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Free series of open houses rolls out the welcome mat at ASU's campuses.
Family-friendly Night of the Open Door lets kids explore science, art and more.
January 31, 2017

Bring the family and 'nerd out' with hundreds of hands-on experiences, performances, tours and more on five Valley campuses

Searching for new ideas and unique experiences with the family in 2017? Does your New Year’s resolution include medieval knights and chain mail, international culture, new-age cars, space exploration or Teotihuacan pyramids? What about discovering the newest career fields or meeting the brainiacs heading labs at the No. 1 most innovative university in the country?

Arizona State University hosts the Night of the Open Door on its five campuses across metro Phoenix. Each offers adults and children the opportunity to “nerd out” and celebrate the power of STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) with more than 360 hands-on experiences, tours, performances, creative activities, demos, games and design challenges. 

Get free tickets in advance online and enter to win a gift package. Tickets also function as an express pass to collect the free glow wand and event programs at the registration booths once on campus.

With so many activities to consider, Night of the Open Door also offers an app through Devils on Campus (Android or iOS) to help visitors choose activities in advance and navigate each campus. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for highlights of upcoming events.

In its sixth year, Night of the Open Door is a top signature event of the Arizona SciTech Festival. Each campus offers performances and activities tailored to its own unique character. For example, chart an evening at Downtown Phoenix to experience cooking and health demonstrations, Native painting activities and community arts exhibits. Come tour PBS studios, meet ASU Public Service Academy students or compete in sustainability, law and health learning games. Kids can even get their junior reporter press badge working with veteran journalists and vintage typewriters.

Exploration of West campus gets visitors thinking about black widow spiders, forensics and the neuroscience of chocolate. Try to beat a lie detector test, build electronic circuits or experience ASU students’ research in cancer, aging and drug development. There’s Minecraft, Angry Birds, art shows, design, dance and much more.

At ASU Polytechnic and Thunderbird campuses, imaginations can take flight, literally. The Polytechnic campus is home to robotics and STEAM machines, the Superstition Review Literary Magazine, Sun Devil Racing Development and a professional flight simulator. The ASU Thunderbird School of Global Management adds an international flair with arts and culture from around the world, including movies, sports, dance, festivals and food, from Peru to the Middle East and China.

ASU’s Night of the Open Door winds up on Feb. 25, with more than 150 hands-on arts and sciences activities, lab tours and demos on the Tempe campus, including the ASU Sustainability Solutions Festival (#Sustival) and, new this year, the futuristic arts exposition “Emerge.”

Emerge events bring to life how our creations are changing what it means to be human, exploring the theme of “Frankenstein” in celebration of the upcoming 200th anniversary of Mary Shelley’s classic novel. In addition to Victor Frankenstein’s Workshop for kids, Emerge events for adults are hosted at ASU’s University Club and include artists, virtual reality experiences, neurocomics and immersive environments. Consider the future with “Tomorrow's Monster,” a lab space designed for the year 2047 that features beautifully crafted, customized organs, enhancements and spare body parts. What are the implications of commodification for the future of medicine, artificial intelligence, robotics and what constitutes life itself?

Whether your interests are in language lessons, math or cybersecurity, ancient bones, meteorites or live snakes, Night of the Open Door events have something for everyone, fueled by more than 2,000 undergraduates, graduate students, staff and superstar-faculty volunteers from 150 academic groups.

“I’m impressed by the energy that our volunteers pour into Night of the Open Door each year,” said Darci Nagy, ASU special events manager. “It’s grassroots. Their enthusiasm makes visitors’ discoveries in sustainability, medicine, journalism, language, sciences and engineering more personal and exciting.”

“Coming to ASU for Night of the Open Door, touring the campuses and meeting the world-class people who teach and do research gives people of all ages and from all walks of life the chance to experience and imagine the future they want,” said ASU staffer Margaret Coulombe.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications , Office of the University Provost


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At start of Black History Month, theater highlights 'our shared humanity'

ASU Herberger Institute helped nurture development of new play about Malcolm X.
The Acting Company launches 15-city national tour in Phoenix with help from ASU.
January 31, 2017

ASU Herberger Institute co-sponsors theater troupe that will present 'Julius Caesar' and new play about Malcolm X

Shakespeare with a cast of black actors shouldn’t be a big deal, said actor Jonathan-David.

A member of The Acting Company, a renowned New York-based theater troupe, Jonathan-David will be performing around Arizona this month in “Julius Caesar” and “X: Or, Betty Shabazz vs. The Nation,” kicking off a 15-city national tour.

“An all-white, or predominantly white, audience should be able to see these two plays by very capable actors and see that they transcend color,” he said. 

Timed to Black History Month, The Acting Company will present “X” on Wednesday, a day after “Julius Caesar,” both at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. From there, the group will perform at the Mesa Arts Center and Northern Arizona University before moving on to stops that include Kansas, Maryland, Missouri and New York.

Each of the 10 members of the current cast is African-American. But Jonathan-David wants audiences to see that when it comes to the arts, skin color doesn't matter. “We all deal with the same issues because of our shared humanity,” he said.

If it sounds like an obvious perspective, it’s not. Consider the backlash last year against casting a black Hermione Granger in a theatrical production of Harry Potter (author J.K. Rowling responded about the online commenters, calling them racist and saying, “With my experience of social media, I thought that idiots were going to idiot.”)  

“Historically," said Neal Lester, an ASU English professor and director of Project Humanities, "some audiences can't and won't easily 'suspend their disbelief' because 'these classics have been defined as having Whites Only casts. There was colorization of these classics, including Shakespeare, in the 1930s as part of the Federal Theater Project to make these classics accessible to wider audiences. Still, many can't accept that a good story about our shared humanity is a good story, whoever it is cast.” 

The Acting Company’s Arizona residency is co-sponsored by the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the ArtsOther sponsors include the Mesa Arts Center and Northern Arizona University..

Jake Pinholster, associate dean and professor at the institute, said the company’s tour and its premiere of “X” on Feb. 1 is timely.

“Beyond these two shows — one a potentially important new work of American theater — this engagement gives us the chance to experiment with new forms of university-professional relationships, new community partners and better opportunities for our students,” he said.

The shows are part of the company’s new circuit model, centered around consortiums of universities, colleges, high schools and community organizations. In the Phoenix area, the troupe will conduct workshops, classroom visits and public forums, along with the performances.

Organizers hope to engage students, faculty and the community with opportunities to learn from the past while inviting critical dialogue about current events and social issues, artistic director Ian Belknap said.

“Repertory theater can allow for conversations to take place, and it’s a forum to learn,” Belknap said. “It can be an educational tool to fill curiosity and inspire people to examine issues in a new way.”

The Acting Company was founded in 1972 by Oscar winner John Houseman and Margot Harley from the first graduating class of the drama division of The Julliard School. It’s the only permanent, professional touring repertoryRepertory theater usually presents works from a specified repertoire or in rotation with other works. company dedicated to the development of classical actors. The Acting Company boasts launching more than 400 careers, including Kevin Kline and Patti LuPone.

Man and woman on stage

Chelsea Williams as Betty Shabazz and Jimonn Cole as Malcolm X in the original play, "X: Or, Betty Shabazz vs. The Nation." Photo courtesy of T. Charles Erickson

“X,” Belknap said, required a company of black actors. He said it made sense to debut the original work about the life and assassination of Malcolm X in the Valley, since they worked on it here previously.

“Playwright Marcus Gardley and I led a play development workshop at ASU in December 2015,” Belknap said. “It was valuable to get feedback in an academic setting from theater students, who always have great ideas.”

Michael Alexander, a 25-year-old MFA student at Herberger, recalled the work session as “valuable and refreshing.”

“Actors don’t often get an opportunity to see a playwright at work,” Alexander said. “We watched the piece grow in front of our very eyes.”

He said students brainstormed several ideas with Gardley, including Malcolm X being force-fed pork in prison and taking a deeper look at the civil rights leader’s life through Betty Shabazz’s viewpoint.

That greatly appealed to Kyra Jackson, who participated in a couple of workshop sessions with Gardley.

“Strong black women usually take a back seat when it comes to civil rights history,” said Jackson, also an MFA major at Herberger. “It was not only interesting but beautiful to give her a voice.”

Top photo: Jonathan-David as Mark Antony and Gabriel Lawrence as Julius Caesar in The Acting Company's production of "Julius Caesar." Photo courtesy of T. Charles Erickson