School of Theatre and Film professor wins coveted Humanitas Prize


September 25, 2012

Gregory Bernstein, a newly appointed professor in ASU's School of Theatre and Film, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, won the coveted 2012 Humanitas Prize for co-writing "The Conspirator," a film directed by Robert Redford.

Bernstein was nominated in the Humanitas Prize feature film category along with writers for "Hugo," "The Descendants" and "Shame." Download Full Image

“The Humanitas Prize is a prestigious award given for television and film writers whose stories and characters affirm the dignity of the human person, explore the meaning of life, enlighten the use of human freedom and reveal to each person our common humanity,’’ said Jacob Pinholster, associate professor and director of the ASU School of Theatre and Film, and interim director of the School of Dance, in announcing the award to the school’s faculty, staff and students. “Past winners include 'The King’s Speech,' 'Hotel Rwanda,' 'Crash' and 'The Shawshank Redemption,' so this is very exalted company.”

Bernstein began writing The Conspirator – the story of Mary Surratt and the young attorney who defends her for being accused of conspiring to assassinate President Abraham Lincoln – in 1993 with fellow American Film Institute classmate James Solomon. 

A self-described Civil War buff and a graduate of the University of California-Los Angeles Law School, Bernstein was drawn to the story of this middle-aged Southern woman and the young Union officer called to represent her before a military tribunal and the compelling issues this piece of history raised.

“As a Civil War buff I knew about the trial and the Union officer who suddenly had to defend Mary Surratt, this Catholic woman and Southerner,’’ Bernstein said. “There was a great deal of prejudice in general toward Southern women who were often thought to be harboring spies. That Mary Surratt was a Southern woman and a Catholic made her an easy target given that the men who conspired to kill Lincoln met and made plans in her boarding house. I thought that was interesting.’’

When his name was called during the Sept. 14th awards luncheon at the Montage Beverly Hills in Los Angeles, Bernstein said he felt not only surprised but extremely lucky.

“It validates an effort made to do a project not overtly commercial and that’s a necessary thing to do every now and then," he said.

Bernstein, who teaches beginning screenwriting, the business of media industries and great film directors and performers in the ASU School of Theatre and Film, also has written "Trial and Error," starring Jeff Daniels and Charlize Theron; "Call Me Claus," starring Whoopi Goldberg; and "One Day in Dallas," which he also directed. In addition to his writing and directing credits, Bernstein was vice president of business affairs at Columbia Pictures, TriStar Pictures and Lorimar Telepictures. He was assistant executive director of the Writers Guild of America, west.

His next writing project also includes two of his passions: history and the law.

Barrett faculty member edits book about archaeology of cooking


September 25, 2012

Cooking is more than simply the act of combining ingredients and heating them up to make them edible. Cooking activities are indicative of wide-ranging aspects of society, including social, cultural, political and economic life.

That’s the premise behind The Menial Art of Cooking: Archaeological Studies of Cooking and Food Preparation (University of Colorado Press), a volume of scholarly essays about cooking edited by Sarah Graff, Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, and Enrique Rodríguez-Alegría, associate professor of anthropology at the University of Texas at Austin. "The Menial Art of Cooking" Download Full Image

According to the publisher, the book “examines techniques and technologies of food preparation, the spaces where food was cooked, the relationship between cooking and changes in household economies, the religious and symbolic aspects of cooking, the relationship between cooking and social identity, and how examining foodways provides insight into social relations of production, distribution and consumption.”

Essay contributors approach cooking from an archaeological viewpoint and use a wide variety of evidence, including archaeological data, archival research, analysis of ceramics, fauna, botany, glass and other artifacts, stone tools, murals, painted ceramics, ethnographic analogy to identify signs of cooking and food processing by ancient cooks.

The overall focus of the book is “using cooking as a lens to look at all other aspects of life – economy, politics, social structure, religion and power,” Graff said.

According to Graff, the importance of cooking sometimes gets overshadowed – particularly among archaeologists – by events or artifacts that seem to hold more significance.

“We tend to be more interested in things that sound really big, like treaties between kings, or major events, or treasures found at archaeological sites, but we miss the importance of day-to-day activities like cooking,” Graff said. 

For example, because cooking through the ages tended to be done mostly by women, that should not negate the activity and its influence on social groups and household economies, Graff said. In short, cooking should not be classified as a mundane or menial act.

Graff hopes that the book will be used in classes focused on food and culture and for research. She plans to take the book to two conferences in November: the American Schools of Oriental Research Annual Meeting in Chicago and the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting in San Francisco.  

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College

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