ASU musical production illuminates family relationships, immigrant stories

November 15, 2023

Arizona State University’s Music Theatre and Opera program will present the Arizona premiere of “Miss You Like Hell” on Nov. 17–19.

The musical follows an imaginative teenage girl who embarks on a cross-country road trip with her free-spirited mother, who is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Illustration of car driving into a sunset. Arizona State University’s Music Theatre and Opera program will present the Arizona premiere of “Miss You Like Hell” on Nov. 17–19. The musical follows an imaginative teenage girl who embarks on a cross-country road trip with her free-spirited mother, who is an undocumented immigrant from Mexico. Courtesy image Download Full Image

At the heart of the story is a mother-daughter relationship complicated by immigration policies. Chance encounters with a variety of characters along the way bring the two closer to understanding what sets them apart and what connects them forever.

With book and lyrics by Quiara Alegría Hudes and music and lyrics by Erin McKeown, the musical first premiered in 2016. Hudes has also written “In the Heights” and “Water by the Spoonful,” for which she won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Drama.

Described by The New York Times as “powerful and complex” and “a fresh take on the American road story, filled with people and ideas we rarely get to see onstage,” the musical features wide-ranging styles of original songs that exude the joy, love and frustration of being a family in a changing country.

Composer Erin McKeown will be on campus for the production and will work with students from multiple areas including music theatre, composition, dramatic writing and the popular music program.

“’Miss You Like Hell’ is unique in that this production involves faculty, students and staff working together from the School of Music, Dance and Theatre,” said Brian DeMaris, professor and artistic director of ASU Music Theatre and Opera.

DeMaris said “Miss You Like Hell” was selected to be part of the Music Theatre and Opera season by a collaborative process.

“Each year we welcome submissions of suggested titles from anyone on campus and work with our faculty, staff and Student Leadership Team for a nearly six-month process to select titles and creative teams for our productions,” DeMaris said.

Anyone can suggest titles for the season, said DeMaris, and the final titles are chosen based on a series of pedagogical goals determined by the faculty. He said the team reads and carefully considers every submission, and faculty and students work together to choose a final season that best suits the pedagogical needs of the students the school serves from across multiple programs.

Cast members are a mixture of undergraduate and graduate students from multiple music and theater programs within the school. In addition to Music Theatre and Opera production staff, technical staff include set design by Alfredo Escarcega, production manager at ASU Gammage, lighting designer Dani Deutschmann, sound designer Jade Barger and several theater design and production students.

“Both of my parents are immigrants who came to the United States from Latin America, and getting to be a part of a show that not only highlights the immigrant experience but also spotlights Latino culture has been vastly rewarding,” said Jose Antonio Guevara (who plays Manuel), who is earning a Bachelor of Music in music learning and teaching, with an emphasis in trumpet pedagogy. “My hope is that I am able to honor my Latin American roots in this production in a way that uplifts the ASU School of Music, Dance and Theatre and helps to show the rich culture and experience that every student brings to this school.”

“As a young Latina woman/artist, I feel so excited to see someone like myself being represented on the stage with a real story,” said Angelica Santana (who plays Olivia), who is earning a Bachlor of Arts in theatre and a minor in music theatre. “The topics and conversations in this musical can sometimes hit close to home. While these topics can be heavy and uncomfortable for some to hear, I think it is so incredibly important to not ignore these issues that are still happening today. I feel that it is a reminder to everyone about the families everywhere struggling and fighting every day.” 

Marissa Barnathan, who is earning a master's degree in directing, is the first student to direct a musical during the music theater and opera season. The production serves as part of Barnathan’s final thesis applied project. David Radamés Toro, assistant professor of musical theater and opera direction, serves as faculty artistic advisor, along with Barnathan’s thesis committee members.

Barnathan has an extensive background in dance and theater as a professional actor, dancer and choreographer. As part of her research, Barnathan will be surveying audience members about their experience, as well as holding talkbacks after each performance to understand the impact of the show on attendees.      

“My vision for the musical centers on one of Olivia's lines at the end of the play, ‘We are not rafts. We are not even islands. We are the ocean,’’’ Barnathan said. “I hope the audience leaves the musical feeling more connected both to their own family members and to their fellow community members, regardless of race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or immigration status. I also hope the audience feels more empathetic to the struggles of undocumented immigrants.” 

“Miss You Like Hell”

Nov. 17–18, 7:30 p.m.
Evelyn Smith Music Theatre

Nov. 19, 2 p.m.
Evelyn Smith Music Theatre


Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music, Dance and Theatre


ASU community thanks donors during a dedicated week of gratitude

Sun Devil Gratitude Week celebrates philanthropy

November 15, 2023

This week, Arizona State University is celebrating the donors who give their time, talent and treasure to support our community.

The ASU Foundation organizes Sun Devil Gratitude Week for students, faculty and staff to thank donors for their generosity. The celebration started as a single-day event on National Philanthropy Day six years ago. Reya Adoni smiling with an outdoor setting behind her. Reya Adoni is an undergraduate studying economics at the W. P. Carey School of Business who has received donor support. Download Full Image

Jessielyn Hirschl, associate director of donor relations at the ASU Foundation, said it’s essential to thank donors for their contributions. 

“ASU is doing so much amazing work, and none of it would be possible without the support of our donors and the passion of our students, faculty and staff,” she said. “It’s so important to show gratitude to all the people who make this community so special and encourage a continued commitment to building a better world.”

Last year, ASU received contributions from over 107,000 donors. The ASU Foundation will use phone calls, text messages, emails and social media posts to connect with as many donors as possible during its Gratitude Week.

Throughout the week, all ASU students and faculty are encouraged to celebrate donors, especially those who have benefited from their generosity.

Tirupalavanam Ganesh is associate dean for outreach and student success and Tooker Professor for engineering education at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. In his roles, Ganesh sees the impact of scholarship support on students firsthand.

“I thank ASU donors for their continued support over these many years, which has allowed us to support engineering students as they earn a degree,” he said.

Nicole Ponsart is an MFA student at the School of Art, where she works in ceramics. Support from donors has allowed Ponsart to secure the materials she needs to make larger pieces.

“You’ve made it possible for me to continue my education and create a body of work that is meaningful and long-lasting,” Ponsart said of the donors who helped fund her education.

Reya Adoni is an undergraduate studying economics at the W. P. Carey School of Business. Donor support helps her focus on school and devote time to campus involvement.

“This has enabled me to focus on getting my degree while also giving me the time to really take part in my role as vice president for Women’s Club Soccer,” she said. “I’m really, really grateful.”

These stories and countless others show the impact that donors have across ASU.

“By having a special week that highlights gratitude, we can demonstrate its importance and foster a ‘gratitude mindset’ to inform our work and personal lives all year long,” Hirschl said.