Kathleen Tan

Staff Writer

Starting today, UCSB’s Arts & Lectures is offering a free, week-long chain of screenings and performances for the “Student Appreciation Free Event Series.”

The program will kick off today at 7:30 p.m. with the presentation of “A Town Called Panic” — a movie based on the popular Belgian television series by the same name — followed at 9 p.m. by “Up” — the 2010 Oscar-winning Pixar film. Other events this week include a “Question and Answer” session with John Cleese, a performance by ukulele player Jake Shimabukuro and a number of other film screenings.

The series is an effort to acknowledge students and gain their support in the April 18 student election, when the fees for the Arts & Lectures will be reassessed.

According to the 2003 ballot, the student fees “enable Arts & Lectures to maintain and expand the current programs and discounts it provides to UCSB students.” Each undergraduate currently pays four dollars to support the program, but this year’s ballot is asking for students to contribute seven, excluding administrative fees.

“Support is really critical for students to access the program,” Arts & Lectures Programming Associate Heather Silva said. “The [student] fees go toward subsidizing student ticket prices, putting on free events and bringing artists to classrooms.”

The highlight of the series is the Q&A with English comedian John Cleese on Sunday, April 3, which proceeds a 1 p.m. screening of “Monty Python’s Life of Brian”.

Although Cleese has hosted public ticketed campus events in the past, this event is only open to UCSB students Silva said. Seating will be organized on a first come, first served basis.

“We’re expecting a full house for the ‘Afternoon with John Cleese’ in Campbell Hall, which seats 860 people,” Silva said. “[Cleese] has an amazing ability to recall minute details about the making of the film so he always tells hilarious stories. It should be a fun afternoon for students.”

Jake Shimabukuro, a renowned ukulele musician and internet sensation, is scheduled to perform for free on Thursday at noon in Storke Plaza. He will also play at Campbell Hall that night, although tickets for the evening performance are sold out.

During the Storke Plaza concert, Arts & Lectures will give away tickets to see the bestselling author and humorist, David Sedaris at the Arlington Theatre on April 29. Silva said she predicts a sizable turnout of 150-300 people.

Next Wednesday, Arts & Lectures will also host the “Michelle Williams Double Feature” with two films starring the Oscar-winning actress — “Wendy and Lucy” at 7:30 p.m. and “Blue Valentine” at 9 p.m.

Ashley Richardson, a member of the Student Advisory Committee that provides student input for the Arts & Lectures events, said the performances and screenings were selected based on genre and predicted popularity.

“Not only is this series meant to garner appreciation for the campaign [to increase student fees for the Arts & Lectures program], but it’s also a great vehicle to expose people to different facets of culture and the collaborative relationship between the program and the students, which is vital on an academic campus,” Richardson said.