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ASU Film Spark charts new course for young filmmakers with LA nonprofit

May 4, 2018

Herberger Institute film program offers access to education, career opportunities

Arizona State University is widening the lens for film education in Southern California. In collaboration with Film2Future, a Los Angeles-based nonprofit dedicated to educating underserved youth in the film and creative industries, ASU Film Spark will help facilitate a two-week summer program designed by Film2Future to introduce L.A.-area high school students to the art of virtual reality production.

With access to facility space and mentorship at Film Spark’s home in the ASU California Center in Santa Monica, Film2Future students will write, direct and produce virtual reality content during the program, which will run from June 11–24. It’s a venture Film Spark’s executive director Adam Collis hopes will open more avenues for Film2Future and other Southern California students with an eye on film education.

“Our goal is to help them get to the next level and to provide students access to both higher education and the entertainment industry,” Collis said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled to help prepare these new storytellers on emerging platforms like VR, as well as for their lives as college students.”

The collaboration between Film Spark and Film2Future kicked off in earnest with a special screening of the blockbuster "Black Panther" in late April. Screened simultaneously at AMC movie theater locations in Santa Monica and Tempe, Arizona, the event drew almost 200 high school students and ASU students, staff and alumni and featured a live talkback with "Black Panther" executive producer Nate Moore and film editor Michael Shawver. The session was moderated by Collis at AMC Santa Monica 7 and video linked to the Tempe audience at AMC Centerpoint 11.

Film Spark Director Adam Collis moderates a Q&A with film editor Michael Shawver and executive producer Nate Moore at a special screening of "Black Panther in Santa Monica on April 22, 2018.

Attendees included students involved in the Film2Future program as well as students from Santa Monica College, the Boys and Girls Club of America and the Jackie Robinson Foundation Scholars program.

The groups were invited to attend the event to mark the final installment of ASU Film Spark’s Spring 2018 Superhero Movie Speaker Series. Throughout the semester, the series allowed ASU students to interact with filmmakers and executives linked to some of Hollywood’s most successful superhero franchises. Previous guest speakers in the series included producers Hutch Parker ("Logan," "X-Men"), Larry Franco ("Batman Begins," "Hulk"), director Scott Derrickson ("Doctor Strange") and production designer Alex McDowell ("Man of Steel," "Watchmen").

Deepening ASU’s presence in Southern California, ASU Film Spark also hosted its first Los Angeles internship and job fair in collaboration with ASU Career Services, drawing more than 100 students and alumni to the ASU California Center in March.

Attendees had the opportunity to meet with representatives from 12 entertainment companies, including CBS Corporation, Hutch Parker Entertainment and Lionsgate. They were also invited to attend a post-job fair screening of the 2009 film "Star Trek" at the Laemmle Fine Arts Theatre that included a Q&A with Trevor Roth, chief operating officer of Roddenberry Entertainment. 

ASU Film Spark is a part of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre within ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. The career accelerator program has produced several films —  "Car Dogs," "Justice Served" and "Postmarked" — as well as a growing list of notable alumni, including film editor Nick Ramirez, who worked on the Oscar-nominated film "Lady Bird" and David Breschel, producer of the Student Academy Award-winning student short "Mammoth," directed by Ariel Heller.

Offering degrees in film and media production and filmmaking practices, ASU’s School of Film Dance and Theatre has been named one of the fastest-growing film programs in the country. The school was ranked among the Top 50 Film Schools of 2017 by online trade publication

Top photo: ASU Film Spark director Adam Collis and students from the L.A.-based nonprofit Film2Future pose with "Black Panther" film editor Michael Shawver and executive producer Nate Moore at the AMC Santa Monica 7 in Santa Monica, California, on April 22, 2018. Photo by Lauren Elisabeth Photography. 

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ASU’s Music Theatre and Opera 2018-19 season centered on exploration

May 4, 2018

The School of Music in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is internationally recognized for having one of the few programs that provides undergraduate and graduate students training in both music theater and opera performance. Each year, the program presents a performance season, and this year, the season is centered on exploration and exposing students and audience to the broadest forms of music theater and opera repertoire available.

In addition to new musicals and operas that are part of the 2018-19 season, the program will also embrace a new title, “Music Theatre and Opera.” music theatre and opera season Download Full Image

"While we treasure the history associated with 'Lyric Opera Theatre,' we have chosen to embrace 'Music Theatre and Opera' as a title that more clearly identifies what has made our program unique since 1964,” said Brian DeMaris, associate professor and artistic director of Music Theatre and Opera. “We have always been and will continue to prepare students in and produce both music theater and opera, along with everything between and beyond, including innovative art forms not yet defined."

In addition to four main-stage productions, the season will continue its series of new works readings and ongoing partnerships with multiple local and national arts organizations.

“Our emphasis on new works and partnerships with local nationally recognized professional arts organizations continue to place ASU on the cutting edge of music theater and opera training,” said DeMaris.

The pioneering New Works Reading series will open the season with “Marie Begins,” a jazz opera by Ellen Fishman and Julia Curcio in which the audience helps choose the plot through wireless clicker technology. DeMaris said he is excited to partner with Phoenix Theatre on “The Anxiety Project,” by Rachel Dean and David Brush, which will also be presented through the Festival of New American Theatre.

Leonard Bernstein's “Mass,” with additional lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, is identified by the composer as "a theater piece for singers, dancers and players.” In celebration of the composer’s centennial and in collaboration with the ASU Symphony Orchestra, the ASU Choral Program, the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the Phoenix Boy’s Choir, the production will be a full theatrical experience performed at ASU Gammage. The performance will feature internationally acclaimed artist Jubilant Sykes as the Celebrant. Sykes, who is a teacher, actor, communicator and singer in a variety of genres, will be in residence throughout the semester to teach and engage with many members of the community who will be involved in "Mass" through performance, colloquia and other educational initiatives.

Traditional fare includes “Kiss Me Kate,” directed and choreographed by Molly Lajoie, and Handel's comic opera “Xerxes,” directed by Dale Dreyfoos, professor in the School of Music. 

A new rock opera, “Triassic Parq,” will be presented in co-production with Phoenix Theatre and directed by Toby Yatso, lecturer in the School of Music. This poignant, irreverent and fun coming-of-age story is an Arizona and university premiere.

DeMaris said the student labs are an important component to the program’s seasonal offerings and give students a place to practice becoming complete theater artists by choosing and producing their own productions. Next year's student lab projects include “Trouble in Tahiti” and “The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!).”

For the finale, the program continues its Music Theatre Showcase in both New York City and Phoenix. This year-end event has quickly become a celebration of the talent ASU turns out each year.

“The ASU Music Theatre and Opera program is a gateway for talent entering and exiting from multiple directions,” said DeMaris. “For decades ASU has served to both bring talent into Arizona and to nurture Arizona talent and position it nationally. Our showcases in New York and Phoenix are a testament to our national reach and our commitment to the local community.”

Tickets go on sale Aug. 1 for the general public. Ticket prices and venues vary. Contact the Herberger Institute Box Office at 480-965-6447 or visit for more information.

Summer box office hours are 9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. and 1:30–4:30 p.m., Mondays–Thursdays.

ASU Music Theatre and Opera 2018-19 Season

New Work Reading
“Marie Begins”
An interactive jazz opera
Music by Ellen Fishman
Libretto by Julia Curcio
6 p.m. Sept. 9
ASU Kerr Cultural Center

“Kiss Me, Kate”
Music and lyrics by Cole Porter
Book by Samuel and Bella Spewack
7:30 p.m. Sept. 21, 22, 28 and 29; 2 p.m. Sept. 23 and 30
Evelyn Smith Music Theatre

Student Lab
“Trouble In Tahiti”
Music and lyrics by Leonard Bernstein
7:30 p.m. Oct. 26 and 27; 2 p.m. Oct. 28

Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers
Music by Leonard Bernstein
Lyrics by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Schwartz
Collaboration with ASU Symphony Orchestra and ASU Choral Program
Featuring Jubilant Sykes as the Celebrant
7:30 p.m. Nov. 17, 2 p.m. Nov. 18
ASU Gammage

Musical Theatre Holiday Cabaret
7:30 p.m. Nov. 26
Phoenix Theatre

New Work Reading
“The Anxiety Project”
Music by Rachel Dean
Book and lyrics by David Brush
Collaboration with Phoenix Theatre
6 p.m. Jan. 20
ASU Kerr Cultural Center

Music by George Frideric Handel
After a libretto by Silvio Stampiglia
7:30 p.m. Feb. 14, 15 and 16; 2 p.m. Feb. 17
Evelyn Smith Music Theatre

Student Lab
“The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)”
Music by Eric Rockwell
Lyrics by Joanne Bogart
Book by Eric Rockwell and Joanne Bogart
7:30 p.m. March 22 and 23; 2 p.m. March 24

“Triassic Parq”
Book, music and lyrics by Marshall Pailet
Book and lyrics by Bryce Norbitz and Steve Wargo
7:30 p.m. April 5, 6, 12 and 13; 2 p.m. April 7 and 14
Phoenix Theatre

Musical Theatre Showcase and Alumni Night
7:30 p.m. April 22
Phoenix Theatre

Opera Scenes
7:30 p.m. April 27
Evelyn Smith Music Theatre

“Kiss Me, Kate” is presented by arrangement with Tams-Witmark Music Library Inc., 560 Lexington Avenue, New York, NY 10022.

"Trouble in Tahitia" is presented by arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., Sole Agent for Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company LLC, publisher and copyright owner.

"Mass: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers" is pressented by arrangement with Boosey & Hawkes, Inc., Sole Agent for Leonard Bernstein Music Publishing Company LLC, publisher and copyright owner.

“The Musical of Musicals (The Musical!)” is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French Inc.

“Triassic Parq” is produced by special arrangement with Broadway Licensing.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music