ASU men's basketball to play in 2019 Pac-12 China game

November 14, 2018

Arizona State University’s global footprint keeps expanding, including on the basketball court. The Pac-12 announced a 2019 men's basketball matchup between ASU and the University of Colorado Boulder, the fifth edition of the Pac-12 China Game presented by Alibaba Group.

The November 2019 game will be co-hosted by longtime Pac-12 partner Federation of University Sports of China, which operates under China’s Ministry of Education. (From left) ASU alum Chenxi Zhao, intern at AliSports; Jamie Zaninovich, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer at Pac-12 Conference; Danette Leighton, chief marketing officer at Pac-12 Conference; Wei Shen from the ASU W. P. Carey School of Business China Program; Joseph Tsai, executive vice chairman at Alibaba Group; Xue Yanqing, president of the Federation of University Sports of China; and Hui Wang from the W. P. Carey School of Business China Program. Download Full Image

“We are thrilled for the tremendous opportunity to showcase all the energy, investments and innovative ideas our campus has been working on and for a great educational experience for our student-athletes in China,” said Ray Anderson, ASU vice president for university athletics.

ASU is the top public university in the United States for international students, hosting more than 13,000 international scholars. More than 3,500 are Chinese students, representing the largest contingent of international students at the university.

“We already partner with many of the top Chinese universities, as well as the Chinese Academy of Sciences and Ministry of Science and Technology, so being part of this event is a natural step and one ASU embraces,” Anderson said.

Next year’s matchup will not only allow the ASU basketball athletes to engage beyond the United States, but the university will continue to engage students, alumni and partners to connect with the university outside of the big game.

ASU is a leader of innovation in American higher education, expanding use-inspired research beyond Arizona and engaging with people and issues locally, nationally and internationally. Through relationships with China and the Chinese people, the university works to promote language, innovation, business and leadership on a global scale.

Over the last decade, ASU has pursued a deepening relationship with China and Chinese students and universities through multiple collaborations.

The W. P. Carey School, ranked one of the top 25 business schools nationally, is directly involved in the development of top leadership in China. In partnership with Shanghai Advanced Institute of Finance, W. P. Carey launched a Doctor of Business Administration in Global Financial Management program at Shanghai Jiao Tong University where senior executive leaders can tap into the expertise of distinguished international thought leaders.

Additionally, ASU opened its first permanent location in China last year. The building on the Hainan University campus is part of a partnership to offer degrees in tourism, the Hainan University-Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College.

ASU's work with China and with Chinese institutions prepares students for a future in a high-speed, technologically advanced, globally competitive economy. To date, ASU has more than 2,400 alumni in China, with the largest number of graduates from the W. P. Carey School of Business with more than 1,500 graduates.

The Pac-12 China Game is the flagship event of Pac-12 Global, designed to grow the global popularity of Pac-12 athletic programs and universities, fostering cultural exchange through sport and creating educational experiences for Pac-12 student athletes. The matchup between the Sun Devils and Buffaloes, tentatively scheduled for Saturday, Nov. 9, and for national broadcast in both the U.S. and China, will not count as a conference contest. 

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ASU to fully stage the controversial, elaborate 'Mass' by Leonard Bernstein

November 14, 2018

Hundreds of performers will mark the centennial of the legendary American composer's birth

The United States was polarized, reeling from violence, its citizens protesting their leaders and questioning the very foundations of the country.

It was 1971.

That year, an audacious and wholly unique artwork debuted at the opening of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; it was so controversial that President Richard Nixon stayed away from the performance.

“Mass: A Theater Piece for Singers, Players and Dancers” — which uses the Roman Catholic Mass as a framework to explore the cultural crisis of the late 1960s and early 1970s — was created by Leonard Bernstein, one of America’s greatest composers.

The piece included hundreds of performers, overlapping singing voices, cacophonous musical passages and moments of confusion. There had been nothing like it.

And now “Mass” is getting a rare, fully staged presentation in two shows at Arizona State University this weekend to mark the centennial of Bernstein’s birth.

“Mass” will include nearly 300 people on stage at ASU Gammage, including four dance groups, the Phoenix Boys Choir, a rock band, a blues band, a marching band and renowned baritone and guest artist Jubilant Sykes in the lead role of the Celebrant. There are another 100 designers, artists and crew members bringing the show to life.

Students surround stage director David Lefkowich (center) as they rehearse stage direction and singing for "Mass" at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre building Nov. 5. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

“Mass” has been performed many times this year, but even big-city productions have not been fully staged, according to David Lefkowich, the stage director.

“With this piece, we have an obligation to make it as spectacular as possible,” he said.

“The combined efforts of ASU are going to be on that stage and you’ll see exactly how powerful and how incredible this school is. Almost everyone comes from here except me, the Phoenix Boys Choir and Jubilant Sykes,” said Lefkowich, a New York-based stage director and choreographer.

“I’ve worked at a lot of universities and I don’t know any university that could even attempt something like this, let alone pull it off the way ASU is doing.”

The performers will include the ASU Symphony Orchestra and Choirs, ASU Music Theatre and Opera and dancers and designers from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“The scope and scale of ‘Mass’ can best be realized in a setting like the Herberger Institute, given the culture of collaboration and the broad talents of the faculty and students,” said Brian DeMaris, artistic director of ASU’s Music Theatre and Opera program.

“It is a work that showcases all we do and how we, as artists, intersect with current issues.”

Senior music theater student Erin Kong rehearses "Mass" by Leonard Bernstein, which will performed Nov. 17 and 18 at ASU Gammage. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Many people know Bernstein as the composer of the score to the Broadway show “West Side Story.” A decade after the movie version, Bernstein wrote “Mass” at the request of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis in honor of John F. Kennedy, the nation’s first Catholic president. Bernstein worked on it during the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. and the killing of four young protesters at Kent State University.

Lefkowich had not liked “Mass” when he first heard it years ago, but after he was asked to direct it at ASU, he realized the themes of disconnection and faithFor the text of “Mass,” Bernstein collaborated with Stephen Schwartz, who had created “Godspell,” a musical based on the Gospel of St. Matthew. are relevant today.

“I had a roommate who loved it and would put it on, and I would say, ‘Please turn this mess off. I don’t want to hear this,’" he said.

“We’re in a time period where not much has actually changed from 1971 and the premiere. We don’t have the Vietnam War, but we’re grappling with our identity and the role of religion.”

Lefkowich has given the staging a contemporary feel, in part by incorporating projections. As they arrive, the audience sees a starscape projected on stage, but each star is actually a social-media bubble.

“In the first number, ‘Kyrie Eleison,’ the social media starts to intensify, and it gets more and more crazy and the images start to go by quicker and the Celebrant comes into that,” he said.

“You see him overwhelmed by this tidal wave of social media, and then he just pauses it and he sings that beautiful ‘Simple Song.’ And the audience goes, ‘Oh, this is not a 1971 idea. This speaks to right now.’"

Not only will the audience see themes from modern life in the show, they’ll become part of it. Lefkowich designed the production to take in the audience at the end.

“I often ask my audience to sit back, relax and let the music wash over them. But in this piece, you can’t,” he said.

By the end of “Mass,” the performers are out among the audience, who will be on their feet, joining in — something he thinks they really want to do anyway.

“We want to take a picture of ourselves, tag our friends, put it on social media and say ‘Look at what I just did. I did something unique,’" he said.

A staging of this magnitude is complicated, as dozens of performers are entering and exiting the stage. In addition, even though the performers have been working on their parts since the summer, only two rehearsals will include everyone.

“As a director, I’m excited by the challenge. As a human, I have a lot of anxiety,” he said.

“Mass” will likely be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for everyone.

“What’s exciting about the ASU production is that you will see everything that Bernstein has asked for,” he said.

“This is not a piece that comes along very often, and there’s not anything else like it — so for anyone who thinks ‘I’ll catch the next one,’ you can’t.”

Find performance and ticket information on ASU Events.

Top photo: Choir members lift up their arms at the Evelyn Smith Music Theatre on Nov. 5 during rehearsals for "Mass," which will include more than 400 singers, dancers, musicians, designers, artists and crew members in two performances this weekend. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Lynne MacDonald, communications specialist for the School of Music, contributed to this story.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now