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ASU students discover 'Hamilton' through show and tell-your-story workshops

February 7, 2018

History has its eyes on "Hamilton." And so too does a group of storytellers honing their craft at Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.

Straddling the disciplines of film, dance, music, theater and transborder studies, 80 “young, scrappy and hungry” students are getting their shot (and taking it) to experience ASU Gammage’s presentation of the Broadway hit "Hamilton: An American Musical" on Feb. 15.

Tiffany Lopez

The opportunity comes through the “What 'Hamilton' Means to Me Project,” a four-part workshop series facilitated and organized by Tiffany Lopez, director of Herberger Institute’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre.

“The project is the first of many projects that will give students the opportunity to connect with artists and activists through workshops designed in conjunction with a major touring production at ASU Gammage,” Lopez said. “The goal of the project is for students to find themselves inspired and informed about how to create work born from their own cultural experiences and the forms of artistic expression that make them feel passionate about telling their stories.”

The room where it happens

The first workshop, led by Arizona Theatre Company artistic director David Ivers, included an interactive exchange that expanded on the phenomenon of the musical, its cultural impact and on the idea of taking creative risks.

“'Hamilton' to me is our planet’s masterpiece of the era,” Ivers told students gathered for the Feb. 2 workshop at the Lyceum Theatre on ASU’s Tempe campus. “It has an inevitability to it that makes us examine everything we have ever known, everything we have ever seen.”

Ivers’ words resonated with film, dance and theater junior Maryam Ishaya. She said the racially diverse cast of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s revolutionary retelling of America’s Founding Fathers re-invigorated her passion for theater and has helped her push back against the typecasting she says she has experienced as an actress of Middle Eastern descent.

“Lin-Manuel wanted to show the diversity from his community through the story of 'Hamilton' and we talked about how he did that by highlighting the great success that immigrants bring to this country,” Ishaya said. “'Hamilton' has actually inspired me to write about a queen in my culture who was the very first woman in my community to give herself the right to do what a man can do. Not a lot of people know her story and so I would like to write about it and make it a musical.”

Rhett Gajcak, a freshman majoring in theater, said he was first turned on to "Hamilton" by a friend who showed him a video of the show's cast performing at the White House. Gajcak, who admits to having experienced just one musical, said he is excited about participating in the "Hamilton" workshops and sees the opportunity as a fresh start for his focus in life.

“For the few plays that I have seen, they have been phenomenal,” Gajcak said. “If I am able to see 'Hamilton,' it would be like a stepping stone to a new life of chasing theater. I see this workshop as a great opportunity for me to get accustomed to musicals and theater and what I want to do.”

My shot

Students participating in the "Hamilton" workshops have the option of taking them for credit as part of a dynamically dated course. The tickets they receive to see the musical are really just the icing on the cake, said Lopez, who thoughtfully set aside discretionary research funds to bulk purchase the hard-to-come-by "Hamiltontickets when they went on sale in fall 2017. 

Brandon Riley, a second year dramatic writing graduate student, said he jumped at the chance to participate in the workshop series.

“Since a lot of us can’t afford 'Hamilton' tickets, it was a golden opportunity to learn about the effects of this phenomenon and to be able to see the show at the same time,” Riley said. “In a country where we are so divided, 'Hamilton' represents what America could be and should be — having diverse cast members unite to create one show.”

And while it was not quite the duel-to-the-death event between the show’s historical namesake, U.S. statesman Alexander Hamilton, and his political rival Aaron Burr, the selection process for students to participate in the “What 'Hamilton' Means to Me Project” was a competitive one. Each student had to submit a one-minute video essay about what "Hamilton" means to them as artists, storytellers and cultural voices. Freshman theater major Daniel Zemeida offered up a creative take on the "Hamilton" song “My Shot” for his essay.

Students in ASU’s College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP)Housed in ASU’s School of Transborder Studies, the federally funded CAMP Scholars project provides academic support to students from migrant and seasonal farm worker backgrounds in their first year of college., like nursing major Andrea Patino, were among the interdisciplinary students invited to submit a video to participate in the "Hamilton" workshop project. 

The second "What 'Hamilton' Means to Me" workshop is slated for Feb. 16Hosted by Clive Valentin, director of Ignite/Arts Dallas at Southern Methodist University Meadows School of the Arts at 2 p.m., at Lyceum Theatre on ASU's Tempe campus. — the day after the students see the musical at Gammage. It will offer a look at the history of hip-hop theater and the role of "Hamilton" in the work of building community. The final two workshops — on Feb. 23Hosted by Aliento, a Phoenix-based organization that creates community healing through art leading to collective power at 2 p.m., at COOR 120, on ASU's Tempe campus. and March 2Hosted by Patricia Herrera, associate professor of theater at the University of Richmond and Ted Talk speaker at 2 p.m., at Lyceum Theatre on ASU's Tempe campus. — will link themes in "Hamilton" to contemporary issues related to immigration and social justice.

“We cultivated participants from these programs to foster our goal of bringing together a diverse group of students who are deeply and differently invested in thinking about the power of art to build and transform community,” Lopez said. “We wanted to bring a range of engagement to the workshops in order to generate new work and new conversations with students who are well versed about 'Hamilton' as a work of art and students who know very little about the play and have never seen a musical.”

While priority seating will be given to students selected to participate in the project, the workshops are open to the public on a first-come, first-served basis.

Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?

Through "Hamilton’s" recurring themes of storytelling and seizing the moment, Lopez hopes the “What 'Hamilton' Means to Me Project” will inspire the students she calls "'Hamilton' ambassadors" to be storytellers “in the here and now.” She offers the reminder that Lin-Manuel Miranda was still just an undergraduate at Wesleyan University when he conjured up "In the Heights," his first Broadway success story.

“The Herberger Institute’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre is committed to developing storytellers who want to make a difference in their communities and create art as a means to transform how people think about making art and making the world,” Lopez said. “We task our students with thinking about how they most want to create work that has the power to transform the ways we think about history, art, music, poetry, dance and visual aesthetics, among other things.”

Lopez and 19 other mentors associated with the workshops will also join the students in seeing the Feb. 15 performance of "Hamilton" at ASU Gammage. The musical runs through Feb. 25 and has inspired a number of other ASU courses and lectures built around the "Hamilton" phenomenon. 

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ASU prof recognized for pioneering contributions to child intervention science

~90% of proven mental/behavioral interventions are not used by practitioners.
ASU prof bridging gap between psychology research and practice.
February 7, 2018

When Thomas Dishion began his career in psychology in the 1980s, “intervention was a pipe dream.”

“We didn’t really know if you could systemically prevent negative outcomes [in people’s lives and well-being] later down the road,” he said.

Today, the Arizona State University professor is sure of it. After three-plus decades, nearly $100 million in research funding and more than 300 published papers on child and family intervention science, Dishion is a bona fide pioneer in the field.

For his contributions to the understanding of child development and psychopathology, and how clinical psychology is conducted across the world, Dishion was recently named an ASU Regents’ Professor.

Thomas Dishion

“It is a great honor,” he said. “All the work I do is on a team and I’m grateful for the colleagues that I’ve had and for the support of ASU.”

As a graduate student at the University of Oregon, Dishion became fascinated with the patterns of interaction he witnessed between mothers and their children while working at a social learning center. He was convinced there was a science behind it and wanted to figure out how it could be used to improve the human condition.

He continued to conduct research and teach at the University of Oregon until 2011 when the lure of opportunity brought him to the Valley of the Sun.

“ASU is a major innovator and the department of psychology had a strong emphasis and positive track record in prevention science,” Dishion said. “I also like the philosophy of the New American University. I do a lot of my work in community settings and I think universities need to be more actively involved in the community. ASU’s mission regarding social embeddedness fits well with my philosophy.”

At ASU, Dishion founded the REACH Institute (Research and Education Advancing Children’s Health), a research unit within the Department of Psychology dedicated to bridging the gap between university-based research and real-world practice.

“We’re taking evidence-based practices that have shown to be effective in rigorous studies and putting them in the hands of clinicians,” he said, something that is woefully needed in the field.

“You can go to a psychologist and it’s relatively unlikely that they will be using evidence-based practices when trying to support you in overcoming your issues. Some research shows only five percent of clinicians use evidence-based practices.”

Currently, researchers at REACH are looking into effective interventions for families and students who have recently emigrated from Mexico to the U.S., to help them be successful in secondary school. Another project looks at the effectiveness of incorporating the Family Check-Up, one of the institute’s most widely disseminated programs, with the federally-funded Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

The Family Check-Up provides parent management training, teaching them positive-behavior support, healthy limit-setting and relationship-building.

Dishion also has made distinctive contributions to do with adolescent aggression in peer groups. When a type of therapy meant to reduce aggression was shown to actually increase it, Dishion wanted to know why. He found that some friendships are organized around violence, where adolescents connect by talking about hurting other people, and that talk can escalate to real violence.

Dishion called the phenomenon “coercive joining.” It uses such tactics such as fear mongering, name-calling, bullying and emotional manipulation to force others into complying with certain behaviors.

His findings related to coercive joining are especially relevant nowadays, he said, because “there is so much influence of rhetoric, and a lot of the population is beginning to talk about other groups in negative ways. That’s really socially significant and important, and we need leadership to not engage in that kind of rhetoric because it grows to violence.”

Designing an intervention for coercive joining is on Dishion’s agenda. He hopes to find peaceful ways of reducing the formation of violent groups that everyone can use.

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