Beloved British novelist's 'Nation' to have North American premiere at ASU MainStage

March 24, 2014

Based on the novel for young readers by one of Britain's most beloved writers, Terry Pratchett, “Nation” will have its North American stage premiere at Arizona State University, as part of the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre MainStage Season in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Written by Mark Ravenhill and directed by Megan Weaver, with media designed by Jacob Pinholster and Boyd Branch, the play is a theater for youth production that will be performed April 4-13 at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse on ASU's Tempe campus. Teen audiences are encouraged to attend. An image from the play "Nation." Download Full Image

"Nation" takes place in a parallel world in the 1860s. Two teenagers are thrown together on a South Pacific island after a tsunami strikes, destroying the boy’s village and leaving the girl shipwrecked thousands of miles from home. Together, they come of age as they discard old doctrines to forge a new nation.

“’Nation’ is a play about questions,” says Weaver. “Two young people from very different worlds, who do not speak the same language, realize how little they know about themselves, as well as each other. Their journey is one of the most honest, fragile and destabilizing human stories I have ever directed.”

Mau and Daphne’s story takes the audience around the globe, under the sea and into the home of the gods. The pair confront a tsunami, a shark attack, a near-fatal birth, a warring tribe and the approaching arm of European colonization.

Weaver, who received praise for her MainStage production of “¡Bocón!” last year, tells the story through large-scale puppetry, live drums, dance, shadow and movement, embodied by a 20-member ensemble. The ASU production also pairs the media design talents of Pinholster, who is director of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and Branch, a visiting professor.

Pratchett is the author of the global best-selling “Discworld” fantasy series – the first of which, “The Colour of Magic,” was published in 1983. Pratchett’s more than 50 novels have been widely adapted for stage and screen, with millions of fans spawning a cottage industry of related conventions, memorabilia and merchandise. He is the winner of multiple international prizes, including the Carnegie Medal.

In 2010, Pratchett was awarded a knighthood for services to literature. Worldwide sales of his books now stand at 70 million, and they have been translated into 37 languages. “Nation” was first published in the United Kingdom in 2008 and was his first non-“Discworld” book in 12 years.

“Nation” was described by the London Independent as “one of Pratchett’s finest books yet,” while The Guardian characterized it as having “… profound, subtle and original things to say about the interplay between tradition and knowledge, faith and questioning.”

The London Times said, “… this is Terry Pratchett at his most philosophical, with characters and situations sprung from ideas and games with language ... it celebrates the joy of the moment.”

“Nation” received many international awards and honors. The Royal National Theatre performed the theatrical adaptation by Ravenhill in 2009.

Performances are scheduled for 7:30 p.m., April 4-5 and 10-noon and 2 p.m., April 6 and 13. (Note: the April 6 matinee performance will feature a discussion with cast members that will illuminate the themes in the play, especially for area students. All are welcome).

Parking information for the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, located at 51 E. 10th Street:

Cost is $8-$16. Seniors, ASU faculty, staff and students receive special rates. Herberger Institute students, faculty and staff attend for free but must reserve tickets in advance. Special discounts for groups available.

For more information, contact Herberger Institute box office, 480-965-6447, or School of Film, Dance and Theatre, 480-965-5337.

Deborah Sussman

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


Researchers receive NSF grant to lead Frankenstein Bicentennial Workshop

March 25, 2014

Three Arizona State University researchers have received a grant from the National Science Foundation to lead a workshop to build a global, multi-institutional network of collaborators to celebrate the bicentennial of the publication of Mary Shelley’s "Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus."

The Frankenstein Bicentennial Project will span from 2016 through 2018, marking the anniversary of the legendary “dare” among Shelley, her husband Percy, Lord Byron and John William Polidori on the shores of Lake Geneva that ignited Shelley’s imagination, as well as the novel’s eventual publication in 1818. Frankenstein Bicentennial Project Download Full Image

To learn more about the Frankenstein Bicentennial Project and sign up for updates, visit

The project, officially titled “Informal Learning And Scholarship In Science And Society: A Multi-Disciplinary Workshop On Scientific Creativity And Societal Responsibility,” will bring together dozens of scholars, researchers, science educators, museum curators, ethicists, archivists, authors, performers, artists and technologists at Arizona State University this April to lay the groundwork for the global celebration of the bicentennial, with ASU acting as a network hub and project headquarters.

“No work of literature has done more to shape the way humans imagine science and its moral consequences than 'Frankenstein,'” says Ed Finn. “In this single act of imagination, Mary Shelley produced both the creature and its creator tropes that continue to resonate in our contemporary moment and actually influence the way we confront emerging technologies, understand the motivations and ethical struggles of scientists, and weigh the benefits of research with its unforeseen pitfalls.”

The Frankenstein Bicentennial Project will encompass a vast array of activities at institutions across the United States and around the world, including universities, libraries, laboratories, museums, science centers, theaters and K-12 schools.

Projects in the planning stages include writing and artistic competitions to commemorate the fateful dare; a global film festival offering the best – and the worst – of the 250-plus films based on the novel; a Halloween costume gala; museum exhibits blending the scientific, artistic and historical; public scientific demonstrations; intellectual salons; theatrical performances; online and in-person courses; synthetic biology projects; new books and special issues of magazines and journals.

The workshop will be split into eight working groups, representing the breadth and massive public reach of the celebration:

• Exhibits and Installations: Frankenstein and the Creation of Life

• Frankenstein: A Critical Edition for Scientists and Engineers

• “It’s Alive!”: Frankenstein on Film

• Monsters on Stage: Frankenstein in Theater and Performance

• “MOOCenstein”: Frankenstein Goes Global

• Engineering Life: Distributed Demonstrations

• Reinventing the Dare: Frankenstein, Science Fiction and the Culture of Science

• Bringing Nonfiction to Life: Frankenstein and Science Writing

“The project seeks to take advantage of the incredible cultural resonance of Frankenstein to facilitate conversations among scholars of vastly different disciplinary stripes, as well as among all those scholars, artists, performers and the broader public,” says David Guston, co-principal investigator. "Such conversations are critical for the broad, democratic governance of today’s science and technology.”

Many other groups at Arizona State University will join in celebrating the bicentennial, including the ASU Art Museum; ASU Libraries; Institute for Humanities Research; Center for Film, Media and Popular Culture; Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics; Center for Biology and Society; Program on Jewish Studies; all research units in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; and the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, among others. External partners include the Science Museum of Minnesota and the Bakken Museum.

Ed Finn, principal investigator, is the director of the Center for Science and the Imagination and an assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering and the Department of English.

Guston, co-principal investigator, is the co-director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, the director of the Center for Nanotechnology in Society and a professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

Stephen Helms Tillery, co-principal investigator, is an associate professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering and a Fellow of Ethics and Bioengineering at the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics.

For more information on ASU’s Frankenstein Bicentennial Celebration, visit

Joey Eschrich

program manager, Center for Science and the Imagination