ASU Gammage High School Musical Theatre Awards winner returns to ASU as a student

May 4, 2021

Sam Primack, the 2017 ASU Gammage Rising Star Award recipient and winner of Best Lead Male at the 2017 ASU Gammage High School Musical Theatre Awards, is returning to Arizona State University as a student in the upcoming fall semester.

Primack, originally from Scottsdale, Arizona, applied to the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts during the coronavirus pandemic and will major in musical theater.
Sam Primack's headshot. Sam Primack will study musical theater at ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Download Full Image

Though he had gone through the college application process directly after high school, Primack decided to put his academics on pause to pursue his dream of acting on Broadway. He joined “Dear Evan Hansen” in April 2019 as an understudy and got to play three different characters, including the lead, in the span of three months.

Then, the pandemic hit, and Broadway was shuttered indefinitely.

"When we realized the tours and Broadway were not going to open for at least another semester, we didn’t know at the time it was going to be even more another year, I decided to go to school, and with the help of a couple of professors at the school I ended up enrolling,” Primack said.

The Chaparral High School alumnus said that his second time going through the college application process was a positive experience, even with adjustments made due to the ongoing pandemic.

“This time around, it was actually a really welcoming process,” Primack said. “Everyone was really wonderful and I felt like, even though all of the auditions were online … all of the faculty seemed to be really responsive and I got a lot of great feedback from those videos. You don’t (usually) get feedback, so I think the extra time with COVID and everyone at home helped me get some great feedback.”

Though his path to ASU may be untraditional, Primack believes his time away from school helped prepare him to be an even better student now that he is ready to return.

“Something that I learned is that the work that you do in the classroom or on stage, that has to continue at home,” Primack said. “So, I think the biggest lesson that I learned on tour and on Broadway … was just a level of preparation and focus and a drive that I don’t think that I would have if I didn’t have that year.”

Looking to the fall semester, Primack said he is most excited to “work with new professors and ... continue to grow and learn with (his peers).”

“I’ve had so many friends go through the program and go through the process and they have really loved their experience,” Primack said. “Something that I noticed very quickly was that this program, as opposed to many other programs around the country, the students there really love it, and I really love the faculty and I really love the teachers and that really drew me in.”

For Primack, coming back to ASU is a full-circle ending, as the university has watched him grow as an actor since his high school years.

“ASU and Gammage and the whole High School Musical Theatre Awards — I would not have my job, I would not have really anything without the people there and the people that chose me, so I owe a lot to ASU,” Primack said. “They kind of had my back when I needed something to kind of creatively stimulate myself and so, ASU has always just been a really welcoming and wonderful place.”

Marketing Assistant, ASU Gammage

Dance and English double major to pursue passions in Spain

May 4, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

When Shannon Smith needed to choose a major, she couldn't pick just one.  Shannon Smith 0 Shannon Smith Download Full Image

I chose ASU because I was able to stably pursue multiple degrees within different areas of study,” Smith said. “Each one has formed me into the person that I am today and have informed each other throughout the past four years.”

She decided on nothing less than a full courseload a BFA in dance, a BA in English focusing on writing and rhetoric, and a minor in Spanish.

Her senior year of high school, she took multiple personality and career placement tests hoping they would help guide her way to a choice, but they didn’t quite offer results with her core interests. 

“I toyed around with ideas of majoring in other fields like philosophy or marketing, but I just had this feeling that dance was where I needed to be,” Smith said.

Now, she plans to continue pursuing all of her interests abroad. 

“After graduation, I will be moving to Spain to teach English while exploring the dance community within Madrid,” she said. “In the future, I plan to explore art communities throughout Europe and Asia.”

Smith graduates with a number awards she received along the way, including the New American University Scholarship Dean’s Award, the Special Talent Awards for Dance and Theatre, the Anne Kinnerup Parfet Dance Scholarship, the Eirene Peggy Lamb Scholarship, the Peggy Desjardin Dance Memorial Scholarship, the Margaret Gisolo Award and the Eileen Paul Dance Scholarship.

This past spring semester she presented her premiere dance work, “Decorative Hierarchy,” set to the song “Paint it Black” by the Rolling Stones at the 2021 Transitions Projects performance, “Mouthful of Marbles.” 

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective? 

Answer: My entire experience just being at ASU has taught me many important lessons, but the most informative lessons I’ve learned in school have been through active discussion and participation with those around me. I think a lot of times school can be very independent and one-sided when it comes to research and writing papers, presentations, etc., but the classes where we are able to deepen our own personal understanding of a topic and challenge its ideas have been the most conducive to my learning. Whether the topic is about social, political or personal ideas, moments where we can learn from those around us have provided me with a plethora of perspectives. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? 

A: All of my professors have contributed something very special to me within my artistic and academic interests, so it is hard to pick just one because I definitely wouldn’t be the person I am today without their guidance. Most importantly, Dr. Naomi Jackson exposed me to the field of dance writing, a career field that is directly relevant to me as a dance artist and writer. Her classes also expanded my idea of what dance has been, what it could be and social concepts embedded within dance. 

As a creator and artist, professors and mentors Carley Conder and Liz Lerman have continuously been supportive of my work within dance, questioning my process and providing resources for me to explore within local and national communities. Overall, every one of these teachers has stressed the importance that dance can be used within any setting whether performative, communal or political, where I can use my art to ask questions through movement-research. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: The best piece of advice I can give to students in school right now is to continuously keep an open mind about your own process and the field that you are going into. There is constant change happening and being open to new opportunities might land you somewhere you never thought you’d be. I would also suggest participating within your community! Connect with other students and teachers that value you as an artist and want to help you fulfill your creative or academic goals. These relationships provide more than just career opportunities. Community helps to feed your creative voice while relating with the world around you, and each interaction informs who you are as an artist. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: On campus, my go-to spot for working is either at the Starbucks at the MU or outside of the Creativity Commons. Being a dance major, you spend a lot of hours on campus and so my friends and I would roam a variety of spots within the library, the lobby of Bulldog Hall and outside the MU. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: After graduation, I will be moving to Spain to teach English while exploring the dance community within Madrid. In the future, I plan to explore art communities throughout Europe and Asia. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? 

A: Honestly I think that one of the biggest problems our global society faces is being stuck in the idea that money solves everything. With that being said, I believe that change happens at a local level and that small efforts can make big differences in our world. So I think that it is important to support local activists that are dedicating time to their community’s needs that can then spiral into national and global change. 

Danielle Munoz

Media and Communications Coordinator, School of Film, Dance and Theatre