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Cutting-edge theater company comes to ASU

October 25, 2016

The inventive theater company 600 HIGHWAYMEN has been lauded by the New York Times, American Theatre Magazine, the Wall Street Journal and other publications for its performances, which offer a new way of seeing for today and explore a radical approach to making live art. New Yorker theater critic Hilton Als once declared, “I wish to hear anything that 600 Highwaymen has to say.”

What 600 HIGHWAYMEN has to say now is something the ASU community and surrounding areas can see for themselves when this cutting-edge theater company performs its new work “The Fever” for eight nights at the Galvin Playhouse as part of a residency with the School of Film, Dance and Theatre. Scenes from The Fever The Fever is performed in complete collaboration with the audience. Photo by Maddie McGarvey/600 HIGHWAYMEN Download Full Image

“I think this is one of the most exciting events happening in our school this year,” said Lance Gharavi, assistant director of theater.

Abigail Browde and Michael Silverstone, the artists behind the award-winning 600 HIGHWAYMEN, have made six original works since 2009. They aim to construct performances that illuminate the inherent poignancy and theatricality of people together. With “The Fever,” they examine how we assemble, organize and care for the bodies around us. Performed in complete collaboration with the audience, it tests the limits of individual and collective responsibility and our willingness to be there for one another.

“We're thrilled to be hosted by ASU and to preview our new work,” Silverstone said. “Audiences will experience brand-new writing and will become an essential part of our development process.”

With the shows at Galvin, 600 HIGHWAYMEN offers audiences an early chance to experience “The Fever” before it premieres in The Public Theater’s Under the Radar Festival in New York in January. Since the nightly performances are part of the development process for the piece, any future production of “The Fever” will include mention of it being developed in part at ASU.

“We are a forward-thinking school, and now the ASU name will be tied to this performance by a forward-thinking theater company,” Gharavi said.

In addition to the performances, 600 HIGHWAYMEN will be working directly with ASU students in workshops and working groups.

“I think our students, most of them will never have seen art like this — mind-expanding art,” Gharavi said.

How to watch

The show runs Oct. 27 – 30 and Nov. 2 – 5 at 8 p.m. each night. Performances are free and open to the public, but seating is extremely limited. To reserve your ticket, call the Herberger Institute Box Office at 480-965-6447. Performances are part of a residency partnership between 600 HIGHWAYMEN; The Public Theater in New York; ASU’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre; and ASU Gammage.

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute


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Dylan's Nobel Prize win shows definition of literature is changing

ASU prof says she won't "rule out" Dylan turning down Nobel Prize in Literature.
ASU prof switched from piano to guitar at age 12 to learn Bob Dylan songs.
All are invited to Wednesday celebration of Dylan's work, 1-2 p.m. in Tempe.
October 24, 2016

ASU English prof on musician's historic win, the controversy surrounding it and what it means for the future of the lit prize

Singer-songwriter Bob Dylan’s winning the Nobel Prize in Literature has many in the literary community up in arms, and the genre-defying Dylan himself remains mum on whether he’ll accept.

Arizona State University English professor Elizabeth Horan, however, is “thrilled” about the first-ever musician to win the prize.

A longtime appreciator of Dylan’s work, Horan teaches a course on Nobel laureates in which one of her students’ assignments is to predict who will win the prize for literature that year. Over the years, she has had several students make a case for the “Like A Rolling Stone” crooner.

To celebrate his win, Horan and the ASU Department of English are hosting “Bringing It All Back: Bob Dylan Nobel Prize Celebration 2016” from 1 to 2 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 26, in room 316 of the Durham Language and Literature Building on the Tempe campus. The event is free and open to public, as well as the entire ASU community. Attendees are encouraged to bring, recite or perform their favorite Bob Dylan lyric (one song). Click here to RSVP.

Read on for Horan’s take on the “scandalous” history of the Nobel Prize in Literature, her favorite Dylan songs, and whether she thinks he’ll eventually accept the award.

Question: How is the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature chosen?

Answer: The Swedish Academy goes by the terms of Alfred Nobel’s will. His will is quite vague, and he also wrote it in Swedish, which wasn’t his first language. His will states that the prize should go to the most outstanding work in an idealistic direction. So it’s kind of vague.

The person has to be alive at the time the academy makes the decision, and it rarely goes to someone young. Only one or two people have received the prize before the age of 45. It’s not a rule, but they generally tend to go to people who are at least in their late 40s, more often in their 60s, who usually have a large, important body of work. And they have to be nominated either by professors of language and literature or by the Swedish Academy.

Q: What was your reaction when you heard Bob Dylan was being awarded the prize?

A: I was speechless. I get up at 3:30 in the morning every year when they announce the winner so that I can be one of the first to know, because when I’m teaching the Nobel laureate class, I need to get ahold of books before copies disappear. I’m not teaching the course this year so there wasn’t a big rush, but I began thinking about how I could do a whole course on Bob Dylan. The next thing I did was write to some of my students who have nominated him in the past and have been the most vehement about it.

Q: Are you happy with the academy’s decision?

A: I’m really happy because it shows the Swedish Academy is getting more open about what its idea of literature is. It’s no longer just big novels. They’re thinking more broadly about literature, and literature in performance. And that bodes well for things like graphic novels and other forms of performed literature. I’m also glad because one of the problems someone from the U.S. would have had with winning the prize is that since Toni Morrison was the last American to get it, whoever follows her has to live up to that. And Bob Dylan does. I was thrilled.

Q: So it’s safe to say you’re a Dylan fan?

A: When I teach the Nobel laureate class, I have to be completely impartial. So I don’t reveal that I’m a Bob Dylan fan. But I can now admit, when I was 12, I switched from piano to guitar so that I could learn to play Bob Dylan songs.

Q: Do you have a favorite?

A: The first song I learned to play was “Mr. Tambourine Man.” I also really like “Tangled Up in Blue.” I tend to like the songs with complex lyrics, as well as some of the more narrative ones, like “The Jack of Hearts” and “Hurricane.” And that’s one of the things that’s so amazing about Dylan. He’s produced so many different kinds of songs.

Q: What happens when someone wins the prize?

A: The winner goes to Stockholm and gives a banquet speech, called the Nobel Lecture. They’re all good, and it’s one of the things we read in my class. You can read them all on the Nobel website. Different people do different things with that occasion. Sometimes they use it to bring up political things, like British playwright Harold Pinter did.

It was incredible what he did. He used the opportunity to denounce the invasion of Iraq, which both the U.S. and Britain were very involved in, and that’s something U.S. students aren’t often aware of. It was a controversial and extremely well-done lecture. Students always get wound up when they see that. One of my first thoughts after getting over the shock and the thrill that Dylan had won was, what will he do with the lecture?

Q: Is there often controversy surrounding the prize?

A: Whenever anyone wins the prize, there’s always a scandal. It’s always the case. Because there’s so much money involved. The very fact of having $1 million dollars associated with one prize is embarrassing to some people, particularly when it’s connected to something like the realm of culture, where there’s no absolute, agreed-upon standard about what constitutes a good piece of literature. Or even what literature is. Science prizes have always been controversial as well, but more so about who to give credit to for discoveries.

Another part of the scandal surrounding the prize has to do with the publishing community. In October, they’re very keyed in to who will win because it results in a big bump in sales. So a publisher will recall books they’ve printed and reprint the cover to reflect a writer’s Nobel Prize-winning status.

Q: Aside from a pseudo-acknowledgement on his website that was surreptitiously removed, Dylan has yet to acknowledge whether or not he’ll accept the prize. Is that unusual?

A: The only person to turn down the Nobel Prize for Literature was French philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre. He explained that it had long been his policy not to accept any honors or recognitions for his work.

But many past winners have been uncomfortable with it. For instance, Canadian short-story writer Alice Munro won and said she wasn’t feeling well enough to attend [because she was overwhelmed by] so much press attention in such a short period of time. People who have written about receiving the prize say it’s so intense. Often with novelists, their first book after having won is usually pretty mediocre. That’s because being a good writer requires a steady, set routine and time alone.

Q: Do you think there’s any indication Dylan may turn down the prize?

A: The fact he has not said anything yet is quite interesting. It seems to me a little unlikely, but I’m not going to rule it out.

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ASU's Homecoming Block Party is a festival of learning.
October 20, 2016

ASU biologist Melissa Wilson Sayres — whose banana-DNA demo will be one of scores of interactive booths — says it's key for people to meet scientists face to face

Melissa Wilson Sayres thinks that people need to interact with scientists more often in their daily lives.

“We’re exposed to teachers and we’re exposed to doctors and nurses, but there’s not a routine place where you get to go and just talk to a scientist,” said Wilson Sayres, a computational biologist and assistant professor in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University.

“Because we have this ‘white lab coat’ view of a scientist, it can seem unattainable when you never have the chance to meet scientists.”

Visitors to ASU’s Homecoming Block Party this Saturday on the Tempe campus will have plenty of chances to interact with scientists — as well as artists, writers, mathematicians, historians and more.

The annual family-friendly event, which is free and open to the public, features more than 100 tents and displays that put the spotlight on fun, interactive learning and introduce students and the public alike to all that ASU has to offer. Among the many offerings, visitors can explore a student-built race car, learn how to build a catapult, try on medieval chain mail and watch swordplay demonstrations, have their fortune told by the Math Swami, play games, win prizes and — in Wilson Sayres’ case, learn how to extract DNA from a banana at the School of Life Sciences booth. (Find more details at the end of this story.)

Wilson SayresWilson Sayres also is a faculty member in ASU’s Center for Evolution and Medicine. has been doing outreach for years, and earlier this year she won “I’m a Scientist USA”, an “American Idol”-style contest in which she and other scientists interacted online with young people, who then “voted off” participants. Last spring, she launched a crowd-sourcing campaign that raised $10,000 to help fund her Gila monster genome-sequencing project.

She spoke with ASU Now about how she promotes her career in science and what’s next for her lab.

Question: How have you promoted science as a career?

Answer: I’ve been doing science outreach for 12 years or more in a variety of different ways. As a grad student, I organized workshops for Girl Scouts so they could earn their science badges.

We did an event reaching 10,000 at the U.S.A. Science and Engineering Fest where we were teaching them about polymer chemistry. So sometimes things that weren’t really specific in my area of genetics and genomics.

We did an event for first graders where we did “dragon genetics” — they figured out if their dragon would have wings or could breathe fire.

We want to go to retirement communities because that’s an area of outreach that’s been overlooked. Most outreach is K-12 education, and in Arizona, we have a wealth of people who have these life experiences but were not commonly taught about genetics.

I also respond to questions on Ask a Biologist.

2015 Homecoming Block Party

ASU computational biologist Melissa Wilson Sayres (at the 2015 Homecoming Block Party) will be showing how to extract DNA from a banana at the School of Life Sciences booth on Saturday. Photo by Jacob Sahertian/ASU


Q: How did you come to be in “I’m a Scientist USA”?

A: It was like a reality show with five scientists. We spent the first week live-chatting with students. It was East Coast time so I would start at 5 a.m. and chat with one or two or three classes every day. They would ask questions about science or about life or about Pokémon, just anything.

The kids ranged from about fourth grade to seniors. Sometimes they got really off track, and sometimes we had some really insightful discussions about genetics.

The largest proportion of questions were about heritable genetic disease. We had a couple special-needs classrooms and they were asking about their own conditions, and it’s great because they want to talk about it but it’s challenging because we haven’t figured out the genetic basis for a lot of diseases. And some of them have a huge environmental component.

They also wanted to know my favorite food and whether I had any pets.

Every week they voted someone off. There was one scientist who studied scabs, and I thought ‘There is no way I was going to beat the scab guy.’ But I did.

More than trying to get out information, it was to humanize scientists so they could envision themselves as scientists.

Q: What did you win?

A: I won $500, and I bought a handmade Gila monster model and a replica of a Gila monster skull.

We’ll being doing more outreach about this animal because either people don’t know about it or they’re afraid of it.

Q: Why are Gila monsters important?

A: Their saliva is venomous and feels like flaming lava. It’s not dangerous, it just hurts.

The venom has a peptide in it that used to treat type 2 diabetes and it works really well, but we don’t know anything elseSequencing the genome will allow scientists to learn whether they have other medicinal properties. about the Gila monster genome.

So to map the genome, we take a cell and we mash up the cells and get the DNA out. That’s the extraction part.

So in the lab we’ve sent off the DNA to a sequencer, and it will come back as an electronic file.

Then the hard part starts. It takes a while to put this giant puzzle together without knowing what it will look like. It has about 2 billion base pairs. We don’t know which part are functional genes and which are spacers between the genes. We talk about genetics all the time, which makes it seem easy, but it isn’t.

We chop it into pieces and sequence it, and then we have to put those pieces back together. That’s what bioinformatics is.

If we really want to know about the Gila monster, we need to get that reference genome. Once we have that we can learn more about what we should be doing to conserve them.

Video: Melissa Wilson Sayres demonstrates extracting DNA from bananas.


ASU Homecoming Block Party

What: More than 100 ASU departments and organizations will welcome visitors to learn about science, the arts, humanities and more. There will be games, photo booths, prizes, selfie ops, music and more.

When: 3-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 22. The Homecoming Parade — featuring classic cars, floats, the Sun Devil Marching Band and Sparky — begins at 3 p.m. along University Drive, and the Block Party runs from then until the 7 p.m. start of the Sun Devils football game against Washington State.

Where: The tents and displays will radiate out from the Old Main Lawn on the Tempe campus, covering 14 acres.

Admission: Free and open to the public. Find information on free parking at the link below. Please do not bring pets to the event.



Top photo: Sofia Diaz holds out her bubble after performing a science experiment during the 2015 Homecoming Block Party in Tempe. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now



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ASU borderlands residency takes artist on ride through Sonoran Desert

Visiting artist to perform one-woman play as part of ASU borderlands project.
October 16, 2016

Yadira De La Riva to use storytelling to change views on the border, immigration

Bilingual artist and educator Yadira De La Riva grew up with a foot on both sides of the U.S. and Mexico border, and she wants to change the narrative on immigration.

She thinks that can happen through the power of art and storytelling.

“Border issues are often intertwined and complicated,” said De La Riva, a visiting artist from New York who will travel through Arizona and northern Mexico, working with Arizona State University students and border communities to teach theater as a tool for social engagement.

“Trying to build a wall is not only contradictory, but is divisive. As two separate countries, we sometimes need to be reminded how interconnected we are through our families, lifestyle and economies. We must remind U.S. and Mexico of this reality.”

The two-week residency — part of the ASU ongoing “Performance in the Borderlands” series — will run Oct. 16–29. It will feature a series of workshops, lectures, performances and public engagements that bridge the Sonoran Desert.

An initiative of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ School of Film, Dance and Theatre, “Borderlands” is an annual art series of plays, installations and educational workshops that brings together a collection of local and national artists to focus their talents on borderland issues.

This year’s theme, “Voices of Power,” examines the role of women of color in the arts and social justice. The series kicked off Sept. 13 with a panel of prominent artists discussing their work’s potential to drive social and political change. ASU Now will follow the initiative to document the ways it engages people and the region.

Artist Yadira De La Riva dances

Artist Yadira De La Riva performs
at Rio Salado Habitat Restoration
Area in south Phoenix. She'll hold a
free, public performance there
Oct. 19. Photos by Deanna Dent/

De La Riva’s performance, “One Journey: Stitching Stories Across the Mexican ‘American’ Border,” will take place Oct. 19 at the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area, Seventh Avenue and Lower Buckeye Road in south Phoenix. The free event is open to the public and starts at 7 p.m.

The one-woman play weaves personal borderland interviews De La Riva accumulated over a decade to tell the story of a family separated by border enforcement and the U.S.-Mexico war on drugs. The goal is to shed a feminine light on borderland identity that is influenced by dual languages, values, cultures, economics, nationalities and immigration policy.

“Yadira’s work is a timely piece that speaks to the complex identities of being from both sides of the U.S. and Mexico borders,” said Mary Stephens, producing director for “Performance in the Borderlands.”

“We chose her for the residency based on her previous work in Arizona, her ability to speak in multiple languages to reach diverse audiences and her training as a theatre educator who can collaborate across borders.”

Her residency will take her through the Tohono O’odham Nation, Tucson, Douglas, Agua Prieta and Nogales.

On Oct. 21, De La Riva will conduct a workshop with Douglas High School students using storytelling as a form of community asset mappingCommunity asset mapping provides information about the strengths and resources of a community and can help uncover solutions. Once community strengths and resources are inventoried and depicted in a map, you can more easily think about how to build on these assets to address community needs and improve health. where participants will develop several short-story dramatic works focused on reclaiming community narratives. A day later she’ll cross the border into Agua Prieta, Sonora, Mexico, and perform “One Journey” at the Border Crossing Fence.

“One of the reasons why I became an artist is because I didn’t feel there were enough border stories being told,” De La Riva said. “I want to be an example and reminder that we have so many beautiful and inspiring stories to tell. Our border is so rich in culture, music, colloquialisms, pride and humor.

“We have the potential to tell those stories, and we need to ensure we are heard.”

Children’s literature activist to speak at ASU indigenous lecture

October 12, 2016

For Debbie Reese, cutting classes in high school was an opportunity to indulge her passions. Rather than finding trouble, however, she used that time to volunteer at Head Start, a program dedicated to helping impoverished youth.

The Illinois-based educator has always been drawn to helping others, especially kids, which was inspired by her upbringing. Debbie Reese / Courtesy photo “What I'm doing isn't for me and my well-being,” says scholar and critic Debbie Reese about her work dispelling literary stereotypes of Indigenous people. “It is for the children, Native and not, who will read those books.” Reese will give an ASU-sponsored lecture on Oct. 20 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Download Full Image

“I remember that as a child growing up at Nambé Pueblo, our elders taught us that the things we do are not for us as individuals, but for our community.”

Reese has incorporated those values into her life’s work as a scholar and activist. She is the publisher of the blog American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL), which provides critical perspectives and analysis of Indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, school curricula, popular culture and society.

“What I'm doing isn't for me and my well-being,” she said. “It is for the children, Native and not, who will read those books.” 

Reese will speak about the work of dispelling misconceptions in her presentation “Some Truths, but Lots of Lies: Indigenous Peoples in Children’s Literature” in the fall 2016 Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community. The ASU-sponsored lecture will take at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. An on-campus, meet-and-greet reception with Reese will take place at the Labriola Center in Hayden Library also that day at 10:30 a.m.

In public and for the public

Since its beginning in 2006, AICL has been a heavy influence on authors and readers alike — sometimes even prompting authors to make revisions to their work.

“A good example is Ashley Hope Perez's ‘Out of Darkness,’” Reese said. “It isn't about Native people, but it did have a character saying he was the ‘low man on the totem pole.’ That is one of those common phrases people use that embodies lack of knowledge of the Native peoples who create and use totem poles. I wrote to her, and she edited that passage out of her book. It does not appear in the second printing.”

Reese shares that this immediate impact is precisely the reason she does public-facing work.

“I launched my blog with the goal of making my research accessible to anyone who had access to the Internet,” she said. “Most scholars publish in journals and books that teachers, parents, and librarians never see or can't afford.”

It wasn’t until pursuing her doctorate at the University of Illinois that Reese became aware of the extent of the misrepresentation of Native peoples. To her amazement, she found an overarching ignorance of American indigenous culture outside of indigenous communities, even at the university level.

Reese remarks that her acknowledgment of her Nambé heritage at school, “led to people asking or inviting me to dance at their gatherings. I was surprised by that and realized how deeply they were miseducated by the university's stereotypical Indian mascot, ‘Chief Illiniwek.’

Starting at the beginning

When she also struggled to find books with accurate portrayals of Native culture to read to her own young daughter, Reese decided to change her focus of study from family literacy to depictions of Native peoples in children’s texts. Reese had come to understand that she could help address the rampant misconceptions with young children, long before they reached university.

“I started looking critically and found images like that of the mascot in much-loved books: dearly-loved characters, like Clifford the Big Red Dog, [who] wears a headdress in one of Norman Bridwell's books,” Reese said. “My research found that children were far more likely to see that sort of thing in their books than stories and images that accurately portray us.”

With a refocused passion, Reese became a vocal leader while at the University of Illinois; she helped establish the Native American House and an American Indian studies program at the university.

Reese has amassed a plethora of awards and achievements. She regularly travels around the country to speak publicly about Native American culture and representation. As a touchstone, she points to a widely cited concept discussed by Rudine Sims Bishop in the 1990s — that books can function as “mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors,” validating and reflecting children’s lived experiences. Reese’s motivation is to create more opportunities for accurate reflections of, and for, American Indians.

“We need those mirrors for Native children,” Reese said, “and we need more people in our communities and university settings to speak up about those distorted mirrors.”


The Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community at Arizona State University addresses topics and issues across disciplines in the arts, humanities, sciences, and politics. Underscoring Indigenous American experiences and perspectives, this series seeks to create and celebrate knowledge that evolves from an inclusive Indigenous worldview and that is applicable to all walks of life. Simon Ortiz, a poet of Acoma Pueblo heritage and the series namesake and organizer, is a Regents’ Professor of English and American Indian studies at ASU.

ASU sponsors include the American Indian Policy Institute; American Indian Studies Program; Department of English; School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies (all units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); the Indian Legal Program in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law; Labriola National American Indian Data Center and ASU Libraries; School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; and Women and Gender Studies in the School of Social Transformation. The Heard Museum is a community partner.

More information about the Indigenous Lecture Series is available on its website.


Written by Josh Morris

Kristen LaRue

communications specialist, Department of English


ASU theater students to premiere autobiographical play

October 12, 2016

Throw a group of grad students into a room, and tell them to make a play from scratch. Creating a cohesive work might be hard with around a dozen artists bringing their own ideas and identities to the project. But Arizona State University's School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s MFA theater cohort used that potential hurdle as an asset when devising the MainStage production “Out of Many,” which premieres Friday, Oct. 14 at the Lyceum Theatre.

“We’ve been working on this play for about two years now together,” said Phil Weaver-Stoesz, one of the play’s three directors. “It’s one of the core components of the cohort process that all of the performers, designers and directors go through.” ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre play Out of Many Download Full Image

With the play’s run scheduled a few weeks before the election, the cohort began exploring themes of America and what it means to be American.

“As that developed over the course of the year it became more and more clear that what really mattered was the differences in the way that we all perceive what that means,” said Wyatt Kent, another one of the directors. 

The final play is a one-of-a-kind production featuring various vignettes devised by members of the cohort — told from different perspectives and in different ways.

“We wanted to make show about our identity in America and what that means to each of us,” said Kyra Jackson, also a director. “Because we obviously can’t agree on one identity that we all have in this wonderful, weird country.”

Weaver-Stoesz says the autobiographical nature of the show makes it unlike other shows and impossible to reprise.  

“This could only be done by this specific group of people,” he said. “This show could never be passed on and redone somewhere else with some other group of people. It feels so personal to us because it’s our own stories. It’s our own writing. It’s our own thinking.” 

He said working on such personal, and at times vulnerable, issues, everyone in the group keeps each other brave.

“Through the process of this development, which has been at times both beautiful and painful, we have had to square and come to terms with each other,” said Vickie Hall, a member of the cohort. “It’s making us, I think, ultimately stronger as a group of people who are making art together.”

Pulling their disparate identities together at a time when the country seems so divided is also part of what makes the play timely, according to members of the cohort. 

“I don’t think the show purports to have any clear answers as to here’s what it means to a citizen of this country or living in this country, but what it does do is shows interpretations of a wide variety of perspectives,” Kent said. “Looking into individual stories is one of the most valuable things that we can do in order to better understand the country as a whole.”


The stories range from football to food, from movement to dialogue, and from serious to funny. 

“I was really inspired by two of the people in the cast; one of them comes from Louisiana and one of them comes from Mississippi,” Weaver-Stoesz said. “And they both have this experience with gumbo — the food. I was interested in them talking about what gumbo is to them. The piece also plays with movement in terms of coming to the table, leaving the table, sort of separation and unity.”

Another story, created by a stand-up comedian, uses physical comedy to make a metaphor of Facebook’s targeted advertisements.

One of the more serious pieces deals with race and was inspired by an actual conversation between members of the cohort.  

“Basically it’s centered around an actual discussion between an African American and a group of Caucasian Americans,” said actor and creator Michael Alexander. “And we’re just talking. We’re hashing things out. We’re talking about stereotypes, and then it gets more serious.”

Conversation is exactly what Alexander hopes audiences get from “Out of Many.” 

“No one can get anywhere if no one talks to each other,” Alexander said. “And that’s what this entire piece is about – to start conversation on these different ideas, using art.”

How to watch

Catch one of the performances of “Out of Many” at the Lyceum Theatre, 901 South Forest Mall, on ASU’s Tempe campus: 7:30 p.m., Oct. 14-15, 20–22; 2 p.m., Oct. 16, 23.

Tickets are $16, general; $12, ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12, senior; $8, student. Purchase tickets online or call the Herberger Institute Box Office at 480-965-6447.

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute


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50 props, 5 types of stage blood, 300 sound/light cues in "Feathers and Teeth."
Student-produced retro comedy-thriller opens Oct. 28 at ASU.
October 11, 2016

ASU student play has less than 2 weeks before opening night; crew hard at work at set design, fight choreography and more

Editor's note: This is the third installment of a semester-long series following the production of "Feathers and Teeth" from casting call to wrap party. Look for the next story soon.

It has been four weeks since the actors on “Feathers and Teeth” received their scripts.

Every night since then, they’ve been working hard to get down their dialogue, coordinate their movements and hit their marks.

Behind the scenes, another group has been working equally hard to get the play ready: the 26-member crew whose numbers quintuple the small cast.

“There’s a stereotype that abounds regarding directors where they are sitting in a canvas chair and barking orders at the actors,” said Ricky Araiza, the director of “Feathers and Teeth,”“Feathers and Teeth” is a retro comedy-thriller. The plot follows Chris, a 13-year-old who suspects foul play when her father hooks up with an attractive home-care nurse two months after the death of her mother, Ellie. Set in a Rust Belt factory town in 1978, the play combines the supernatural with classic rock, family dysfunction and gremlin-like creatures that roam the house’s crawl space. an upcoming play that will debut in Tempe on Oct. 28. Araiza is a third-year master of fine arts student in Arizona State University’s School of Film, Dance and TheatreThe School of Film, Dance and Theatre is a unit of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.; the play will serve as the equivalent of his master’s thesis.

“The best metaphor I can use is that a director is the captain of a ship. A captain doesn’t do everything on the boat, but he has to know how to delegate to get everyone on the same path and heading in the right direction.”

The ship has about two weeks before it sets sail. If Araiza is nervous, he isn’t showing it to his crew, a mixture of stage veterans and rookies who are working on their first production.

They’ll cover design and construction of the sets, sound and lighting, special effects, props, makeup, wardrobe, choreography and publicity.

“It really does take a village to put on a production,” said Jamie MacPherson, a 28-year-old MFA student in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the play’s fight choreographer.

MacPherson, who has worked on close to 25 stage productions, said the play has “five major moments of violence.” She said for every minute of action there’s about an hour of blocking and preparation.

MacPherson looks at three things before choreographing a fight: What does the stage look like? What does the script call for, and what are the actor’s instincts when they pull a punch for the first time?

“I also have to know what kind of costume will they be wearing, and if it includes jewelry,” MacPherson said. “And wigs are always a fun problem.”

Costume designer Andres Marin and makeup artist Macaley Fields said they’re having a blast working together on getting a look and feel for the era — the flashy and flamboyant ’70s. Marin did a photo search of the decade to research color patterns and prints, while Fields leafed through old copies of “Cosmopolitan.”

“What better magazine to consult for hair, style and makeup trends at that time?” said Fields, a design major working on her first stage production.

Technical director Anthony Lee said although he’s having fun, he’s under intense deadline pressure. This is also the 19-year-old sophomore’s first experience with an official stage production. He and about 20 other students from THP 231: Scenic Construction will build nine pieces of furniture — three wall units, five hanging windows and a mobile crawl space that can be wheeled on and off stage.

Lee will receive a lot of his cues from set designer Rhea Solanki, a 20-year-old junior majoring in theater, production and design. Solanki said playwright Charise Castro Smith’s writing is visual, and she wants the set to look like a combination of “Gremlins” and “The Brady Bunch.”

Because of the limited space where the play will take place,Nelson Fine Arts Center, Room 133. designing the set had its challenges, she said.

“Because there are classes that take place in this room during the week, the set had to be compact enough to be stored away and at the same time would work for the play,” Solanki said.

Despite its proclamation as an intimate show, “Feathers and Teeth” will feature more than 50 props, dozens of pieces of furniture, approximately 300 sound and lighting cues, five different types of stage blood and a few special effects that Araiza won’t reveal until opening night.

“Ensemble is very important to me,” said Araiza. “Yes, I came in with a vision, but it’s not my piece of art.

“These are the folks that really bring the image of the play together.”


Read more

Part 1: Anything goes at ‘Feathers and Teeth’ casting call” 

Part 2:Building chemistry among a new cast


Top photo: Technical director Anthony Lee tacks the facing on one of the three 8-foot-tall walls for the staging for "Feathers and Teeth" Oct. 11 on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU alum fashions a new path

ASU alumnus has designs on the fashion world — and on @PHXFashionWeek.
October 10, 2016

Mechanical engineer finds inspiration in design, Native American culture; will show his collection at Phoenix Fashion Week

There’s really not a polite way to say this — Loren Aragon’s house is a mess.

Not far from the entrance there are several racks of handmade garments, raw fabrics and dress forms. Sewing machines, pattern paper, thread, pincushions, measuring devices, cutting tools and two draft tables dominate what was once the dining and living areas. 

His Maricopa residence has been this way for the past year.

That’s about the time he decided to turn his fashion-design hobby into a full-time vocation.

Which might come as a surprise: The Arizona State University alumnus received his degree in mechanical engineering in 2004, but the call of the creative drew him back to the arts.

“My study and practice as a mechanical engineer further fuels my artistic passion and abilities as an artist,” said Aragon, who is from the Acoma Pueblo in New Mexico. Sixty miles west of Albuquerque, the pueblo is known for its pottery and long ancestral line of artists.

“My work is a result of a combination of my artistic vision and technological discipline.”

In June, Aragon was one of 15 artists selected by Phoenix Fashion Week to attend its Emerging Designer Bootcamp. Over a four-month period, he learned the ins and outs of the fashion business, including branding, messaging, margins, profits, team building and public relations.

“We have about 40 different things we teach them in those four months, and then they are tested in real time,” said Brian Hill, executive director of Phoenix Fashion Week. “Loren has great designs, which is the baseline for everything.”

This week Aragon will unveil his spring/summer 2017 collection at the Talking Stick Resort in the East Valley, where hundreds of retailers and an estimated 6,000 people will see a dozen of his new designs. Fashion Week takes place Oct. 13-15.

Aragon’s company is called ACONAV, which represents the Acoma and Navajo tribes. The latter is in tribute to his wife and business partner, Valentina, who hails from the Navajo Nation.

The brand’s mission is to represent part of the Native American culture in high-end fashion, with the idea of evoking the empowerment of the female spirit. Their work is resonating with many in the fashion world.

“ACONAV clothing is beyond description and is different from anything else out there,” said Taté Walker, editor of Phoenix-based Native Peoples Magazine. “The passion, the care and culture infused within each piece are prevalent in every stitch.”

Two years ago Aragon and his wife left good-paying corporate jobs to devote their full-time efforts to ACONAV.

“There’s a lot of 20-hour days and all-nighters,” said Valentina, who runs the business-operations side while her husband is the creative force. “We haven’t hosted any dinner parties in a while because there’s nowhere to sit.”

That devotion caught the attention of Hill, who has become one of Aragon’s biggest cheerleaders.

“He’s all in,” Hill said of Aragon. “Loren should be doing this full-time because he’s that talented. He’s bright, focused and he has the talent to get to the top.”

Aragon has spent the past two decades trying to get to the top. In high school and college he started a greeting-card company, designing one-off cards and selling them at craft shows for pocket money and tuition. He was also gifted mechanically and pursued an ASU degree in mechanical engineering.

His artistic side was pushed aside for several years as he pursued a successful career testing vehicles and designing military seats and training weapons — pushed aside, that is, until an August 2008 visit to the Santa Fe Indian Market. He was amazed by the amount of contemporary Native American art for sale and sensed a movement was afoot.

“Native American art is traditionally basket weaving, rugs, pottery and silversmith jewelry,” Aragon said. “When I walked around I discovered graphics, painting, photography and sculpture. People were taking their culture and putting it on their art in a lot of different ways. I wanted to find a way to do that, too.”

Aragon was inspired by that visit and renewed his dedication to his once-dormant company. He branched out into illustration, jewelry and sculpting, and he even created a line of street wear. That eventually morphed into women’s couture evening wear when he created a traditional dress with a modern twist.

The polychrome-patterned dress, which he still keeps at home and loans out for special occasions, won first place at the Santa Fe Indian Market in 2013. Since then, orders for his work steadily came in through street fairs, trade shows and his website.

Most of Aragon’s collections display the influences of the pottery designs of the Acoma people with traditional elements as highlights to modern looks. He uses mostly high-end silks and cotton sateens because “they give off a symbol of elegance.”

Aragon hopes Phoenix Fashion Week will be the launching pad for brand success, as each piece of clothing is “an extension of my life, love, creativity and prayers.”

His hope is to eventually have a brick-and-mortar store with a studio, where patrons can buy made-to-order bridal wear, evening attire and cocktail dresses.

Valentina says that idea is appealing on many levels.

“I’d like to host a dinner party again in my lifetime,” she said. “For once I’d like to wake up and not see a dress form or rack of clothes in my entryway.”



Phoenix Fashion Week

What: A series of runway shows at the leading fashion-industry event in the Southwest.

When: Oct. 13-15. The ACONAV show will be at 7:30 p.m. Oct. 15.

Where: Talking Stick Resort, 9800 Talking Stick Way, Salt River Reservation (near Scottsdale).



Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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Join ASU emeritus professor on walking tour of Latino history at Tempe campus.
Latino influence can be seen everywhere at ASU.
October 7, 2016

Emeritus professor Christine Marin to guide walking tour of Latino historical points of interest on Tempe campus

Before the entrance to Hayden Library was underground, it was flanked by a growth of shrubs. During the 1970s and '80s, Latino students began congregating in the area, where they hosted civil-rights rallies, raised funds for the Red Cross or simply shared a conversation before class. Over time, it became known as “the Chicano Bush.”

Today, there is no evidence of the Chicano Bush on what is now Cady Mall, but Christine Marin, a graduate student at ASU in the 1980s, remembers it clearly. Marin went on to earn her PhD and is now an ASU emeritus professor. If anyone can tell the story of the hidden gems of Latino history on the Tempe campus, it’s her.

On Thursday, Oct. 13, she’ll do just that, as she guides a walking tour stopping at various points of historic significance as Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close. The tour will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. and will begin at the Interdisciplinary B building, room 164, with the School of Transborder Studies' historic map collection.

Hosted by the Recovering ASU Latin@ History Working Group, the tour is free and open to the public.

“Throughout the tour, we’re going to see the many contributions and vibrant history of Latino students here at ASU,” said Marin.

This is the first year ASU has offered such a tour. The idea came to ASU CAMP Scholars program director Seline Szkupinski Quiroga as she was guiding an Access ASU tour for children of migrant workers for the School of Transborder Studies. The lightbulb went off when she realized, “These kids aren’t seeing themselves in this tour,” she said. “I felt we needed a walking tour that highlighted Latino culture.”

Southwest Pieta sculpture by Luis Jimenez

"Southwest Pieta" by Luis Jimenez

The resulting tour includes such spots as the former site of the aforementioned Chicano Bush; the 10-foot fiberglass statue “Southwest Pieta,” by Luis Jimenez; “The Old Church” on College Avenue and University Drive; and the MEChA mural at the Memorial Union.

The theme of Southwest Pieta, involving a grieving man and a dead woman, is taken from Mexican mythology.

“It’s a Romeo-and-Juliet story of two lovers who are turned into volcanoes by the gods,” according to a statement by Jimenez, who passed away in 2006. “It is the most common image along the low-rider vans and on restaurant and barrio murals.”

The Old Church, also known as St. Mary’s, is now the home of the All Saints Catholic Newman Center. Back in 1903 when it was built using real adobe bricks, it was Tempe’s first Catholic church and a place for the local Latino community who worked at Charles Trumbull Hayden’s flour mill or the railroad to gather and worship.

The MEChA mural in the east entry of the Memorial Union dates back to the 1970s, shortly after the Chicano Civil Rights Movement spurred student activism and the creation of the Mexican American Student Organization (MASO) in 1968. Marin was one of the original founders.

By 1970, MASO became known as MEChAMEChA stands for Movimiento Estudiantil Chicanx de Aztlan (Chicanx Student Movement of Aztlan). Aztlan is the legendary ancestral home of the Aztecs, and "Chicanx" is a gender-neutral form of Chicano/Chicana.. The student group painted the mural to depict more than 500 years of Mexican/Chicano history, featuring the Classic Era of Indian Mexico, the Aztec Stone of the Fifth Sun and iconic figures such as Emiliano Zapata and Cesar Chavez. It is said that when Cesar Chavez made his first visit to the ASU campus, he met with the MEChA students and participated in the painting of the mural.


As the tour demonstrates, Latino history and culture can be seen everywhere at ASU; one just has to know where to look.

The Oct. 13 tour will come to an end with a reception on the second floor of Hayden Library. There, attendees can learn about the Chicano Research Collection, located on the fourth floor of the library in the Luhrs Reading Room.

For more information, contact Theresa Avila at or Seline Szupinski-Quiroga at For more information about the Chicano Research Collection, contact Nancy Godoy at


Top photo courtesy of the Chicano Research Collection, depicting the first ASU Mexican-American Student Organization, Los Conquistadores, circa 1940s.




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Performances all semester honor Ana Mendieta’s work, alongside exhibit.
October 5, 2016

Artists explore issues of race, gender and politics alongside exhibit of Ana Mendieta’s work at ASU Art Museum

In the art world, Ana Mendieta’s name is a source of sorrow, reverence and inspiration. The Cuban-born American artist’s mysterious death in 1985 is a point of intrigue and has led to a resurgence of interest in her artwork in recent years.

But her work stands apart from the scandal.

Mendieta synthesized and advanced emergent art forms of the early ’70s, including performance, body art, earthworks, photography and film.

This semester, the ASU Art Museum is exploring her legacy in "Energy Charge: Connecting to Ana Mendieta," which features an iconic selection of Mendieta’s work from 1972–1985 alongside the work of five contemporary artists from across the United States.

Like Mendieta, the contemporary artists featured in the exhibition, Ana Teresa FernándezKate GilmoreSimone LeighGina Osterloh and Antonia Wright, explore issues of race, gender and politics through their bodies. For instance, in Ana Teresa Fernández’s "Erasure" series, Fernández paints her body completely black as a response to the 2014 disappearance of 43 young male students from Ayotzinapa, Mexico, who were presumably killed for staging protests that disrupted their small town. 

This performative process — using the body to create artwork — is echoed in the work of the local artists and ASU students and faculty who are participating in the live "Energy Charge" performance series, which takes place throughout the exhibition’s run.

“The live bodies in the museum’s galleries bring a whole other layer of content and experience,” exhibition curator Heather Sealy Lineberry said.

“Last Thursday night, dance faculty members Eileen Standley and Melissa Britt presented a performance with a dancer in her ninth month of pregnancy, who moved in surprising and beautiful ways and was contrasted with the female bodies in the projections and photographs in the galleries,” Sealy Lineberry said. “Mendieta often talked about issues of birth and rebirth in her work, arising from her personal history as an immigrant and leaving her homeland at a young age, and having the pregnant body in her spaces brought a poignant connection to this emotional undercurrent.” 

“I think part of the reason I’m drawn to Mendieta’s work so much is because it engages with the body,” said Raji Ganesan, an ASU student pursing a degree in informatics, who is performing a piece next month as part of the series.

“We carry injustices in our bodies, and, for me, dance is what allows me to connect to that history,” she said.

Ganesan’s piece, "Negotiations," is a collaboration with two ASU alumni, Carly Bates and Allyson Yoder, and was originally performed in March of this year as the performers’ theses for Barrett, the Honors College. She said she is excited to have the opportunity to perform the piece again in conversation with the artwork in the museum.

“Ana Mendieta, who was working in the 1970s, actually felt that live performance was too immediate and the audience needed a distance from the work to fully contemplate and respond to it,” Sealy Lineberry said. “The performance series recognizes the changes in the field since that time, and presents a different perspective on the possibilities of live performance.” 

This week you can catch two performances on Thursday, Oct. 6 — Neha Vedapathak’s "Transformation" and the lighting of Ana Mendieta’s "Ñáñigo Burial" — and two performances Saturday, Oct. 8 — Shannon Ludington’s "As I Cannot Write" and Kate Gilmore’s "All I’m Taking with Me."

"Energy Charge: Connecting to Ana Mendieta" is on view at the ASU Art Museum through Dec. 31. Check out the full list of programs and performances at

This exhibition is generously supported by the Diane and Bruce Halle Foundation. Additional support comes from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Helme Prinzen Endowment, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Diane Harrison, the ASU Art Museum Creative Impact Board and the members of the ASU Art Museum.

The exhibition was curated by Heather Sealy Lineberry, senior curator and associate director, and Julio Cesar Morales, curator, with assistance from Windgate Curatorial Interns Angelica Fox and Kev Nemelka. Special thanks to the exhibiting artists and lenders, and the Estate of Ana Mendieta.


Top photo: Artist Shanon Ludington performs "As I Cannot Write," a piece that recreated an embroidery sampler by Elizabeth Parker, a young 19th-century woman who used this traditionally passive and feminine craft to tell the story of her rape on Oct. 1. Ludington will be repeating her performance on Oct. 8 and Nov. 12. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now 

Communications Program Coordinator , ASU Art Museum