Keynote speakers for 2010 IdeaFest at The U include anthropology professor, creative artists

VERMILLION, S.D. -- What do an anthropologist, an actor with a recurring role on “CSI” and an actress who’s also a celebrated novelist have in common with IdeaFest 2010 at The University of South Dakota? All three are the keynote speakers for IdeaFest, April 7-8.

David Frayer, Ph.D., a professor in the department of anthropology at the University of Kansas, will present the program, “Neandertals and Us,” at 12:30 p.m. at the Muenster University Center Ballroom. Frayer, who has a B.A. degree from Miami University, a master’s degree from Case Western Reserve University and received his Ph.D. from the University of Michigan, has focused his attention on European paleoanthropology and dental anthropology. His early research involved the internal dynamics and long-term evolutionary trends in European Upper Paleolithic and Mesolithic populations. For the past two decades he has published extensive articles on the relationship between Neandertal and subsequent European populations.

A photo of David is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/IdeaFest10_DavidFrayer.jpg.

Keynote speakers for Thursday evening include Jessica Blank and Erik Jensen, actors, playwrights and novelists, who will present “Empathy as Catalyst: Theater and the Real World,” a program that will address the couple’s documentary theater work and how narrative theater can create social change.

Blank has appeared on television in “Rescue Me,” HBO’s “Bored to Death,” and ESPN’s “The Bronx Is Burning,” co-starring with her husband who played Yankee great Thurman Munson. She has also appeared on “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” “One Life to Live” and “Guiding Light.” She has acted in theaters throughout New York City, at the Sundance Film Lab, and internationally at the Dublin Theater Festival. Most recently, she has penned two successful novels, including 2009’s “Karma for Beginners,” which was recently nominated by the American Library Association as a 2009 Best Book for Young Adults.

As an actor, Jensen has co-starred in more than 20 feature films, including “Black Knight” and “The Love Letter.” He recently starred in “Virtuality,” a FOX telefilm by “Battlestar Galactica” creator Ron Moore. He starred opposite John Turturro and Oliver Platt as NY Yankee Thurman Munson in the ESPN miniseries The Bronx is Burning, and has appeared on TV regularly on “CSI,” “Law and Order,” and Love Monkey, as well as “Alias” and “Century City,” among others. He is also at work on “Main Street,” a documentary about corporate farming’s impact on small-town America. A notable stage actor, Jensen is married to Blank. The couple lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., with their daughter, Sadie.

A photo is available for download at www.usd.edu/urelations/images/IdeaFest10_Blank&Jensen.jpg.

In addition to keynote addresses by Frayer and Blank and Jensen, IdeaFest 2010 includes undergraduate and graduate student presentations of research, creative activity and academic engagement from more than 300 USD students. Oral presentations, poster sessions, paper presentations and live performances highlight IdeaFest, which is a celebration of graduate and undergraduate academic achievement in all disciplines at The U. Hosted annually in the spring by USD Academic Affairs, the USD Graduate School and the Center for Academic Engagement, more information about IdeaFest is available via e-mail at ideafest@usd.edu or by calling (605) 677-6338.