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Bringing back live entertainment

June 4, 2020

ASU Gammage executive director can't wait to bring guests back to shows — safely

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the summer 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. 

Written by Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage and ASU vice president for Cultural Affairs. She previously served on the National Council on the Arts.

For an industry accustomed to the phrase “the show must go on,” closing the theaters was no easy task. But when ASU Gammage reopens, it will be grand. The theater is a place for people of all ages and backgrounds to come together and celebrate live art. No one can tell what the future holds, but there is one thing I am sure of: The theater is no place for fear. So, we will reopen when it is safe to do so. Social distancing is applicable in many scenarios, but it just won’t work in the theater. The backbone of this industry is the notion of people gathering to go on a journey and be transported to another world. That will not change, but some things might.

We are waiting on the edge of our seats until we can reopen, but we understand that certain precautionary measures must be taken to ensure people feel safe coming back to enjoy a show. We are discussing the different sanitary measures we can take — such as gloves worn by employees, stricter cleaning measures and monitoring the food and products entering the facility. These measures are not only to protect guests, but the performers, stagehands and employees.

We are all operating with one thing in mind: fluidity. This is a fluid time where protocols will change and we will be there to enact the changes that need to be made. We’re rewriting the script on procedures every single day. Whether it be spraying costumes with disinfectant or having people participate in temperature checks, we will adapt to the changes and be fluid in making decisions.

ASU Gammage is continuing to provide quality entertainment — now digitally. This adaptation exemplifies our commitment to serving our communities. We have hosted thought-provoking talks, inquisitive Q&As and incredible online performances all through Facebook Live. To name a few, Gus Farwell, former ASU quarterback and opera singer, gave us an incredible performance and insight on his life in Barcelona. We are engaging ASU students and our faculty through many digital programs such as DBR Lab with Daniel Bernard Roumain and ASU students. 

We have even had Arizona natives and current Broadway stars Krystina Alabado, Sam Primack and Casey Likes join us to share their wisdom, tips and tricks.

These online events allow us to share the work of local artists with community members in new ways. Artists are working over video calls and writers are thinking of pieces that would be appropriate over digital platforms. They are still enduring the creative process together, and ASU Gammage is doing just the same.

The format of shows is constantly being reimagined. I have talked to producers and creatives about ideas that they have brewing, and I can’t wait to see the final products. There will be shows inspired by this challenging time — some funny, some sad, some heartfelt — that will allow us to reflect. ASU Gammage has joined that conversation. From drive-in theatrical performances to music concerts in Sun Devil Stadium, nothing is off the table. All ideas are being considered.

We’re not part of the first phase of reopening, and that is OK. There is no “if” about reopening, but a matter of “when.”

We can’t wait until we can swing open the doors. Until then, we are working to stay safe and healthy for ourselves, our loved ones and our community. It is imperative to prioritize health and wellness — right now and every day. I know I speak for myself and our staff when I say we look forward to seeing many familiar and new faces at ASU Gammage.

MORE: Watch live online performances at ASU Gammage Digital Connections

Top photo by Tim Trumble/ASU

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Education during and after the pandemic

June 4, 2020

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College dean on improving online teaching tools, methods

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the summer 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. 

Written by Carole G. Basile, the dean of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, which is partnering with Arizona schools and other organizations to develop the Next Education Workforce. Find more of her writing on the future of education on her blog, The Next Normal: Principled provocations in education.

Times of extreme stress reveal cracks in the normal that have been there all along. As our college has responded to the disruptions caused by the coronavirus, we have lived in and peered through the cracks, and it has made us commit even more resources and strategy to educating professionals on how to teach well online, and to envision strategies for providing more educational access and opportunities to rural areas.

In the spring 2020 semester, we had 646 teacher candidates working full time in schools. In mid-March we had five days to figure how to: 1) keep them safe; 2) provide them with meaningful clinical experiences that would allow them to graduate on time; and 3) create something that would be valuable to our school and district partners and to pre-K-12 learners.

The exercise has opened our thinking to new ways of working with school partners to integrate tech-enabled learning into Next Education Workforce models, and to new ways of thinking about how to prepare educators to succeed in that environment. 

We learned a lot in a short amount of time about how to prepare professionals to teach online, and we will continue to make this a robust part of our education for professionals, both for our own ASU teacher candidates and for in-service educators working in schools. 

What we’re learning about remote teaching could be especially valuable to underserved rural communities. Here’s a potential use case: In Arizona, we have many rural communities that struggle to find enough qualified teachers, especially science teachers. In these communities, it will likely always be difficult in the same way that finding doctors is difficult. 

Just as telemedicine is a reasonable way to address some rural health challenges, bringing expertise into those schools via a remote presence is a viable solution to some rural education challenges. A biology expert appearing remotely could, with the help of educators on site, deliver instruction to provide deeper learning for students. 

The work of implementing such ideas has been slow going. One reason is that we have tackled the issue as a “learning technology” problem rather than as a workforce problem. Today, too often we ask each educator to be all things to all people at all times. The real challenge is how to design and deploy teams of adults with distributed expertise to best serve learners.

We’ve always known there would be a significant tech-enabled dimension to the Next Education Workforce. The crack in the normal offers us all a glimpse into the possible.

Device-free learning activities

To balance the technology-heavy mode of learning, device-free options make for a strong mix of activities. To help kids get started, begin doing the activity yourself, and your children will want to join. Some of our favorite ways for learners to explore their passions, stay entertained and practice skills that will serve them well for years to come can be found at

Top photo: Sun Devil Learning Labs ensured that students, including Williams Caraveo and Kerinne Atkins, could conduct student teaching remotely. Teaching resources are updated regularly for families teaching at home. Photos courtesy Williams Caraveo and Kerinne Atkins