Skip to Main Page Content
image title
New ASU prof looks at music through a new sensory experience.
From fronting punk bands to ASU, new prof explores the sensations of sound.
January 28, 2016

ASU professor uses custom-built instruments to explore multi-sensory effects of music

Editor's note: This is part of a series highlighting new faculty members at Arizona State University. Find a complete listing of new 2015-2016 faculty here.

Lauren Hayes fronted punk and ska bands in her teens, is a wiz at the keyboard and played the role of Deborah Harry in a tribute band from Scotland called Gentleman Prefer Blondie.

Now she’s teaching classes at ASU.

But the new assistant professor of sound studies in Arizona State University’s School of Arts, Media and EngineeringThe school is a collaborative initiative between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. doesn’t want you to go by her resume; she’d rather you look at her pedigree.

Classically trained in piano since the age of 4, Hayes (pictured above) is a composer, performer and improviser with a doctorate from the University of Edinburgh. She has produced a large portfolio of work, research and music, including three albums. Hayes said her father, David, who played in Motown tribute bands in the 1960s and tinkered with electronics, was her greatest influence.

“We always had a piano, but another aspect was the amount of electronics, computers, Lego mechanics and instruments in the house,” Hayes said. “My dad would solder his own guitar effects, and that influence helped me on my own path.”

Hayes was recording at age 8, which was right around the same time she got into experimental music.

“I’d improvise for hours on the piano. I’d think certain things were hilarious and I’d shout them out to my parents, emulating contemporary classical music that I’d heard,” Hayes said. “When you’re young, you’re told that it’s just noise and that’s not how you’re supposed to play it. But that’s a practice I do now because it’s what I teach.”

For many years Hayes has given multisensory workshops for various groups, including those with sensory impairment, learning difficulties and autism. These workshops use vibration and music to explore the links between sound and touch, often resulting in custom-built instruments designed specifically for a user.

At ASU, Hayes will teach Introduction to Digital Sound and conduct future research examining the performance practices of live electronic and electro-instrumental musicians within various distinct musical communities.

“My work is very much based around the physical experience of technology and digital media in relation to sonic art and music, particularly for performers and audiences,” Hayes said. “I want to find more ways where people can be more interactive so there’s no division between the performer and the audience.”

Last year, as a visiting professor at ASU, Hayes was able to accomplish that goal when she participated in an all-day music festival at Phoenix’s Clarendon Hotel featuring artists who performed in the lobby, a rooftop entertainment space and outside on the pool deck. Hayes played live electronics, which could be heard above and below water by people who used the hotel’s pool, thanks to a pair of underwater speakers.

Hayes said she wants her students to push their artistic boundaries, and inspire them through trial and error.

“I’m not trying to impose my musical aesthetics on anyone because I want to find out what are their backgrounds, what are their interests and get them to try things they haven’t done before,” Hayes said. “I want to encourage them to make mistakes and fail, but more important, help them develop their own personalized practice through the tools I’m going to give them in class. ”

It’s almost like Hayes is channeling her Blondie roots, telling the students to find the answers “One Way or Another.”


Woman uses instruments.

Assistant professor Lauren Hayes demonstrates her electronic musical instrument in the small studio in her office on Jan. 27. She uses a computer program, a MIDI controller and keyboard along with a video game controller to produce sounds. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


Listen to selections of Hayes' compositions here.

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU Art Museum presents a unique exhibition by Cuban-born artist Tony Labat

January 28, 2016

On Jan. 30, 2016, the Arizona State University Art Museum opens “Love Me Two Times,” a unique exhibition divided between two recent projects by Cuban-born Bay Area-artist Tony Labat. The title refers to the newly restored diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States.

The first of the two projects, “Irregular Encounter: Leveling the Field,” was commissioned for the Havana Biennial in 2012. At the ASU Art Museum, the installation will rely on audience participation, as it consists of a customized billiards hall with bleachers, a café/bar stand and the highlight—a handmade pool table in the shape of the island of Cuba. ony Labat, “Irregular Encounter: Leveling the Field,” installation view. Image courtesy of the artist. Photo courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Download Full Image

A pioneer of video installations, Tony Labat has been an important player in the California performance and video scene since the early 1980s. His work often identifies the “outsider,” whether the artist or the immigrant. Having emigrated to the U.S. in the 1960s, he himself has often been caught between the U.S. and Cuba’s severed diplomatic relations, and his work makes frequent commentary on labor, migration, displacement and marginalization.

While researching how to build a pool table in Cuba, Labat discovered a world of underground “billiards” clubs. After a decades-long ban on billiards, communities created unauthorized pool halls in their homes. At one of these Labat met a young man named Tatin, who had come into building pool tables quite accidentally. A local police chief had a few pool tables left over from the 1950’s in the basement of the police station, and he asked Tatin to fix and renovate one table. In exchange for his services, he was given one of the tables. By deconstructing a pool table, Tatin taught himself how to build one from scratch. The police chief then looked “the other way” and let Tatin develop a “pool hall” in his home. The custom-made pool table he built for Labat was milled from one tree, possibly a type of walnut tree, from which the cue sticks were also made, while a saddle maker constructed the pockets.

When the table premiered at the 2012 Havana Biennial, “Irregular Encounter: Leveling the Field” became the first “ sanctioned” Cuban pool hall in 50 years, by the way of art. Other than the story and fabrication, perhaps the most important aspect of the table is its unusual shape: the island of Cuba itself. The new configuration forces each player into an equal place as they try to figure out how the balls respond to curved,rather than straight rails. Labat’s conceptual take on the traditional billiards table mirrors the current day politics – a new era is beginning where the old rules no longer apply.

“Irregular Encounter: Leveling the Field” is the second project in the new ASU Art Museum series Encounter, where artists re-imagine and re-contextualize the museum collection to address larger issues relating to the current social and cultural climate of Arizona and the world at large. For Encounter, Labat will choose a selection of the museum’s seminal contemporary Cuban collection that will be displayed in the installation of “Irregular Encounter: Leveling the Field.”

For the second project in “Love Me Two Times,” titled “Day Labor: Mapping the Outside,” Labat set up a surveillance system outside the window of his studio and, during the course of six months, recorded the activities of the laborers while also recording himself producing artwork in his studio. The cameras were camouflaged in three exterior flowerpots aimed at Cesar Chavez Street in San Francisco’s Mission district, a location known as the place to pick up day laborers. This multi-channel video installation also relates to famed conceptual artist Bruce Nauman and what he describes as “dead time” in the studio. Here Labat refers to the day labors waiting to be offered a job and poses the question, “What is the difference between informal economy and the art economy?” Both are large unregulated markets with implications in the global economy.

Labat was born in Havana, Cuba, in 1951, and emigrated to the United States in 1966. He received both a B.F.A. and an M.F.A. from the San Francisco Art Institute. His videos and installations have been included at the The Museum of Modern Art, New York; San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; The Hague; Australian Centre for Photography, Sydney; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; The Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston; Museo de Arte de Ponce, Puerto Rico; The Kitchen, New York; Museo de Arte, Bogota, Colombia; Centro Arte Contemporaneo Wifredo Lam, Havana; P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, Long Island City, N.Y.; J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles; and the Seville Biennale, Spain, among others. His videos are part of the permanent collections of numerous institutions, including Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Kunstmuseum, Bern; Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam; and the Long Beach Museum of Art, California. He lives in San Francisco.

Join the artist at the ASU Art Museum Spring 2016 Season Opening Reception, on Friday, Jan. 29, 2016 at the ASU Art Museum and ASU Art Museum Brickyard.

Members and Alumni Preview 5:30–6:30 p.m.
Public Reception 6:30–8:30 p.m.

Sponsored by Macayo’s Mexican Kitchen and the ASU Art Museum Creative Impact Board. 

This exhibition is supported by the Helme Prinzen Endowment.



The ASU Art Museum, named “the single most impressive venue for contemporary art in Arizona” by Art in America magazine, is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.

To learn more about the museum, call 480.965.2787, or visit

Location/Parking: The museum has three locations across the metro Phoenix area: the ASU Art Museum at 10th Street and Mill Avenue, on ASU’s Tempe campus; the ASU Art Museum Brickyard at 7th Street and Mill Avenue, in downtown Tempe; and the ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program Project Space at Combine Studios, in downtown Phoenix. Designated parking is available at all three locations.

Admission: Free at all three locations.

Hours: The ASU Art Museum and ASU Art Museum Brickyard are open 11 a.m.–8 p.m. on Tuesdays (during the academic year), 11 a.m.–5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. The museum is closed on Sundays and Mondays. The ASU Art Museum International Artist Residency Program Project Space in downtown Phoenix at Combine Studios is open by appointment.

Media Contact:
Julio Cesar Morales
ASU Art Museum

Emerging Artists III features dance explorations of social stigma and transformation

January 25, 2016

Emerging Artists is a series of dance performances featuring choreography from the graduating MFA in Dance students in the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre. These thesis projects are the accumulation of several years of study, exploring a variety of issues through movement, interactive media and performance.

This year’s iteration of Emerging Artists III will feature Ricardo Alvarez and Jenny Gerena. Emerging Artists III Photo by Tim Trumble courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

Alvarez’s work, “It’s My Party,” is an immersive multi-media production that focuses on understanding the social and personal issues surrounding HIV stigma. Drawing from a series of round table conversations with newly diagnosed HIV+ young adults, Alvarez seeks to illuminate how HIV+ individuals find empowerment and personal acceptance.

“My hope is to show others that although it may be difficult for someone to accept their HIV+ diagnosis, that it doesn’t have to change who they are,” Alvarez said. “They are not a statistic; they are not a bad person; they do not deserve to feel ashamed.”

Gerena’s production, “Flesh Narratives,” is series of 5 distinct pieces that explores the power of personal narrative and storytelling as told through the language of the body. The interplay of creation and destruction, the transformation of seasons and the transformative power of water are examples of themes explored in each work.

“I aim to create pieces that allow the dancers as well as the audience to feel a sense of nostalgia, perhaps taking them back into their personal memory bank to assign meaning to what they are experiencing,” Gerena said. “In short I make choreography to communicate, share and provoke emotions or thoughts that extend beyond our physical understandings of our reality.”

Emerging Artists III, featuring Ricardo Alvarez’s “It’s My Party” and Jenny Gerena’s “Flesh Narratives,” is playing at the Dance Lab in the Nelson Fine Arts Center room 122 on ASU’s Tempe campus at these times: 

6:30 p.m. Jan. 29
7:30 p.m. Jan. 30
2 p.m. Jan. 31

Tickets are $16 for general admission; $12 for ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12 for senior citizens; and $8 for student. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling 480-965-6447.

Communications Program Coordinator, ASU Art Museum


ASU Night of the Open Door: Experience innovation at your fingertips

Five campuses roll out the welcome mat for the public with free activities and performances for all ages

January 19, 2016

Ever wonder what is happening in the labs and classrooms of the No. 1 innovative university in the country?  ASU’s Night of the Open Door festival is your chance to discover the fascinating research springing up in your own backyard.

Night of the Open Door kicks off on the West campus on Feb. 6 and continues throughout the month with five events on ASU campuses providing free activities and performances with more to explore for all ages. Young scholars examine research artifact at the Biodesign Institute at ASU at Night of the Open Door Imagination takes flight with more than 300 activities and performances at ASU Night of the Open Door event. On West, Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic, Thunderbird and Tempe campuses in February, Night of the Open Door offers a hands-on, interactive exploration of innovation and discovery in STEAM (science, technology, engineering, the arts and math). Download Full Image

West campus activities include a forensics free-for-all and mock crime scene and a Minecraft photo booth with clothes and tools to get a picture-perfect look. You can make your own comic book or board game at the Fletcher Library or get in the Sun Devil spirit with face painting. Or you can face off with black widow spiders and compete with the U.S. Army ROTC Sun Devil Battalion. Do you have what it takes?

One of the most popular signature events of the AZSciTech Festival, Night of the Open Door enables visitors to explore five ASU campuses in February, with more than 300 multicultural performances and hands-on activities celebrating the sciences, culture, engineering, humanities, math, language and the arts. 


Night of the Open Door events:

• West campus: 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 6 
• Downtown Phoenix campus: 4-8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 12 
• Polytechnic campus: 5-9 p.m. Friday, Feb. 19
• Thunderbird campus: 4-8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 20
• Tempe campus: 4-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27

To help plan your adventure in advance, download our Night of the Open Door App or follow us on Twitter using the hashtag #ASUopendoor. And if you pre-register, you could also win a free prize.*

The Thunderbird campus is the newest addition to ASU’s Night of the Open Door. Cultural offerings include an authentic Afghan Marketplace (cash or credit only) and celebration of the Chinese Spring Festival. There is also a rugby clinic, Chartwells cooking lessons and free online business training by Thunderbird for Good. You can also sing along, learn a dance and walk in the shoes and local costumes of peoples of the Middle East and North Africa or see if you are faster than Jamaican sprinter Usain Bolt.

“You can engineer solar cells, take a rumba Spanish guitar workshop or join in the Biodesign Institute Fun Zone in Tempe,” said Darci Nagy, special events manager for ASU. “Or you could celebrate ASU’s #Sustival, attend health talks, tour PBS or record your own broadcast downtown. K-12 fun also takes off with activities in aviation, a Camaro showcase and car construction, games and student films on the ASU Polytechnic campus.”

STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and math) is the basis for so many things around us that we take for granted — as reflected in the largest event on the Tempe campus. Activities on Feb. 27 are hosted by more than 1,000 students, staff and faculty members. There are 20-plus mini language and dance lessons, medieval knights, science and engineering activities. Video and math games join music, theater and art, Phoenix Zoo animals, space microbes, slam poetry, extreme weather, glassblowers, robots and drones, volcanoes and meteorites.

Picnic on the lawn and create your own poem with #CreativeWrite. Or take a blues workshop and then tour the Biodesign Institute, the ASU Supercomputer and take in a 3-D astronomy show at the Marston Exploration Theater. There is something for all ages.

“There is nothing like seeing a child, student or lifelong learner’s imagination ignited, whether it’s by exoplanets, the tiniest virus, health efforts in Africa, forensics, dance or a faculty superstar,” said Mark Searle, ASU executive vice president and university provost. “ASU’s Night of the Open Door allows people of all ages to discover how our public universities can translate their dreams to reality.”

One prime benefit to visitors is the ability to explore cutting-edge labs and classrooms on all five campuses. Attendees can meet artists, filmmakers, scientists, engineers, linguists, health professionals, explorers and student teachers or take tours of groundbreaking research facilities.

Visitors can also connect with students leading some of ASU’s clubs and learning groups, such as the AstroDevils, Origins Project Club, Sun Devil Robotics Club, Air Devils quadcopter squad, ASU GeoClub, ASU Speech and Debate Team, Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Scholars, Society of Physics Students, Amateur Radio Society@ASU, Concrete Canoe Club and more.

The key sponsor this year for events is ASU’s Summer Sessions. Check out the full list of events for each campus and be sure visit the Night of the Open Door welcome tents for your free glow stick.**

*One free prize per campus.
**Glow sticks are available in limited quantities and are distributed on first-come, first-served basis.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


image title
Is it a fake, or not? ASU Art Museum examines painting in new exhibit.
Would a museum create an exhibit around a fake painting? Find out at ASU.
January 15, 2016

ASU Art Museum exhibit centered on painting's authenticity, and the culture that surrounds it

The first thing that caught the attention of Nathan Newman was the texture of the paint.

It just didn’t seem to match the mixtures used by artists during the early 1900s, when artist Frederic Remington painted “The Pioneer and the Indian,” depicting a frontiersman and Native American cautiously crossing paths.

There was also suspicion from art scholars and Remington experts questioning the authenticity of the painting at the ASU Art Museum. So Newman had to test it, and found the smoking gun.

“Titanium white paint was commonly used after 1919, and ‘The Pioneer and the Indian’ was painted after Remington’s death in 1909. This painting is an almost exact copy of [Remington’s] ‘The Parley’ whose unquestionable provenance dates securely back to its sale from Remington himself,” said Newman, a professor in ASU’s School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy.

“After testing, using scientific techniques, the conclusion is fairly clear — it’s a fake.”

That painting, pictured above, is the centerpiece of a new exhibition called “Superflex: Superfake/The Parley” hosted by Arizona State University’s Art Museum in Tempe.

Taking the form of an experimental laboratory, the exhibition features new images, video and sculptural works by the Danish artist collective SUPERFLEX, which was founded in 1993 by Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjorn Christiansen.

“A lot of Swedes moved to the United States in the late 1800s, and so we have our own reference on how the Old West was represented,” said Christiansen, who flew in from Copenhagen, Denmark, for the preparation and opening of the exhibition on Jan. 9. “We don’t necessarily want to go into the history of this artist, but are very interested in the social impact Remington had as a storyteller and artist within the American genre.”

The commissioned project, presented in collaboration with professors Newman and Terry Alford in the Fulton School of Engineering and ASU’s LeRoy Eyring Center for Solid State Science, takes the painting from the ASU Art Museum’s founding Oliver B. James collection, which was attributed to Remington, a famous American Western painter, illustrator, sculptor and writer. It is used as a starting point to examine issues of authenticity, reproduction and value systems — including the emotional value of an artwork.

The process to authenticate the artwork included research methods based on three main factors: the paper trail from the artist to the owner, the opinions of experts and scientific evidence.

The paper trail started with Oliver B. James, a Phoenix attorney who bought the painting from the Chicago J.W. Young gallery around 1936. James donated the piece, known to him as “The Pioneer and the Indian,” as well as several paintings by American artists to the university in the early 1950s. The collection, which was valued at $125,000 at the time, is today worth well into the millions.

A painting of the same scene titled “The Parley” can be found at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. Patrons, art aficionados and curators who had seen the painting in Texas and the ASU Art Museum painting were quick to report their opinions to museum officials through written correspondence, which the exhibition also has on display.

It wasn’t as if Remington was an unknown commodity. He became a well-known artist in the mid-1880s when he began rendering Western illustrations for “Harper’s Weekly” and many other widely read New York magazines. His illustrations were highly detailed and brought visual information to the Eastern states about the colorful Old West — a bit ironic, given the nature of this exhibition.

“Art historical experts have questioned the authenticity of the ASU painting based on stylistic elements. We felt this collaboration was a good opportunity to look for physical and scientific evidence to support its authenticity (or lack thereof),” said Dana Mossman Tepper, ASU Art Museum’s chief conservator. “This blend of art and science is also a different way to engage the public about our museum and the work we do here.” 

The museum recently completed construction of its new art conservation studio and is eager to undertake projects that take advantage of this new capacity.

For testing, they turned to Newman and Alford in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, who conducted key research to determine how the painting was constructed and the pigment content of the paint.

“Over the years our department has developed certain techniques, including infrared imaging and a particle-induced X-ray emission spectrometer, which allows us to look at sketching underneath the painting as well as identify the pigments present in the paint,” Newman said.

In addition to the presence of titanium white in the painting, Newman said infrared photography revealed a black charcoal sketch underneath. Newman said Remington did use charcoal under drawings, but more so in the beginning of his painting career, which began in 1889 — not so much by 1903. “The Parley,” Newman noted, was painted just six years before Remington’s death.

Case solved. And if life was like the Old West in Remington’s paintings, Newman might have blown the smoke off the barrel.

“We had a lot of fun with this project and hope to do more of this type work in the future.”


"Superflex: Superfake/The Parley"

What: Exhibit examining the authenticity of a Frederic Remington painting.

When: Through April 30.

Where: ASU Art Museum, 51 E. 10th St., Tempe.

Cost: Free.

More info: Go here for more details or call 480-965-2787.

Setting the stage for academic conversation

ASU theater experts help bridge gulf between theory, practice

January 14, 2016

Academic writing gets a bad rap.

The journals, books and periodicals of colleges and universities are often viewed as divorced from the real world; there is a large gulf separating theory from practice and academic research from everyday life. The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other Photo by Tim Trumble, courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

But that gulf is slowly diminishing as academic discourse opens up to a larger audience, thanks to the Internet. Websites and blogging platforms are helping to bring both theoretical and practical discussions to a larger community, creating a space for discovery and innovation.

In the realm of theater, HowlRound is that space. The online journal and blogging platform was established four years ago as “a place for artists to provide feedback, learning, expertise, frustration, and vision — in an effort to enliven the fields of theater and performance to the aspiring and established artist alike.”

Just this year, Arizona State University was named No. 1 in innovation by U.S. News and World Report 2016 college rankings. It comes as no surprise, then, that the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre is at the cutting edge of innovative discussions, both in the classroom and online. Since HowlRound’s founding, nearly a dozen ASU-affiliated students, alumni and faculty have contributed to the site on topics ranging from stage combat to immersive theater.

"ASU faculty and students are bringing artists, scholars and theatermakers of all kinds into conversation with one another,” said Jamie Gahlon, senior creative producer of HowlRound. “Their contributions to HowlRound are helping to bridge the gulf between theory and practice for the advancement of theatrical form and discourse."

Julie Rada, an alumna of the MFA in Theatre (concentration in performance) program at ASU, who now works at the University of Utah as a Raymond C. Morales Fellow, has written for the blog on three separate occasions, covering such topics as casting practices in devised theater. She said she writes for HowlRound both because it is speedier than writing for an academic journal and because of the ethics of the site (it’s free to users, unlike journals, which are only free to people with academic institutional affiliations). 

“It really is a kind of ‘melting pot’ of academic, scholarly, interrogative publishing, practical how-to’s and idealistic musings from emerging artists,” Rada said. “There’s space for everyone at the table, particularly with the three possibilities for submission (blog, article or series). There are some heavy-hitters in the field who contribute: heads of academic departments, founders of seminal theater companies and ensembles, published playwrights, etc. There’s always the possibility that someone you admire and respect will read and comment on your writing. That’s very exciting.”

Dan Fine is an alumnus of the MFA in Theatre (concentration in interdisciplinary digital media) program, a joint degree of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. He’s teaching a graduate class on performance technology in the theater department at ASU. He was encouraged to write by Lance Gharavi, assistant director of theater in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and he ultimately decided to share that writing (a series of instructives on media design) on HowlRound because he felt it would reach a larger audience. 

“What I find with a lot of practitioners is that we are just too busy to write about what we’re doing — because we are constantly doing things,” said Fine. “So there tends to be a lot of information that’s not shared because of that.” 

Fine said the online format of HowlRound seemed like the best way to get that information out to people, especially in a field like media design, which is digitally based to begin with.

“It’s something that feels less physically tangible, because you can’t pick it up and touch it, like a book or a journal,” he said of online writing. “But in a different way it feels more tangible because it’s active, it feels like it has more life.”

"HowlRound and similar outlets are opening up new ground for discourse in the theater profession,” said Jacob Pinholster, director of ASU’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre. “Where previously we had a ‘never the twain shall meet’ gulf between popular websites and academic journals, we now have an amazing new field for true interplay between ideas and practice. It is an eloquent statement about both HowlRound's and ASU's relevance to emerging practices and trends in theater that so many of our students, faculty and alumni are consistent contributors."

And the dialogue can only expand further. HowlRound is always open to pitches for essays, blog posts, series and criticism.

“Better thinking makes better art,” Rada said. “The ability to organize your thoughts can make the ephemeral and often evocative work of the theater more tangible and communicative to a wider audience. This requires agile, flexible thinking. And thinking is made better by writing.”

Communications Program Coordinator, ASU Art Museum


From ‘The Magic Flute’ to ‘Shrek’: ASU’s Lyric Opera Theatre announces lineup of engaging shows for 2016–17

January 14, 2016

For 53 seasons, the Lyric Opera Theatre (LOT) program at ASU has wowed audiences by showcasing the talents of student singers, dancers and actors in operas and musicals alike. This upcoming season promises to continue the tradition with an exciting selection of two operas and two musicals, including a classical 18th-century work and a show based on a recent animated film. LOT is also proud to be launching two new initiatives, including the LOT Lab, which features entirely student-driven productions, and a New Works Reading series at the ASU Kerr Cultural Center. Lab productions will take place throughout the year and will be announced at a later date.

“Our season represents great works from the past four centuries, each centering on important social issues of their time,” says Brian DeMaris, associate professor and artistic director of LOT. “We are also proud to be producing three works by female composers: Jeanine Tesori’s ‘Shrek the Musical’ on the main stage season, as well as readings of two new works by female composers and librettists – one opera, one musical – both involving ASU alumni. We’re excited to welcome Andrea Jill Higgins and Beth Morrison back to ASU for these exciting new projects.” drowsy_273_2015.jpg Download Full Image

LOT also presents several smaller projects each year, including a Musical Theatre Showcase, which will be held at the Phoenix Theatre this year, and the traditional end-of-the-semester Opera Scenes program.

Don’t miss seeing our talented students in these upcoming performances:

Music by Sir Arthur Sullivan
Libretto by W. S. Gilbert
Conductor: Brian DeMaris
Director: Dale Dreyfoos
Choreographer: Molly Lajoie
Performances: Sep. 29 & 30; Oct. 1 at 7:30 p.m.; Oct. 2 at 2 p.m.

LOT sets sail for the season with Gilbert and Sullivan’s ever-popular comic operetta “H.M.S. Pinafore,” a delightful parody of the British class system in Victorian England where “the High Seas” meets “the High C’s.” This nautical treasure is filled with effervescent and tuneful music, hilarious stage action and colorful scenery and costumes, all of which promise to provide a high tide of laughter and fun for audiences of all ages.

BABE: AN OLYMPIAN MUSICAL (new work reading)
Music by Andrea Jill Higgins (LOT alum)
Book and lyrics by Carolyn Gage
Performance: Nov. 6 at 6 p.m. at ASU Kerr Cultural Center

LOT is proud to present a reading of this new musical composed by ASU alumna Andrea Jill Higgins and librettist Carolyn Gage, based on the story of the great American athlete Mildred “Babe” Didrikson. Full of music that is beautiful, big and brassy all at once, the story follows Babe’s career from high school basketball star to Olympic gold medalist in track to vaudevillian sideshow to first woman on the professional golf circuit. You will leave inspired by this brilliant new musical and the incredible person it portrays. This performance is appropriate for ages 13 and up.

Music and lyrics by Frank Loesser
Book by Jo Swerling and Abe Burrows
Director: Toby Yatso
Conductor: Miles Plant
Choreographer: Molly Lajoie
Performances: Nov. 17, 18 & 19 at 7:30 p.m.; Nov. 19 & 20 at 2 p.m.

Frank Loesser’s classic “musical fable of Broadway” has captivated audiences for decades with its colorful characters, iconic music and endearing story about love, honesty and finding one’s true calling. Set in Damon Runyon’s mythological New York City, where disparate groups such as gamblers, evangelists and show girls come together, the story centers around a group of gamblers trying to find a place for a game, while their girls have different priorities in mind. This show is appropriate for ages 13 and up.

Music by W.A. Mozart
Libretto by Emanuel Schikaneder
Conductor: Brian DeMaris
Director: Dale Dreyfoos
Performances: Feb. 23, 24 & 25 at 7:30 p.m.; Feb. 26 at 2 p.m.

“The Magic Flute” has long been hailed as one of the greatest musical masterpieces of all time. Mozart’s heavenly music provides the perfect setting for this timeless fairy tale, which is an enchanting blend of magic, mystery, lofty Masonic ideals and earthy humor that is truly Shakespearean in its scope. The opera will be sung in German with English dialogue, and it is an ideal introduction to opera for audiences of all ages.

Love: An Opera in One Act (new work reading)
(Excerpts from a work in progress)
Music by Ellen Reid
Libretto by Roxie Perkins
Produced by Beth Morrison (ASU/LOT alum)
April 2 at 6 p.m. at ASU Kerr Cultural Center

Join us for a taste of the future of American opera right here at ASU! “Love” tells the story of a mother, V, and her daughter, L, who have locked themselves away from the world in order to heal L from a mysterious sickness that grows from within her. However, between the awakening of a new symptom and L’s maturing relationship with her chorus of imaginary friends, L and V’s carefully constructed world begins to crumble – causing L to question her mother’s motivation for locking them away, and the very validity of her sickness. “LOVE” explores humans’ desperate need to make sense out of senseless situations, and the different ways we attempt to heal after a trauma – both one another, and ourselves. This performance is appropriate for ages 13 and up.

Music by Jeanine Tesori
Book and Lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire
Director: Matthew Wiener
Conductor: Josh Condon
Choreographer: Molly Lajoie
Performances: April 20, 21 & 22 at 7:30 p.m.; April 22 & 23 at 2 p.m.

Based on the Oscar-winning DreamWorks film, Jeanine Tesori’s “Shrek The Musical” is a Tony Award-winning fairytale adventure that brings all the beloved characters you know from the film to life on stage, and proves there’s more to the story than meets the ears. An unlikely hero finds himself on a life-changing journey alongside a wisecracking donkey and a feisty princess who resists her rescue. Irreverently fun for the whole family, Shrek proves that beauty is truly in the eye of the ogre.


Ticket prices: $11 – Flash Friday, $21 – Adult (for all dates except Flash Friday), $15 – Faculty, Staff, Alumni, $12 – Senior, $10 – Group (minimum of 10 tickets), $8 – Student.

Tickets are on sale as of Aug. 1 for the general public. Save 25 percent by ordering tickets to three or more Herberger Institute events per person by Sept. 15. A $2 handling fee applies to all orders, and a web per ticket purchase fee will apply.

Summer box office hours are Monday–Thursday, 9:30 a.m.–12:30 p.m. and 1:30–4:30 p.m.

To order tickets and find more information on the complete season, call the Herberger Institute Box Office at 480.965.6447 or visit

Media Contact:
Heather Beaman
Communications liaison, School of Music

image title
Taking biology experiments out of the labs and into the garage.
Art + science + DIY attitude = citizen science.
January 11, 2016

ASU's Stacey Kuznetsov intersects science, art to transport biology to the people outside the labs

Seeing a lab filled with researchers peering through microscopes, examining petri dish contents or adjusting controls on incubators isn’t a rare sight at Arizona State University. But in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts?

It’s becoming a more common scene with the prominence of SANDS (Social and Digital Systems), Stacey Kuznetsov’s research lab, which houses the tangible intersection of arts and sciences.

Woman standing in front of a cool scene.

Kuznetsov (pictured left), an assistant professor of human computer interaction in the ASU School of Arts, Media and EngineeringThe School of Arts, Media and Engineering is a collaborative initiative between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering., is affiliated with the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering. A part of a growing sector of researchers merging creative pursuits, technology and science, she’s also among the “first wave” of scholars engaging in the emerging academic field of Do-It-Yourself Biology (DIYbio), or “amateur science practice.” Kuznetsov and her team of student researchers in the Herberger Institute examine ways to create low-cost tools for “citizen science.”

“We’re looking at ways to visualize different biology techniques for beginners, or to let people collect and share the data,” Kuznetsov said. “For instance, if they’re working on a project in their maker-space or garage, how can they capture the information that they’re producing and share that with the broader community?”

Another fascinating question Kuznetsov explores is how to take that knowledge and make it applicable, lacking the specialized space of a traditional lab equipped with its traditional tools.

“Recent open-source bio tools enable biology work outside of professional settings for a fraction of the cost, and I see these as parallel to the more widely studied DIY platforms such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, PICAXE, to name a few,” Kuznetsov said, referencing software programs commonly used by artists. She first became involved with such systems when she interned at the Microsoft Research Lab at Cambridge and conducted extensive research on DIYbio initiatives around the world.

Kuznetsov finds that the DIYbio movement aims to make science more accessible, and she recognizes the discipline of biology as a platform for a new frontier, similar to where electronics, software and hardware development stood not too long ago.

“I feel like biology is doing that for us now as more tools are becoming open-source,” she said. “That’s where the future seems to be going. We’re developing basic tools that non-experts can use to do biology outside of professional labs.”

By “we,” Kuznetsov means herself and her student researchers, as well as the broader DIYbio community at large. And by “basic tools,” she’s referring to instruments “like microscopes and petri dishes that are already available at a pretty low cost. There are a lot of fun hacks you can do … for instance, you can actually turn your phone into a microscope for something like $5 by flipping the lens for the camera.”

“All of this is exciting, because the groundwork is already there,” she said. “But what’s missing, in my opinion, are easy ways to get the information we need to get started. There are a lot of online resources, but there aren’t many tools that are embedded, like maker-space, I think that people can use.”

Another thing Kuznetsov finds is that people are more receptive to hands-on work.

“Problem-solving is creative,” she said, “so when you’re trying to make biology happen, you have to get creative. For instance, we don’t have an incubator, so we’re making like an incubator from scratch. It’s discovering methods that fit into our lab and making a process that works in the space that we have.”

In other words, necessity inspires creativity.

“On the interaction science side of it,” she continued, “the tools we end up developing for beginners will necessarily be creative to help people learn how to do this kind of work.”

Kuznetsov also makes it clear that the science side of the equation doesn’t define the relationship between art and biology.

“I think there are also ‘bio-artists’… people who create art with biology,” she said. “For instance, people will make patterns out of cells that have an aesthetic to it, or they’ll sonify the progress of different biological processes. I think there’s a lot of room where people can actually apply art to biology and still learn the biology behind it, but then turn that into a creative project. Not all of the outcomes have to be ‘citizen science’ outcomes. Some of them can be creative practice outcomes.”

Written by Kristi Garboushian, School of Arts, Media + Engineering

image title
ASU's first digital culture grads feel comfortable in ever-changing world.
What's an ASU digital culture degree? A license to succeed.
January 7, 2016

First batch of program's undergrads launch into the world having learned how to adapt

Four years ago, ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering launched the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Culture program, one of the first proficiency-based digital media degrees in the United States.

The digital culture undergraduate degree, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is housed in a facility that gives students access to cutting-edge tools and technology. The innovative program is a collaboration among not only the schools in the Herberger Institute — Art; Arts, Media and Engineering; Design; Film, Dance and Theatre; and Music — but also numerous partnering academic units across ASU, from electrical engineering, journalism and mass communications to computer science, education and human evolution and social change.

So how are the first, newly minted digital culture alums doing?

If Elizabeth Vegh is any indication, they’re doing very well.

Girl with green streak in her hair

Vegh (pictured left) graduated from ASU last year as a digital culture major specializing in art and almost immediately landed a job as a graphic designer for CBS 5 News in Phoenix.

“I never took any graphic design courses (in college),” Vegh said, “but I had developed my skills with timing and storytelling (for animation), which my supervisor later told me is what put me ahead of the other applicants. I also had a lot of chances to go over how to create the best pitch and portfolio possible. I don't think I would have been as successful with my current line of work without that practice.”

Sha Xin Wei, director of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, said Vegh’s success is one example of the digital culture program’s many achievements.

“We are creating experience entrepreneurs,” Sha said. “Students are learning to use digital technology to create, customize and enrich the way we experience the world. Many argue that we are living in an ‘experience economy’ and that companies that can create compelling experiences will thrive. We are preparing graduates to drive this new economy.”

The big question students hear, according to Sha and the students themselves, is, “What is digital culture?” Sha said part of the answer comes from the students themselves, and from the projects they’re working on with faculty. Through the program, students are able to define the paths they take, both at ASU and beyond.

“Whenever I get asked about digital culture, the first description that comes to mind is ‘art fused with technology,’ " said Vegh, who started out in film and then switched to digital culture because of her interest in animation. “To me, it's all about how to use both mediums to create some sort of experience for the public, whether if it's for research or entertainment purposes.”

While in college, Vegh, who graduated in May 2014, worked with ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination as its videographer, editor and events specialist. Working closely with Ed Finn, the center’s director and an arts, media and engineering faculty member, she went on to create podcasts, posters and animations that have been featured in the online magazine Slate, Future Tense and Valley TV affiliates.

“Digital culture gave me a lot of experience pitching ideas for an audience and networking with really important figures in both the science and entertainment industry,” Vegh said. “I also had access to a lot of technology and programs that I wouldn't have had access to without being in the digital culture program.”

Man with a beard.

Matthew Briggs began his career at ASU studying business but segued to a digital culture degree program at the urging of his adviser. Courtesy photos.


Matthew Briggs’ current line of work grew directly out of his experience as a digital culture major, but he started out even farther outside the field than Vegh did. He was in the business school, thinking about going into accounting, when he realized that wasn’t what he wanted to do. Based on his interests, including music and digital technology, his adviser suggested he check out “this new program that just came online” — digital culture.

Briggs said it was a perfect fit.

“I didn’t have a goal to be a specific job type or position. I was just interested in gaining some skills and knowledge and exposure,” he said. “That exploration aspect of digital culture was really key for me.”

After graduating in May 2015, he ended up with a double major in digital culture, with a focus on design, and graphic information technology, as well as a double minor in film and media production and music. Today he works as a specialist in ASU’s digital culture fabrication lab, a job the multimedia artist discovered as a student. 

Briggs said that the faculty in the digital culture program prepare students for life after college “in the most important way” — by teaching them how to become resourceful.

“They give you principles and theories and skills,” Briggs said. “They teach you the tools, too, but it really helps you gain that mentality of how to find and learn and become fluent in these technologies, tools and techniques. Because the industry will change, but your ability to change with it doesn’t. You’re a lot more adaptable, I think. You learn how to learn.”

Data shows that students who take at least one creative class are more likely to succeed, and that creative thinking is highly sought after by employers. Moheeb Zara, who took numerous digital culture classes while he was a student at ASU, was recently awarded a Top Innovator award at the 2015 Intel Innovation Summit for his work with Octoblu, an “Internet of Everything” company that runs on Intel’s platforms and whose ambitious mission is “to connect anything with everything.” A co-founder of the Southwest Maker Festival, Zara describes himself as a hardware hacker, an activist, a maker, an artist, a robotics mentor, a technological dilettante and a promoter of science education, among other things.

Learning how to learn is what the Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute, calls “a core 21st-century competency.”

“For most college graduates these days, the future of work is unpredictable, non-linear and constantly evolving,” Tepper said. “In fact, a recent study found that almost half of the current occupations probably won’t exist in the next few decades. A program such as digital culture allows our faculty, students and graduates to help invent the jobs and the businesses of the future, and to come up with new platforms and technology for the exchange of culture and the enrichment of the human experience.”

Plus, alums like Vegh and Briggs say it’s a lot more interesting and rewarding than what they were doing before they entered the world of digital culture.

To learn more about the program, visit the Digital Culture website ( or come in person to the Digital Culture Showcase, which takes place the first Friday of May and December every year and is free and open to the public.

Deborah Sussman Susser

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


image title
World-famous dance legend bringing her talents to ASU.
Liz Lerman, dancer extraordinaire, ready to move ASU students.
January 7, 2016

Dance Exchange founder and MacArthur fellow to teach, launch Ensemble Lab

Liz Lerman — choreographer, author, educator and 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship recipient — will join the faculty of Arizona State University at the beginning of the spring semester.

Widely recognized as an important influence in the worlds of dance, arts-based community engagement and cross-disciplinary collaboration, Lerman will assume a unique position as Institute Professor to lead programs and courses that span disciplines within and beyond ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“When I arrived at ASU, President Crow challenged me to recruit a leading artist and public intellectual to the Institute. I wanted to bring to ASU someone who has transformed how artists work in the world — whose life’s work is a testimony to everything we believe the Herberger Institute stands for — artistry and scholarship that is fully engaged in public life and open to new techniques, new partners and new spaces for creative work. I immediately thought of Liz — perhaps the most creative, generative and generous artist working in America,” said Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.   

“My appointment here, as much as it’s about the art, it’s also about the university itself and its interest right now in multidisciplinary practice and its relationship to the community on the whole,” said Lerman, citing her enthusiasm for Tepper’s vision that design and the arts are critical resources for transforming society at every level. “This is an incredible opportunity to leverage the talent of this great university to advance what has always been for me the intersection of artistic practice for the stage with broader civic purposes.”

As a young artist based in Washington, D.C., Lerman (shown in the top photo by Lise Metzger) founded the Dance Exchange in 1976. She cultivated its multigenerational ensemble into a leading influence in contemporary dance until 2011, when she began an independent phase of her career, including a recent residency at Harvard University.

Working with collaborators from fields as diverse as genomics, to religion, to physics, her work has won critical and scholarly attention and has included an examination of human-rights law commissioned for the Harvard Law School; a dance about origins launched in the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and later performed at ASU Gammage; nine short performances about the defense budget; and innovative residencies and collaborations that span nursing homes and medical schools to the National Academy of Sciences and the London Dance Umbrella.

Her Shipyard Project engaged hundreds of local citizens to reflect on the historic and controversial shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and was one of many community-based endeavors in which she demonstrated the role of art in fostering civic dialogue and promoting social capital.

Recently, Lerman debuted "Healing Wars," a theatrical dance about the role of healers tasked with treating the physical and psychological trauma of war.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What makes something good at a children’s hospital? What makes it good when it’s on stage? What makes it good in whatever environment you’re in?’ ” asked Lerman. “There’s permeability between studio art and community art. Sometimes you’re in both worlds. That seems to me more true of how life is.”

At ASU’s Herberger Institute, Lerman will create a cooperative of artists, researchers and civic leaders in a lab-like environment to experiment with methods and techniques for broad social impact. Working across disciplinary lines and schools, her Ensemble Lab will examine the role of artists in society, expand artists’ professional opportunities, and prepare artists to be both imaginative innovators and civic partners.

Lerman will integrate her widely recognized Critical Response Process — a four-step system for giving and receiving feedback on artistic works in progress — into “Animating Research,” a course she will teach during her inaugural semester. The course will link Herberger Institute students to an array of ASU research projects in ways that will enable artists to refine their personal voice while also translating ideas, statistics and other research into new forms.

“When we think about the role of the artist in society, a central theme of Liz’s work at ASU will focus on equity, inclusion and the need to embrace and advance all creative voices in America,” Tepper said. “Liz’s Ensemble Lab will allow us to experiment and reinvent the 21st-century design and arts school so that we are tapping into and helping to advance the creativity inherent in our diverse culture and society.” 

“ASU is giving me a platform to extend my artistic explorations and a chance to work alongside great faculty and students, all of us embarked on the mission of expanding the role of artists in society,” Lerman said. “Personal expression matters: It has been the central focus of the arts in the 20th century. But now it’s important to take the skills and priorities developed through the arts into the wider world. The Herberger Institute has already embarked on that work. I am excited to be a part of advancing it into the future.”

Top photo by Lise Metzger; video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Beth Giudicessi

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications