ASU West students to spend ‘An Evening with Leslie Odom Jr.’

Award-winning artist to speak about "Hamilton," perform

October 12, 2017

The almost 600 freshman students who started at ASU’s West campus this fall will share in an unconventional experience this month: one of their first college-level discussions will include Broadway superstar of "Hamilton" fame, Leslie Odom Jr.

Each year, as part of the Summer Community Read program, incoming West campus freshman are required to read a selected book in preparation for analytical discussions in an academic setting. Then, someone with a connection to the reading material is brought in to speak with students. Broadway superstar of "Hamilton" fame, Leslie Odom Jr., will speak and perform at ASU's West campus. Download Full Image

“To me, it’s such an important event because it gives instructors, staff, students a way to talk to people initially, when they first get here and throughout the semester,” said Anne Suzuki, assistant dean of enrollment services for the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “And plus, we really like to bring in the community … and to bring different groups of people together to appreciate this particular (musical).”

This year’s required reading was "Hamilton: The Revolution," by Lin Manuel Miranda, and the special guest is Odom Jr.

The Grammy and Tony-award winning artist who played Aaron Burr in the musical’s original cast, will come to Glendale Oct. 16 to discuss the book and answer students’ questions. Odom Jr. will also perform a concert at the West campus. 

Suzuki said the program is designed to give students a common experience before they get to campus, and build community.

“We always hope that students can connect more with the person and bring what they read alive, and make it more real,” Suzuki mused. “And they can ask deeper level questions.”

"Hamilton: The Revolution," was co-written by Jeremy McCarter and Miranda, who also wrote the book, music and lyrics for "Hamilton" and starred in its original cast. It explores the background, music and making of the musical.

The musical's ability to attract students of different majors and perspectives is another reason Suzuki’s team felt it would be a good fit.

“I think it gives (students) a platform to be able to talk about difficult topics that might be in the news right now or historically, and it’s an okay, hopefully safe environment for people to have exciting conversations,” she added. “I think because it’s so modern, first year students may feel like it’s more exciting to read about it than if we just did something more traditional.”

Following the discussion, Odom Jr. will perform a concert showcasing the music from "Hamilton" and his own jazz album. “An Evening with Leslie Odom Jr.,” starts at 7:30 p.m. in the West campus’s La Sala Ballroom. Tickets are available here.

Several other educational opportunities are available to students and the community, including "Burr, Hamilton and the Drama of America’s Founding," a special night to explore the explosive relationship between Alexander Hamilton, Aaron Burr and the wider drama of America’s founding.

This discussion will feature acclaimed historian Nancy Isenberg, author of "Fallen Founder: The Life of Aaron Burr," and Hamilton scholar Peter McNamara of ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

The free panel is at 7 p.m. Oct. 18 and registration is available at

"Hamilton" will run at ASU Gammage Jan. 30–Feb. 25. Tickets will go on sale in December. For more information visit

Marketing and Communications Assistant, ASU Gammage


ASU professor's research on alcoholism, recovery brought to life in new documentary

October 12, 2017

For the past 30 years, Linda Costigan Lederman, Arizona State University professor of human communication and director of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, has been advancing research in the study of communication and alcohol use, abuse and reducing college drinking. Since joining Arizona State University in 2006, her ongoing dedication to the field of communication has earned her myriad honors, appointments and grants from federal and state agencies. 

Lederman’s most recent research examines alcoholism and recovery, and is the focus of the documentary “Recovery,” which features stories of undergraduate students who all struggle with the same issue: how to live life without drinking?    Student performers and faculty at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication Download Full Image

The documentary utilizes “trigger scripting” — a performance method developed at ASU that targets specific topics and audiences for the purpose of public dialogue. Students from the Hugh Downs School performed the stories in a setting that resembles an alcohol recovery group. 

“That is exactly the way people in Alcoholics Anonymous tell their stories,” Lederman said. “There’s no judgement. They really listen to one another.” 

The documentary also features a live audience who sit outside of the student recovery group, watching the performance. The documentary captures how the audience responds from being triggered by the performance.    

Linda Lederman, Ph.D.
Linda Costigan Lederman, professor of human communication and director of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

“The stigma exists in our culture in what people like me would call a ‘narrative,’” Lederman said. “There is a narrative, or a story we tell, that people who drink too much and get drunk are weak, or they’re bad, or lazy, and if only they cleaned up their act and tried a little harder or just drank less, they’d be fine. That narrative carries a stigma with it, and it is wrong. So what we are doing in this documentary is to help create a counter-narrative, and tell a different story.”

The script was written and directed by Jennifer Linde, senior lecturer in the Hugh Downs School, who drew from Lederman’s extensive research on communication, storytelling and recovery.   

“We specifically targeted the college audience for this script,” Linde said. “We wanted the voices and stories of the characters in the script to resonate with that group.”

 “Everyone who watches this documentary will interpret it through the lens of their own experiences,” Lederman said. “To those who have struggled with alcohol, or those who have felt that they don’t fit in might identify with the stories. Others who have never had problems with alcohol might experience it as eye-opener, and will learn what it feels like for someone who does have those struggles.” 

The documentary was most recently shown on campus at The Empty Space, a venue for performance studies classes, as part of an awareness campaign for National Recovery Month in September.   

“I am dedicated to destigmatizing alcoholism and recovery,” Lederman said. “That is my passion, and it is part of my research. So if I can help people come to understand what alcoholism is, and that recovery is a possibility, I recommend they watch this documentary.” 

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication