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Democratizing digital design

March 22, 2018

ASU dancer, designer Jessica Rajko on the power of having a diverse design team

Imagine having a conversation with a bespectacled companion. You try desperately to look into their eyes, but all you can focus on is the third, unblinking eye that may or may not be recording you but is certainly watching everything. This was the feeling Google Glass evoked in many, and the main reason why it was unsuccessful.

In cases such as this, a creator’s instinct is to table the project and wait until people are ready for such a technology to become integrated into their lives. But Jessica Rajko, a collaborative feminist dancer, designer and assistant professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, suggests an alternative.

“Rather than begrudgingly pushing society to be ready, I ask designers to critically consider the limits of their own designs,” she said.

In her ASU KEDtalk, she discusses the power of a diverse design team within digital technology, and the immense benefits that come with this multifaceted approach.

Rajko's talk is part of the ASU KEDtalks series. Short for Knowledge Enterprise Development talks, KEDtalks aim to spark ideas, indulge curiosity, and inspire action by highlighting ASU scientists, humanists, social scientists and artists who are driven to find solutions to the universe’s grandest challenges. Tune in to to discover how the next educational revolution will come about, whether space is the next economic frontier and more.

ASU theater for youth student earns national fellowship

March 12, 2018

Young Nae Choi, a second year MFA candidate in the theater for youth program at the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, has been awarded the Emerging Leader in TYA Fellowship from Theatre for Young Audiences/USA.

She will complete an individual research project by traveling to leading TYA theatres, receive mentorship and leadership development from TYA/USA staff and the board throughout the year, and participate in regular cohort meetings to discuss issues in the TYA field. Picture of Young Nae Choi Young Nae Choi. Download Full Image

Young Nae Choi is a theater-maker, artist-researcher, performer and educator from Seoul, South Korea, and she earned a BA in theater from New York University Abu Dhabi. She is currently working on a project that explores a dream narrative through surrealist aesthetics, combining creative practice and research.

Each year TYA/USA awards fellowships in an effort to foster the professional growth of artists, practitioners and emerging leaders in the field of Theatre of Young Audiences. For more information, visit

ASU professor recognized for advancing gender equality in Phoenix theater

The Bridge Initiative named Lance Gharavi 2018 Ally of the Year

March 7, 2018

When Lance Gharavi finalized the 2015–16 theater season for the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in Arizona State University's Herberger Institute, he made it a point to include women’s voices.

Five of the seven theater productions told stories that focused on female characters, and the majority of the plays were written by women.

“This is nothing to be smug about,” Gharavi said at the time. “This shouldn’t be the exception. It should be the rule. It should be the it-goes-without-saying normal. But sometimes leading, sometimes innovating, can just mean doing the obvious.”

In his role as artistic director of theater for the school, Gharavi has continued “doing the obvious” and selecting works that advance the representation of gender and diversity on the stages of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and on the broader stages of Phoenix and the American theater. Actors performing on stage in "She Kills Monsters" “She Kills Monsters” was one of several plays focusing on female characters featured in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s 2015–16 season. Photo by Tim Trumble Download Full Image

For instance, last season’s production “Men on Boats” featured an all-female cast. In the script, playwright Jaclyn Backhaus noted, “The characters in ‘Men on Boats’ were historically cisgender white males. The cast should be made up entirely of people who are not.”

The guest director of that play, Tracy Liz Miller, is also the co-founding producing artistic director for The Bridge Initiative: Women in Arizona Theatre, an organization that recently recognized Gharavi for his contributions toward gender parity in the theatrical field in the Phoenix Valley region. 

“The Bridge Initiative understands that if we all work together, regardless of gender identity, we all go further,” Miller said. “Lance embodies the selfless determination to serve all of his students but also to address the disparity of voices that are represented in contemporary theatre around the country.”

Formed a few years ago, the Bridge Initiative is an incubator for professional women theater artists, promoting gender parity across all theatrical disciplines and contributing to the national conversation around equal representation and inclusion. This year the initiative created the Ally of the Year award, and presented it to Gharavi during the Building More Bridges Gala Celebration on Feb. 24.

“When we launched and raised the issue of so few female playwrights being produced, Lance's response was to present a 100 percent female-penned season,” said Brenda Foley, co-producing artistic director for the Bridge Initiative. “While we have experienced other men turn tail upon our introduction as the Bridge Initiative: Women in Theatre, Lance instead ran towards us.”

The Bridge Initiative winners pose with their awards.

The Bridge Initiative presented Lance Gharavi with the Ally of the Year award at its 2018 gala on Feb. 24. Pictured, from left: Tracy Liz Miller, The Bridge Initiative; E.E. Moe, Leader of the Year recipient; Gharavi; and Brenda Foley, The Bridge Initiative. Photo by Laura Durant, courtesy of The Bridge Initiative

Gharavi said he supports the Bridge Initiative because different representation — different stories, from different voices — are needed to help bring about change.

“Awards are given to individuals, but this isn’t really about me,” he said. “Patriarchy and white supremacy are not the products of individual acts of sexism or bigotry. They’re produced and sustained by systems and institutions. That means that individuals acting virtuously won’t overthrow patriarchy and white supremacy, even if we give them awards. Systems have to change. Institutions have to change.”

Gharavi said he was honored to receive the award, but did so on behalf of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the Herberger Institute.

“I’m proud of the work we’ve done — faculty, staff, students — in programming our school’s seasons. I’m proud to be to be part of the Herberger Institute and ASU, proud of our mission of inclusion, and of projects like Projecting All VoicesProjecting All Voices, an initiative of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts supported by ASU Gammage, aims to support equity and inclusion in arts and design. Together, we’re building new structures and systems. We’re telling new stories.”

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


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A wall that connects, rather than divides

February 22, 2018

Dancers and musicians on both sides of the border wall strive to make a connection in a Binational Arts Residency performance

Most performances happen within four walls; this performance will be bisected by one. 

On Saturday, Binational Arts Residency artist Ana Maria Alvarez, orchestra musicians and 36 dancers from a variety of youth groups will simultaneously perform on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border wall while watching each other through live streams and the gaps in the wall.    

Binational Arts Residency, now in its third year, aims to strengthen the cultural connection between communities in Arizona and Sonora, Mexico, through artistic endeavors. The group is hosting a 10-day series of workshops and performances from Phoenix to Tucson to the Douglas-Agua Prieta border.

Mary Stephens, an instructor in the Arizona State University School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and director of Performance in the Borderlands, is one of the residency's partners. She said each performance is based on what the community decides through the workshop process, and the resident artist helps facilitate the performance.

“It became very obvious very quickly that there needs to be work happening on both sides,” Stephens said. “So rather than (the wall) being a split point, we’ve reconceived of it as a connection point.”

At the Eastlake Park Community Center in Phoenix on a recent wintry Tuesday evening, nearly 30 women crowded into the center for one of the workshops and were led through experiences by resident artist Alvarez and Institute Professor Liz Lerman of ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 

Participants were asked to pair up with a stranger and speak about how they experienced “the space in between” in their own lives. They then reconvened as a group to share their thoughts and experiences ranging from family life and immigration stories to self-care strategies. Together they discussed and chose a movement to represent that story and danced it in unison, one woman’s story after another.

“The goal is to connect people and create community and have an experience where people felt uplifted and created something,” Alvarez said. “Liz and I talked about giving them tools, but our interest really was that at the end of tonight that people leave feeling like, 'I actually created something, that I actually made something exist.'” 

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ASU dance senior Ruby Morales (center) performs a movement as it relates to the stories told by participants during the workshop. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

ASU dance senior Ruby Morales was drawn to the workshop after meeting Alvarez and discussing issues of water, equity and pollution around the Rio Salado. She attended along with other ASU dance majors and took away a feeling of community and support from the experience.

“There’s a lot of women out there who can be my support, and there’s a lot of us that believe in the same thing,” said Morales. “I’m not as alone as I think I am.”

“The event is really honoring all those folks that live inside the politics of that region," Alvarez said. "But (it's) also giving people inspiration, giving people power, giving people hope and just allowing us to take a moment in time to create something together that is about a future we all believe in.”

Binational Border Performance 

What: Border Arts Corridor — in partnership with Rising Youth Theatre, Bibi Danceur Academy, Luis Angeles Academy, Yvonne Montoya, Liliana Gomez, and Cochise College students — presents an evening of binational dance, poetry and music at the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Douglas, Arizona, and Agua Prieta, Sonora. 

When: 4–5:30 p.m. Saturday.

Where: Douglas/Agua Prieta international port of entry, ¾ mile east on the U.S. side.

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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. 

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


From mermaids to monsters, 'Six Stories Tall' celebrates youth, urban culture

ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s joint dance and theater production opens this weekend

February 6, 2018

It’s an adult world, and kids are just living in it.

But this weekend, on the Paul V. Galvin stage at Arizona State University, six short stories will explore just how young people can and do claim their own space — both physical and emotional.   Poster image for "Six Stories Tall." Download Full Image

The School of Film, Dance and Theatre in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts presents these stories through theater, movement, hip-hop culture and music in its production of “Six Stories Tall.”

“It’s six vignettes about Latino and Latina youth,” said Chris Weise, one of the co-creative directors. “It’s all about them claiming space, finding strength, learning lessons.”

In the show, the audience sees through the eyes of these young characters, who often use fantasy and fairy tales — from mermaids and monsters to Batman and a world painted purple — to cope with tough, adult circumstances and find confidence.

“They carve out their own spot and it’s theirs, not the adults’,” Weise said, “and that’s super, super important.”

‘Something totally fresh’

“Six Stories Tall” is one of the first productions from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre that fully integrates both dance and theater.

“Interdisciplinarity is one of the several areas where ASU is leading,” said Lance Gharavi, artistic director of theatre in the school. “We’re a school of film, dance and theater, so of course we look for ways to fuse our creative energies, our histories, cultures and methods. ‘Six Stories Tall’ seemed a perfect place for theater and dance to meet and play together. Boundaries are made to be crossed. And exciting new things can result. I think we’re going to create something totally fresh here.” 

Weise, a graduate student in ASU’s theatre for youth program, and Melissa Britt, a dance professor in the school, are co-creative directors for the work.

“We share the directing responsibilities in everything,” Weise said. “She doesn’t just handle the dance aspects and I don’t just handle the theater aspects — we handle all of it equally as a unit.”

He said it was also important to make sure they were using movement as a narrative form. Learning to incorporate dance and movement into his work was something Angel Lopez, who studies theatre at ASU, found challenging and rewarding.  

“This is the first show where I play a character who doesn’t speak at all and it’s purely movement,” Lopez said. “My challenge now is taking all the things that I know from acting, all of the impulses that I would normally put into the language of the piece, and now putting it into my body.”

Hey Mr. DJ

Music also plays a large role in this production.

Nathaniel Hawkins, or DJ Panic, will provide the soundtrack.

“Panic and I have worked together for many years, since Urban Sol 2012 actually,” said Britt, who brought Hawkins on board. “Beyond being one of my favorite people to work with, Panic brings a steadiness, positive outlook and open mind to all that he does. I knew he would be the glue to all the moving parts that a production like this requires.”

Hawkins said a DJ within a production like “Six Stories Tall’ gives the show legs. “It’s not just a normal play,” he said. “I don’t want to use the word spectacle — it’s a collection of really dope things on their own coming together to make one big dope thing.”

Hawkins won’t just be playing music in the background. In some parts of the show, he actually gets to communicate with the characters through the music.

The audience can expect a range of songs from Hawkins.

“I’d like to think that my perceptive crates are deep enough that I will play something you’ve never heard of,” he said, but there will also be music the audience will recognize and find nostalgic.

In addition to getting help from Hawkins, a staple in the local hip-hop community, Weise also wanted to make sure the play reflected the Phoenix area. The playwright, Marco Ramirez, set the stories in Chicago. Weise actually contacted Ramirez to get permission to make a few adjustments. For instance, in the story “Lupe and the Red Line Monster,” a young girl uses her mad video game skills to face off against a monster in Chicago’s subway. In ASU’s production, Weise switches it up, creating a Light Rail Monster.

‘I hope they take away smiles’

Weise said young people are “the champions of the piece,” but this play is for everyone.

“It reminds you that there’s magic in the world,” Lopez said.

Hawkins hopes people feel that magic.

“First and foremost, I hope they take away smiles,” he said. “Anything and everything that I personally dive into, the end goal is almost always to invoke smiles, in one way or another.”

Hawkins also said the play has potential to break down walls between children and adults. “It has imagery and dialogue that will be hilarious to a child and an adult,” he said. “It will bring about conversation.”

Conversation is exactly what Weise wants. He said when he came to ASU, he wanted to create a piece that was all about getting adults and young people to have conversations. 

“I want people to take away just how powerful young people are and how much their ideas matter and how I truly believe that the more we listen to them, the better off our society and our world will be.”  

'Six Stories Tall' 

When: 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9­–10, 15–17; 2 p.m. Feb. 11, 18

Where: Paul V. Galvin Playhouse, ASU's Tempe campus

Admission: $16 for general admission; $12 for ASU faculty, staff and alumni; $12 for seniors; $8 for students. Purchase tickets online or call the Herberger Institute Box Office at 480-965-6447.

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


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ASU film professor anticipates some drama at this year's Oscars

January 23, 2018

The 90th annual Academy Awards ceremony will offer a bit of everything: epic films, indies with heart, female directors, black best actor nominees, a Pakistani-American screenwriter, Meryl Streep (obviously), and undoubtedly lots of dramatic lectures about social justice.

Nominations for the March 4 award show were announced Tuesday with “The Shape of Water,” a low-budget fantasy, leading the Oscar race with 13 nominations. But the real drama taking center stage that night may have nothing to do with films, said Guillermo Reyes, a professor with ASU’s School of Film, Dance and TheatreA unit within the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.. ASU Now spoke to Reyes — who is a playwright and author and teaches a class called “The Oscars” — about the nominations.

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Guillermo Reyes

Question: In an effort to counteract the lack of diversity evidenced by #oscarssowhite, the Academy expanded its membership to include more young people, women and people of color. Do you think that demo shift had an effect on today’s nominations?

Answer: Apparently it did. The previous Academy president, Cheryl Boone Isaacs, went out of her way to recruit a more diverse new round of voters. It takes years sometimes to change the overall character of the voters. The old Hollywood, in a way, is still being represented, but the new crowd that comes in every year seems to be young and diverse. I think it's having an effect in today’s voting. We had two nominees (Denzel Washington and Daniel Kaluuya) for best actor who are African-American. It feels like it’s going in the right direction.

The changing nature of the Academy voters is crucial for allowing more opportunities for work to be seen and recognized. Yes, the Academy’s attempts at diversifying seem to be working.

Q: Let’s immediately address “The Shape of Water.” It received 13 nominations, one fewer than the record for the most Academy Awards nominations in history. Are those strong indications that it will sweep the Oscars this year?

A: It’s certainly a leading contender because it’s been nominated for all the right things. Certainly it has good momentum. “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was doing well in the previous awards shows, but it was not nominated for best director. To me, that’s a sign of weakness despite the fact that Martin McDonagh is a very strong director. ("Billboards" is nominated for best original screenplay.) “The Shape of Water” appears to be the film to watch and the leading contender.

Q: Do you believe that James Franco was not nominated for best actor because of the recent allegations against him for sexual harassment?

A: This is a year in which the #MeToo movement has had a powerful effect throughout the culture, not just the Oscars. It’s possible the allegations may have alienated the actors' branch, the ones who make the nominations. I have not seen his film, “The Disaster Artist,” but friends who have seen it have said they think it’s an entertaining film, amusing, but didn’t think James Franco was deserving of a best actor nomination. Or it could be they found other people's performances stronger. It’s also difficult for comedic performances to get nominated. It could be a combination of many factors. Certainly, it could not have helped him to have those recent allegations surface at this time.

Q: Women were shut out of best director category, as noted by actress Natalie Portman, at the Golden Globes. With Greta Gerwig’s nomination for “Lady Bird” do you think there was a conscious or unconscious push by the academy to include a female in this category?

A: It’s hard to say because the directors' branch is heavily dominated by men and they’re the ones who make these nominations. I believe her nomination speaks to the strength of her film. After all, “Lady Bird” has won various critics' awards. It’s possible the branch had gender in the back of their minds, but I do believe Greta Gerwig is very deserving of the nomination. It’s a great achievement considering there have only been five women directors nominated in the show’s 90-year history. It’s a fascinating year.

Q: I was surprised to see Denzel Washington nominated for “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” given that it fizzled at the box office and there’s been little buzz on his performance leading up to the Oscars. What do you make of that?

A: Denzel Washington is a well-known figure in the industry and even though “Roman J. Israel, Esq.” may not have done that well, he is a star with name recognition and those types of actors tend to get noticed, just like Meryl Streep. Because she’s such a strong actress and presence, it’s hard for her not to get nominated. An actor with strong credentials can sometimes sneak in and take a nomination that certainly could have gone to another actor.

But I’m also happy to see a very young actor like Timothée Chalamet being nominated as well as Daniel Kaluuya, Saoirse Ronan and Margot Robbie. I think it’s nice to have a combination of older and up-and-coming actors in the mix. Those are all good factors.

Q: What are your Oscar predictions for the four big acting nominations, director and best picture?

A: It looks like without a doubt “The Shape of Water” is the strongest candidate for best picture. It also looks good for Guillermo Del Toro as best director. In terms of acting, it seems to be Gary Oldman’s year for best actor in “The Darkest Hour.” Frances McDormand seems to have the momentum for best actress in “Three Billboards in Ebbing, Missouri” given her win at the Screen Actors Guild awards on Sunday. There certainly is a chance for someone like Saoirse Ronan to sneak in a victory, but I think it’s going in Frances McDormand’s direction. Best supporting actress is fairly predictable this year with Allison Janney for “I, Tonya.” Sam Rockwell seems to be the strongest contender for best supporting actor in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.”

Q: What else is noteworthy about today’s nominations?

A: “Dunkirk” did very well in the technical categories, so that makes this a pretty strong contender to pick up some awards this year. For some reason that film has been shut out of the award season. It’s a potential dark horse and it was good to see Christopher Nolan nominated for best director and “Dunkirk” for best picture. He’s a very powerful director. I also like seeing Jordan Peele, along with Greta Gerwig, getting nominated. They are basically newcomers as directors and were nominated. This helps them get established in Hollywood and gives them the attention they deserve. I was also surprised to see Armie Hammer get shut out for “Call Me By Your Name” as best supporting actor, but the film is getting some good recognition even though it doesn’t appear to be a leading contender.

Q: Do you think the #MeToo movement will take center stage at this year’s awards like it did with the Golden Globes?

A: The show may not go out of its way to push it, but there may be some jokes. It might appear too heavy-handed given that this issue is fairly hard for Hollywood to deal with given that producer Harvey Weinstein and some major stars like Kevin Spacey are culprits and are being shunned.

It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out this year … Casey Affleck, who was already controversial last year in regard to sexual harassment allegations, and how he has to present the award for best actress. Some people were collecting signatures to have him banned from the ceremony, but I believe that fizzled out. It’ll be interesting to see how he behaves and how others behave toward him. If you recall last year, there were some people like Brie Larson who stood there and did not applaud his victory. I’m curious if other actors will do that this year. If Frances McDormand wins, will she hug him, kiss him, acknowledge him? Those are things I’ll be looking for.

Pioneering indie filmmaker returns to ASU to premiere new dance film, lead workshop

January 10, 2018

Film and video artist Jon Jost will visit Arizona State University this weekend to work with current ASU students in classes and workshops and to premiere his latest film, “Again and Again.”

Jon Jost is truly one of the most iconoclastic and self-made filmmakers in history,” said Jason Davids Scott, assistant director of film in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Not only is his work completely unique with a language and style all of its own, but Jon himself is a great teacher because of his dry wit, global experience and eagerness to see students develop their own specific artistic voices and their own cinematic language.” Film and video artist Jon Jost Film and video artist Jon Jost will work host a workshop for ASU students and premiere his newest film this weekend. (Courtesy photo.) Download Full Image

Jost will screen his new film, which will be followed by a brief talkback at 7 p.m. Jan. 13, at Sun Studios of Arizona. Shot from November 2011 to March 2012, “Again and Again” is a documentary about Korean choreographer Eun-Me Ahn. The film follows her as she develops a dance work, from beginning until opening night.

Prior to the film screening, Jost will lead a one-day workshop called "Film in Motion: Creating Dance Film."

Dance Professor Marcus White, who is co-hosting the workshop with Scott, said he is looking forward to having students engage with Jost and “his approach to capturing the essence of the dancer and motion through documentary filmmaking.”

“There are many dynamic approaches to think about the intersections of film and dance — Jost’s visit provides an opportunity for our campus community and beyond to create, discuss and talk about his creative process and experiences collaborating with dance makers,” White said.

Jost will also work with students in White’s screendance class. Screendance is an experimental film genre that combines cinematography and choreography and uses dance and movement rather than dialogue to communicate an idea in the film/video.

Scott says the visit with Jost promises to be a great experience. 

“Jost visited our campus three years ago, and students still tell me how much of a profound impact he had on their development,” Scott said.


"Film in Motion: Creating Dance Film" workshop
When: 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13
Where: Physical Education Building East, room 132, on ASU’s Tempe campus 
Register: The workshop is free and open to the public, but anyone interested in participating as performers and/or media makers should fill out the online registration form. Deadline to register is Friday, Jan. 12.

Film screening and short discussion
When: 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 13
Where: Sun Studios of Arizona, 425 West 14th Street, Tempe
Free: This event is free and seats are available on a first-come, first-served basis

More information:

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


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Bridging the 'Digital Divide'

ASU art project reveals what seniors know about technology.
December 6, 2017

ASU assistant professor Jessica Rajko emphasizes importance of community, intergenerational dialogue through art

Crocheting and big data might seem wholly unrelated, but for Arizona State University School of Film, Dance and TheatreThe School of Film, Dance and Theatre is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Assistant Professor Jessica Rajko, the intricate webs of ever-expanding yarn were the perfect metaphor for the elusive concept she’d been exploring in her multidimensional art project, "Me, My Quantified Self, and I," which asks the question: In our increasingly digital world, how do we perform data, and how does data perform us?

While learning to crochet and sharing her ideas about how it can help us understand data, Rajko struck a nostalgic chord with friends, colleagues and students, who were eager to share stories of time spent with grandparents and what it had taught them.

“It got me thinking about how we don’t really engage in intergenerational conversations around technology,” she said. “Often, if we talk about seniors and technology, we talk about them as not knowing about it.”

Connecting generations — with yarn

Enter "Digital Divide," Rajko's collaborative arts project that explores what seniors have to share with younger generations about digital culture.

From 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 10, massive swaths of crocheted yarn, knitted wool and quilted fabric will hang from the ceiling, dangle in the air and drape across the floor at the Tempe History Museum, each piece the result of a series of informal, intergenerational conversations — community textiles that summarize and represent community dialogue.

The project took place over the course of a few months, with local residents of all ages meeting once a week with seniors at the Pyle Adult Recreation Center in Tempe for two-hour quilting, crocheting and knitting circles.

The seniors are part of the community group Tempe Needlewielders, several of whom participated in Rajko’s February dance performance that served as the premiere of "Me, My Quantified Self, and I." "Digital Divide" is another iteration of that larger project.

Rajko said she initially reached out to the Needlewielders to participate in the dance performance because the question of how humans interact with technology doesn’t exclude the elderly, and she wanted her project to reflect that truth. Tablets, smartphones and other gadgets, she points out, aren’t age-specific.

“Everybody is implicated in technology, so I wanted to have them present,” she said. The conversation about big data and digital culture “is about people. But we often leave seniors out.”

large crocheted net

An example of the type of textiles that will be on display Sunday, Oct. 10 at the final project showing of ASU Assistant Professor Jessica Rajko's community art project, "Digital Divide." Photo by Alonso Parra.

Interdisciplinary digital media and performance grad student Sharon McCaman, who danced in the project’s premiere, said their involvement forced her to challenge her own preconceived notions.

“It was interesting to talk to them about technology because we make assumptions about what that generation knows or understands … but they know more than we assume,” she said.

McCaman learned to crochet during rehearsals with the guidance of some of the Needlewielders, an experience that directly influenced her thesis exhibition. It will feature a room with crocheted walls, which, when touched, will produce digital sounds.

A collaboration of textiles, talk and technology

Following the dance performance, Rajko reached out to the Needlewielders again when she conceived of the idea for "Digital Divide." She had invited them into her space; now she wanted to experience theirs.

Not only did the opportunity add another layer to her overall project, it also gave her a chance to grow her relationship with members of the local community.

“This is part of us being responsible artists and researchers,” Rajko said. “Not just the university disseminating information outward, but making it a discourse and building sustainable relationships with the community over time.”

Before the "Digital Divide" meetings began, Rajko conducted a survey with the seniors asking about their relationship with technology. Some of their responses surprised her. One statement, “Technology makes me happy,” received a majority of “agree” or “strongly agree” responses.

“I got some really rich content from the survey,” Rajko said, which she used to establish a basis of understanding between the seniors and their younger visitors about what the elders of the group did and didn’t know about technology, and also to trigger discourse.

The data generated by the survey was used to design the textiles the group worked on while chatting about the Twitterverse and what it means to swipe left. Some of the pieces became lengthy rectangles that, when arranged side by side and hung from the ceiling, will create a giant bar graph representing information such as who prefers actual, face-to-face interaction over FaceTime.

The showing will also include a “data quilt,” made up of color-coded squares, each square representing a person, with their responses to survey questions etched onto it.

“It’s not just about what data is,” Rajko said, “but who it represents.”

Top photo: Martha Kasapis, a member of the Tempe senior group Needlewielders, holds a ball of yarn. Photo by Alonso Parra.

Graduating ASU student hopes to inspire teenagers through dance

December 5, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Mayra Causor discovered her love of dance in high school, and after she earns her degree in dance education from Arizona State University this month, she wants to return to high school to share that passion with her students. ASU dance graduate Mayra Causor Dance education graduate Mayra Causor. Download Full Image

“When I started dancing in high school, I knew I found something I was passionate about,” Causor says. “I studied dance at four institutions to gain greater knowledge because I was hungry to learn more and more.”

Causor says students in high school are making decisions in their lives that are important milestones and dance gives them an activity for leisure, a way to learn and grow, a form of self-expression and therapy. For instance, she says she integrates concepts such as body image and explores with students how they can turn what they feel into movement.

“I love dance as an art form. It has helped me build confidence and relieve stress. I get to play and use my body as an instrument for self-expression while sharing that with other students.”

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

Answer: Being at ASU has allowed me to explore and play with my own abilities as a dancer, which has allowed me to express myself creatively. Getting the chance to collaborate with my peers and learn from teachers who have tremendous knowledge has really contributed to a holistic learning experience at ASU.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose this school because I researched their program and learned what they had to offer. I appreciated that the dance program catered to the creative process while incorporating other disciplines aligned with dance as an art form.

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

A: For the students still attending ASU I would advise them to take full advantage of the opportunities and resources that the school has to offer. Also, to soak (up) everything about this experience like a sponge because it will be beneficial in the long run.

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

A: When I studied, I would sit at a Starbucks on campus (one of our coolest resources) and enjoy a coffee while admiring the views.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduating, I am hopeful to find a job as a dance teacher. I am close to the finish line, so I am anxious to get my checklist done to be able to do this.

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

A: If I had $40 million, I would help with the natural disasters that affected Mexico and Puerto Rico. This is important to me because it is recent and out of human control. If those events hadn’t happened, I would use the money to help make the planet more eco-friendly. 

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts