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An aging U.S. population means more neurological disease diagnoses.
ASU event to feature 'Endgame Project' screening, Q&A with actors and director.
April 1, 2017

'Endgame Project' film documents veteran actors' daily trials with Parkinson's

There are 5 million Americans living with Alzheimer’s, 1 million with Parkinson’s and nearly half a million with multiple sclerosis. And with an aging U.S. population, it’s likely those numbers will increase, making learning how to live with such neurodegenerative diseases essential.

This week an event organized by Patrick Bixby, associate professor of English at Arizona State University, will showcase how two veteran actors have been doing just that, with a special preview screening of a film that documents their daily trials with Parkinson’s disease while continuing to do what they love. The screening will bring together health care providers, university faculty, potential donors and other stakeholders at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 6, at the Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“The Endgame Project” follows Dan Moran and John Christopher Jones as they put together an off-Broadway production of Samuel Beckett’s tragicomedy play “Endgame,” an already demanding task, while also contending with physical therapy, doctor visits and medication regimens.

“Their story offers encouragement and insight for the growing number of people directly impacted by Parkinson’s disease,” said Bixby, who works in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, “and, just as important, it provides the general public with a model for understanding and appreciating those with neurodegenerative conditions.”

Neurodegenerative diseases are characterized by the progressive degeneration of brain cells that make normal functions like physical movement and memory increasingly difficult. They are incurable. Parkinson’s in particular affects posture and balance, automatic movements and facial expressions, speech cadence and voice inflection — tools that are indispensable to actors.

As fate would have it, Moran and Jones, who had known each other since sharing a dressing room on a Broadway play in 1995, were diagnosed with the disease at nearly the same time, more than a decade ago. Both were determined to go on working at their craft but watched as opportunities dwindled upon making their diagnoses public — until Moran rediscovered an old copy of Beckett’s “Endgame.”

film screening poster

The characters in the two-man play resonated with him anew: one is described as having a stiff, shuffling gate, while the other is blind and uses a wheelchair. Moran pitched the idea of performing the play to Jones, who readily signed on.

“The diminished circumstances of the characters, along with their persistent desire to go on, felt to Dan like his own circumstances, confined to a body that would no longer do what it once could,” Bixby wrote in an article about the project. “The play not only spoke to their circumstances, it presented them with new opportunities. Who could understand these characters better? Who could embody these characters more fully? Suddenly, their symptoms were no longer obstacles to their work; they were integral to it.”

The film screening will be followed by a Q&A session with Moran and Jones. The next day, both actors will also visit the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center at the Barrow Neurological Institute to discuss their experiences and share their insights with patients and health care providers.

Darolyn O’Donnell, recreation therapy coordinator for the Ali center, said the center recognizes the role arts can play in coping and healing with diseases like Parkinson’s, and offers dance, painting and music classes.

“We focus on what you can do … on independence and maintaining quality of life,” she said. “These actors are living proof” that it can be done.

The culmination of “The Endgame Project” events will be the creation of the Network for Arts, Humanities, and Neurodegenerative Care, an online network where Parkinson’s patients, their families, caregivers, health care professionals and members of the community can connect to foster innovative partnerships and activities.

David Coon, associate dean and professor at ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, who provided support for the event, said he expects it will broaden people’s views of living with a disease.

“I think it will help folks see from multiple perspectives about how someone else faces the journey and engages with life and works to maintain a quality of life across a chronic illness,” he said.

To attend the film screening, register here. Find additional information, including a map, here. For more information about the meet-and-greet with the actors at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center, call 602-406-4931.

 

Top photo: Dan Moran as "Hamm" (left) and John Christopher Jones as "Clov" in a production of Samuel Beckett's "Endgame." Photo by Peter Angelo Simon.

 
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Stakeholders seek solutions for revenue gap at NCAA symposium

ASU hosts symposium for in-depth look at college sports, timed to Final Four.
April 3, 2017

University presidents, athletic directors and conference commissioners gather at ASU

A prominent leader in higher education said college sports revenue has been flourishing, but a great disparity is on the horizon as conferences align to make lucrative network deals.

“The rich will get richer, and the others will die,” E. Gordon Gee, president of West Virginia University, said Monday. “We need to come together rather than engage in hand-to-hand combat.”  

Gee’s comment came at a symposium, “Full Court Press: Media, Autonomy, and the Future of College Sports” on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The timing of the event, which was hosted by the Sports Law and Business Program at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, was designed to coincide with the Final Four — the NCAA’s primary revenue generator.

The half-day conference brought together leading university presidents, athletic directors, conference commissioners and sports industry professionals to prompt an in-depth examination of college sports and where the industry could be headed in the years to come.

“By bringing together officials from both in- and outside collegiate athletics, this symposium melds the major forces influencing college sports — media, law and business,” said Glenn M. Wong, executive director of the Sports Law and Business Program.

In addition to Gee, other participants included Gene Smith, athletic director of Ohio State University; Renu Khator, chancellor and president of the University of Houston; Keith Gill, athletic director of the University of Richmond; Larry Scott, commissioner of the Pac-12; Janet Judge, president of Sports Law Associates; Mark Hollis, athletic director of Michigan State; Steve Smith, basketball analyst; Hania Poole, director of NCAA Digital and Turner Sports; Gary R. Roberts, president of Bradley University; and Kenneth Shropshire, Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.

The panel agreed one of the most critical issues facing college sports is the widening revenue gap between the institutions in the Power 5The five conferences are the Pac-12; Big 12; Big Ten; Southeastern Conference and the Atlantic Coast Conference. conferences, and those in the remainder of the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision, formerly known as Division I-A.

Many wondered if those other schools would still be able to compete despite significant disparities.

“Financially, the model is broken and has always been dysfunctional,” Smith said. “Teams and conferences have to stay strong.”

Smith suggested regionalizing the conferences — an approach Division II schools have thrived on for years — to ensure that schools in every region have fair access to championships.

Regionalization would also reduce the amount of time student-athletes spend on the road in competition and allow them to better enjoy the college experience, Khator said.

“This takes a toll on a student-athlete’s time demands,” Khator said. “What comes first — academics or athletics?”

The panel also tackled issues such as diversity in administration, the power of autonomy, Title IX, social justice and the expanding role of digital media.

Poole said the NCAA now has 15 different media and digital platforms, and millennials are driving the way in which we view sports.

“People prefer to watch the game in many different ways as it fits their lifestyle,” Poole said.

Wong said by weaving these perspectives together at one event, participants gained a better understanding of why change is occurring and where the industry may be headed.

“Linking all of these individuals and their ability to make industry-shifting decisions highlights the significance of our symposium,” Wong said.

Participants also took time to praise Phoenix as the host site for the Final Four weekend.

“This Final Four is just a phenomenon,” Smith said, “and it’s been a great run.”

For a detailed look at the symposium's three panels, click here.

 

Top photo: West Virginia University President E. Gordon Gee listens during a panel discussion on the state of collegiate sports at the "Full Court Press: Media, Autonomy, and the Future of College Sports" symposium Monday at the Beus Center for Law and Society in downtown Phoenix. The program featured officials from both the inside and outside of collegiate athletics, and it focused on major influences on college sports: media, law and business. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now