ASU play tackles comedy, realism and politics

April 21, 2015

Phil and Molly are best friends. Matt and Phil are in a relationship. Andres and Molly are in a relationship. Molly and Matt are legally married. When an immigration officer shows up unexpectedly on Phil and Matt’s sixth anniversary, hilarity and a good dose of drama ensues.

“Our Kiki: A Gay Farce,” a new play by Arizona State University alumnus Seth Tucker, is, yes, a farce ­– but it also incorporates serious tones by bringing a marginalized group to center stage. people acting on stage in play Download Full Image

“With laws like RFRA (Religious Freedom Restoration Act) still set into motion in places like Indiana, it is as important as ever to include story lines and characters from the underrepresented," said Tucker, who graduated with bachelor’s degrees in musical theatre and business marketing in 2009.

For show director Jake Jack Hylton, another ASU alum with a bachelor’s in theatre, that’s why this script stands out.

“The thing that makes me most excited is that not too often do you have a play where the main focus is a gay couple and it is about them and about their life,” Hylton said. “So what I’ve wanted to do, directorially, is give the audience a chance to look into the day in the life of a normal, everyday couple. We get to see their flaws, we get to see how they react in stressful situations and with their loved ones, and how they act when boundaries don’t exist.”

The ASU students involved in the production say they have benefited greatly from working with Hylton because of his passion for theater, but also because he possesses a unique sense of understanding as a recent alum (May 2013).

“As an alum coming back, I know exactly where they’re at,” Hylton said. “ … I’m able to gauge where they’re at in their knowledge with what classes they’ve taken and to implement that into the rehearsal process.”

Adam Mendez, an actor in “Our Kiki” pursuing a bachelor’s degree in theatre with a concentration in acting, says he has enjoyed learning from Hylton’s experiences.

“It’s very insightful to have alums come back again after they’ve been out for a while … because they come back with things they’ve learned out there that they can apply to us students,” Mendez said.

Parts of the script are in Spanish and Finnish, which has been a new experience for many of the cast.

“I’ve never spoken another language in a show before, so when I read the script initially, I knew that this was something I really wanted to do because of these challenges,” said Shannon Phelps, pursuing a bachelor’s in theatre with a concentration in acting. “I knew it would push me a little bit more.”

For Mendez, the real work of the show is to merge the comedic and the serious.

“The script is funny,” said Mendez. “It’s written as a farce, but I feel we’re trying to bring a real vivid life representation to the stage.”

“Our Kiki: A Gay Farce” runs through April 26 at the Lyceum Theatre on ASU’s Tempe campus. Tickets are $16 for general admission; $12 for ASU faculty, staff, alumni and seniors; and $8 for students. Purchase tickets at 480.965.6447 or online.

Media contact:
Katrina Montgomery,

ASU hosts conversation with Anderson Cooper on media, democracy

April 22, 2015

What role can the media play in encouraging a more participatory democracy?

That's the question ASU professor Matthew Whitaker and journalist and author Anderson Cooper will answer in a community conversation moderated by Whitaker. portrait of journalist Anderson Cooper Download Full Image

The event, ASU’s second annual Delivering Democracy Lecture, takes place at 4:30 p.m., April 25, at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, 1401 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix.

“Our democracy is special in its ability to propel average people, lifted by hope and passion, to work to affect positive change,” said Whitaker, Arizona State University Foundation Professor of History and founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. “It’s often regular folk who challenge us as a nation to maximize our democratic potential.”

“Can journalists help foster an environment in which participatory democracy is better understood, valued and promoted? How can the media educate, empower and inspire individuals – especially young people – to use their talents and skills to become positive change agents? These are some of big questions we’ll be exploring,” Whitaker added.

Cooper, who anchors the weekday CNN television news show Anderson Cooper 360, is also known for his social justice advocacy and philanthropy, supporting causes that address civil and human rights, HIV and AIDS research, bullying, sexual abuse and children’s health in emerging and expanding democracies.

“Anderson Cooper is courageous, principled and respected for his professionalism, going beyond the headlines with in-depth reporting and investigations,” said Whitaker. “His ability to connect with people from all walks of life, and [his] personal commitment to work toward building unity and tolerance across cultural divides aligns straight-up with our mission for the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy, and we’re honored to be hosting his visit to Phoenix.”

Sarah Herrera, senior program specialist with the center, encourages people to come early to the event and browse the community resource fair that will be staffed from 2 to 4 p.m., and to enjoy an electrifying performance of the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church Gospel Choir, beginning at 4 p.m.

Last year’s inaugural Delivery Democracy Lecture drew a crowd of 2,500-plus to hear actor and humanitarian Forest Whitaker.

Herrera and colleague Deborah Cox, senior project specialist, have been working for more than a year with professor Whitaker and student assistants Krystal Lee and Zachary Mihalevich to plan the 2015 Delivery Democracy Lecture, the center’s signature event.

“Our Architects of Change volunteer group has also put in almost 400 hours of service in planning this year’s lecture,” Herrera said. “Like so many of our programs, it has been a 360-degree, university-community partnership.

“We’ll have more than 30 organizations at the resource fair, including representatives from ASU Admissions and College of Public Service and Community Solutions,” Herrera said. “Organizations such as the ACLU, Arizona Dream Act Coalition, Arizona Humanities Council and Tanner Community Development Corporation will also be represented.”

Community sponsors for the Delivering Democracy Lecture number nearly 20, with substantial sponsorship from APS, Blue Cross Blue Shield and the Arizona Community Foundation Black Philanthropy Initiative, in addition to Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church.

The event is free and open to the public but tickets are required. Register online at or call the center at 602-496-1376.

ASU's Center for the Study of Race and Democracy is a unit in the College of Letters and Sciences, with offices on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus.

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts