place in the Gershwins’ oeuvre, but that will also address the issues of cultural appropriation and representation that surround it. The events in the symposium are free and open to the public—and are detailed below. Attendees of the Friday, February 16, events (excluding Kaleidoscope) should register to attend. The lunch and keynote event will be available by invitation to those who have expressed interest.

*Please register early, as space is limited to 100 guests.

Please email any questions to Jessica Getman at


The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess: A Symposium
Friday, February 16th, 9AM–5PM
Saturday, February 17th, 2PM–4:30PM
Gallery, Hatcher Graduate Library

“The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess: A Symposium” is a multi-day event that specifically engages with issues of race, representation, activism, and appropriation in this opera. Friday presents a full day of performances and panel discussions on the context of the work, its characters, its reception, and its impact on the careers of singers of color, with a keynote lecture by Dr. Kyra Gaunt. Our performances and discussions continue on Saturday with a recital of songs from the opera’s period, a panel discussion on black performance and performativity in the early 20th century, and a panel of related student papers. This symposium prepares audiences for the Saturday evening performance of the opera produced by the UMS and the School of Music, Theatre & Dance in Hill Auditorium. Registration is required. Please visit for more information.

Kaleidoscope: A Student Arts Festival
Friday, February 16th, 5:30PM–7PM
Hill Auditorium

Join us for cultural sharing between groups from across campus, including performances of Southeast Asian dance, Korean Pop, Black Gospel, spoken word, and more. How do we share and borrow from one another, and where are the lines between representation, glorification, appreciation, and appropriation? We will have food, performances by students, and, most importantly, an open and safe dialogue about cultural appropriation in the arts.

Pre-Show Talk: Porgy and Bess
Saturday, February 17th, 6:30PM
Hill Auditorium Mezzanine Lobby

An introduction to the opera by Naomi André (Associate Professor of Women’s Studies & Afroamerican and African Studies) and Jessica Getman (Managing Editor of the U-M George and Ira Gershwin Critical Edition).

Talking about Porgy and Bess: A Post-Performance Discussion
Sunday, February 18th, 2PM–4PM
Gallery, Hatcher Graduate Library

A forum for discussing the UMS/SMTD performance of “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” led by the Porgy and Bess Symposium Planning Committee, including Naomi André, Mark Clague, Jessica Getman, Elizabeth James, and Willie Sullivan.