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ASU theater production recognized with 4 ariZoni Awards

Four men posing in front of a purple background.

Photo of the ASU production of “Kill Move Paradise” by Tim Trumble.

November 14, 2023

The School of Music, Dance and Theatre’s production of James Ijames’ “Kill Move Paradise” was recognized with four ariZoni Awards at this year’s ceremony.

The ariZoni Awards for Theatre Excellence is a statewide nonprofit organization that supports and recognizes theater in Arizona. Each season, nearly 100 adjudicators attend and review approximately 200 productions around the state.

Four Arizona State University students were recognized with ariZoni Awards. Gio Curtiss received best lighting design; Christían Harris received best media design; Kimmy Mar received best sound design; and Michael McPherson received best actor. 

“We're very proud of our students winning ariZoni Awards during the 2022–23 season with our production of ‘Kill Move Paradise,’” said Guillermo Reyes, artistic director of theater at ASU. “The production owed a great deal of vision to our faculty director, Rachel Finley, who helped guide these students. The school boasts the ability to create productions and designs that are competitive on the Phoenix theater scene. Our production design program helps nurture and develop the talents of young artists, and an award helps not only to provide them with encouragement but also to help them establish themselves in the field of theater.”

The ASU production of “Kill Move Paradise” was presented in spring 2023 and directed by ASU Assistant Professor Rachel Finley. The play addresses heavy themes while also celebrating Black joy and humanity. It’s the story of four Black men, torn abruptly from life through violence. The names of Black men and women slain by gun violence are read out loud as part of the play.

Finley said that the ability to present this show successfully was due in large part to a focus on actor safety and well-being through ASU Theatre’s Commitments to Cultural Context. This set of guiding principles was developed collectively with students, faculty and staff. 

Part of the initiative reads, “Our community believes these commitments make it easier for us to bring our whole selves to our work, take artistic risks and support one another in growth even when that growth may be uncomfortable.”

In all, “Kill Move Paradise” received nine AriZoni nominations. In addition to the categories won, Finley was nominated for best director; Tanner Conley was nominated for best actor; Sydney Thomas was nominated for scenic design; Dejaun Russell was nominated for costume design; and the play was nominated for best overall production. 

“This illustrates that with our department’s shift to increased focus on wellness through the Commitments to Cultural Context, we can continue to produce high-quality work while respecting the humanity of the artists involved in its creation,” Finley said.

The School of Music, Dance and Theatre also received nominations for Music Theatre and Opera productions. “Into the Woods” and “Head Over Heels” each received eight ariZoni nominations, and student Logan Holmes was nominated for best actor in a supporting role for Mesa Community College’s production of “Something Rotten.”

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