If ever the timing was sadly right for an exhibit, here you go.

Opening Monday in Illinois Wesleyan University's Merwin Gallery in the Ames School of Art is the traveling show, "Women's Rights Are Human Rights: International Posters on Gender-based Inequality, Violence and Discrimination."

On view in this showcase of boldly expressive graphic designs from around the world: 75 posters created by both women and men, all the better to celebrate and acknowledge what is described as "the vital role that all citizens play in protecting and promoting human rights."

The exhibit was organized and curated by Elizabeth Resnick, a professor emerita of graphic design with the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston.

In a current state of affairs in which gender inequality seems to dominate our headlines on a daily basis, Resnick's amassing of images resonate with brute force as they (in her words) "challenge gender stereotypes, advance reproductive and sexual rights, advocate protecting women and girls against brutality, and promote women's empowerment, education and participation in society."

According to Resnick, the show's title hails from "an important speech given by Hillary Rodham Clinton at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995."

In her speech, Clinton suggested that "if the term 'women’s rights' were to be interchangeable with the term 'human rights' the world community would be a better place because human rights affect the women who raise the world’s children, care for the elderly, run companies, work in hospitals, right for better education and better health care."

The posters amassed from around the globe by Resnick may be indigenous in design concepts and texts, but the visual messages being conveyed through them are universal.

"Gender inequalities remain deeply entrenched in every society," she notes. "In many cultures women have very little control over their own bodies, with female sexuality being largely controlled and defined by men in patriarchal societies.

"Sexual violence committed by men is often rooted in ideologies of male sexual entitlement, and these systems grant women very few legitimate options to refuse sexual advances."

She adds: "This entitlement can take different forms, depending on the culture. Human rights and women’s rights are violated every single day as the rape and brutality of women is used as an instrument of armed conflict. And when women are excluded from the political process, they become even more vulnerable to abuse."

As part of the exhibit, which continues through Feb. 22, one of the acclaimed poster artists, Luba Lukova, will present a free talk on the topic at 6 p.m. Feb. 6 in the Merwin Gallery.

Abridged too far?: It does get confusing sometimes, if just cursory glances are all you cast over the local arts scene.

Take, for example, the confluence of two theatrical presentations crossing paths this coming week, both involving the abridgment of William Shakespeare's canon. 

Opening this weekend on the stage of Bloomington's Community Players was "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)," the farcical reduction of all 37 Bard texts into a single knockabout blend of improvisation and much cross-dressing.

As the production enters its second weekend (Friday-Jan. 21), it will be met on its own knockabout turf by a one-night stand from the Chicago-based Reduced Shakespeare Company.

The troupe is coming to town at 7:30 p.m. Friday, via the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts with its staging of "William Shakespeare's Long Lost First Play (Abridged)."

Instead of burning your abridges ... see both.

Improv your acting skills: Speaking of the Reduced Shakespeare Company (who'll be profiled in Thursday's GO! section, by the way), the troupe is checking into town a day early on Thursday.

That's not reduction; that's expansion!

What gives?

The giving occasion: The RSC boys are offering up a free improv acting class at the BCPA, starting at 6 p.m.

It's for actors, age 15 on up, with space limited and registration required by calling Nick at 309-434-2768.

Participants should wear clothing that allows for easy movement ... if that's any hint of the improvisatory antics in store.

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Dan Craft is Pantagraph entertainment editor. He can be reached at 309-829-9000, Ext. 259 or via email at dcraft@pantagraph.com 



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