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What's in the cards for making a community work on Mars?

May 17, 2019

ASU Interplanetary Initiative card game explores off-world colony cooperation — critical for sustaining social units in space

Living in space is going to present problems. Lots of them. Heat. Cold. Radiation. Is the company liable for overtime pay when the ship wakes you from cryosleep ahead of time?

One of the more significant problems will, of course, be each other. Don’t cooperate down here, and it just means the neighbors won’t be over for a Saturday barbecue again. Do it up there, and everyone dies.

What legal, political and social norms will govern space exploration? What social structures and practices are necessary to sustain a social unit in space indefinitely?

Port of Mars” is a card game created by Arizona State University’s Interplanetary Initiative to see how cooperation might shake out in an off-world colony.

Players are members of an early Martian settlement charged with working together to sustain the welfare of the community. Player actions are tracked and behavior analyzed. Researchers examine that data, looking for what behaviors, structures and systems worked, and what failed. Each instance of gameplay is a simulation, a modeling exercise for future space missions.

Project lead Lance Gharavi, an associate professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and affiliated faculty with the School of Earth and Space Exploration, calls Port of Mars “a social science experiment cosplaying as a game.”

“As I like to say, Port of Mars is a rehearsal for the future,” Gharavi said.

In that future, resources will have to be managed and shared. At first glance that seems simple.

Look closer. Walk-only zones on campus are a shared resource that are a constant source of negotiation among travelers. Electric scooters and their ban are another example of how views differ on the management of shared resources.

Marco Janssen, lead social scientist on the project, is an expert in how communities manage shared resources, such as groundwater resources.

“When I got introduced to the Port of Mars project, I noticed that the problems future space explorers will experience are similar to farmers in India who use groundwater, or residents in Mexico City trying to derive potable water,” said Janssen, a professor in the School of Sustainability and director of the Center for Behavior, Institutions and the Environment. “They have to invest time and effort in building and maintaining shared infrastructure. However, there is an important difference on Mars. The consequences of not sufficient cooperation in building and maintaining shared infrastructure quickly end up to a lack of oxygen or another life support system. Hence the consequence of insufficient contributions can lead to the death of the Mars habitat.”

Players can invest in an opportunity with direct benefit to them, or they can invest in the health of the community.

“If the total investment in community health was not sufficient at any time, it was game over and nobody received any rewards,” Janssen said. (Janssen co-ran a project a couple of years ago where eight students lived in the Mohave desert on four gallons of water a day and no air conditioning.)

Space exploration is not, as is frequently stated, a way to start over again on another planet, Janssen said.

“The level of cooperation and coordination needed to succeed are much higher than we have observed in large-scale societies on planet Earth,” he said. “Although there might be a planet B, we need to be able to address problems like climate change and infectious diseases effectively on planet Earth before a society on Mars is a viable option. This demonstrates that space research also provide venues for social science to explore cooperation in extreme conditions which can help to solve existing problems at planet Earth.”

The game will help us understand some of the social aspects of inhabiting Mars, Tanya Harrison said. Mars is a familiar place to Harrison, a planetary scientist and member of the Mars Opportunity Rover’s science team.

“The technology is likely easier for us to deal with than the human factor, because traveling to and living on Mars will be something completely new to humanity,” Harrison said. “No level of simulations will truly be able to prepare us (in my opinion), but doing research like this can at least help us better understand the social challenges we might face so that we can find ways to mitigate the potential damages.”

Currently the game is only available to ASU students because data from results has to be collected.

ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative is a pan-university effort to build the future of humans in space and create a bolder and better society. Questions of our space future across the whole landscape of human inquiry need to be explored by teams integrating across the public-private-university sectors.

Top Illustration by Titus Lunter

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

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’Forks up for future Sun Devils

April 29, 2019

As May 1 marks College Signing Day across the country, ASU professors share their advice for incoming students

Each spring, high school students across the U.S. declare their college decisions, a first major step in carving their future path, and it deserves celebration.

On May 1, Michelle Obama’s Reach Higher Initiative — an initiative that encourages students to pursue a college education — is celebrating its fifth anniversary by hosting College Signing Day across the nation. ASU will be shining a gold spotlight on future Sun Devils who declare their decision to call ASU home and joining the former first lady in support of students who decided to reach higher.

“College Signing Day is an opportunity to celebrate a college-going culture in schools across the nation, and we are excited to have a digital platform that allows everyone from school partners to parents join in sharing their students’ accomplishments,” said Brad Baertsch, ASU director of freshmen recruitment and admission. “Each student has had a unique path on this journey each with different challenges, and through these activities, schools can continue to share stories to future classes in letting them know college is possible.”

This is also an opportunity for the ASU community to welcome our newest Sun Devils. Here to share wise and encouraging words are professors from across ASU’s four campuses:

“This is probably one of the most exciting new moments in your life. … Contribute to conversations; contribute something that’s meaningful and substantive.”
— Foundation Professor Neal Lester
Department of English in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

“Take a class you’ve never heard of, something you have no idea about because it’s an adventure.”
— Associate Professor Hilairy Hartnett
School of Earth and Space Exploration and the School of Molecular Sciences, both in The College

“Find what you love. Find the major that just engages you and that you just know this is what you need to be doing.”
— Student Success Center Director Alexia Shonteff
W. P. Carey School of Business

“There’ll be internships, there’ll be actions in the community you can get involved in — but just get involved with what’s going on with your major.”
— Professor Michael E. Smith
School of Human Evolution and Social Change in The College

“Build community with students and study together, do projects together, explore and learn together.”
— Associate Professor Marlon M. Bailey
School of Social Transformation in The College

“Go to club events because at the end of the day, meeting people, getting out on campus is going to make your experience a lot better.”
— CEO Rick Shangraw
ASU Enterprise Partners

“Really embrace the expertise that you have all around you here at ASU. You have the best scholars, the most amazing professionals who are here to teach you.”
— Assistant Dean Jessica Pucci
Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

“Talk to your instructors. They’re human just like you are. They’ve been there too.”
— Clinical Associate Professor Kimberly Kobojek
School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

“Be open to the possibility that there is something worth experiencing, or hearing, or knowing even if it feels different from your life or your beliefs.”
— Institute Professor Michael Rohd
School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

“If you’re really keen and interested in the subject, you should approach your professors and ask about opportunities to participate in undergraduate research.”
— Professor Thomas Sharp
School of Earth and Space Exploration in The College

“Explore all the great things ASU has to offer.”
— Associate Professor Sangram Redkar
Polytechnic School in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Join these professors, alumni and the entire Sun Devil community in celebrating and supporting college-going students on May 1 by sharing inspiring college advice and post on social media using #CollegeSigningDay and #FutureSunDevil, and don’t forget to wear gold!

You can follow the celebration on Twitter: @FutureSunDevils and @ASU.

Future Sun Devil to-do list

If you are an incoming student, here are some ways to declare your decision to attend ASU.

  • Download and sign your #FutureSunDevil certificate for #CollegeSigningDay. And don't forget to thank someone for helping you #ReachHigher.
  • Show off your #FutureSunDevil family pride on social media. Mention @FutureSunDevils in your Instagram story and use a GIF sticker using the keywords “Arizona State University.” Your post may be added to our official Future Sun Devil story!
  • Submit your #CollegeSigningDay photo. Three submissions will be selected to receive a special Sun Devil gift from ASU.
  • Check out these digital downloads to “Sparkify” your room, college center or graduation party.
  • Want more Sun Devil swag? Visit the Future Sun Devil page to find links to phone and computer backgrounds, graduation-cap templates, poster downloads and more.
  • Make it official. If you are an incoming first-year student, submit your enrollment deposit to begin your next steps toward enrollment. Incoming transfer and graduate students can complete enrollment steps through priority tasks on My ASU.

Meenah Rincon

Public Relations Manager , ASU Online

Film student started own company while still in school

April 23, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement. 

At 19 years old, Krystina Owens started her own production studio while attending Arizona State University. Now the 21-year-old, who is a student at Barrett, The Honors College, manages 11 employees, is expanding her company into two divisions and is graduating this May with a bachelor’s degree in film and media production from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre. Photo of Krystina Owens Krystina Owens graduates this May with a bachelor’s degree in film and media production. Download Full Image

“The studio is called Innovelore Entertainment, Inc., and was founded by myself and my business partner on May 31, 2016 — my 19th birthday, funny enough,” she said. “I knew it would be challenging trying to get a company off of the ground while I was still in school, but I had lots of ideas and passion for what I wanted to do as a filmmaker for my career. I wanted to get into the industry in a different, innovative way and I wanted to get started.”

The company began as a commissioned illustration company, but in 2017, Owens and her partner shifted focus to animation and grew the team to work on bigger projects, Owens said. With nine full-time employees and two part-time employees, both of whom are current ASU students, Innovelore is now splitting into two divisions. Innovelore Entertainment, Inc. will focus solely on developing original content, and the other division, Velorean Productions, will be taking on client and advertising work.

“I think ASU has taught me a lot about live-action production, which I hope to incorporate more into our studio's capabilities as we continue to grow,” Owens said. “What's more, ASU has helped me gain the leadership skills I need to run a business and direct a production.

"I hope with what I've learned in college and as a business owner the last three years that I can lead my team to success, and with that we'll be able to bring more of the film industry to Phoenix.”

Owens is also in the early stages of launching a TV series based on her capstone film called “The Author’s Daughter.”

The short film combines live action and frame-by-frame animation similar to Robert Zemeckis' "Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” In a time where fiction is illegal, a young girl accidentally brings magical creatures out of the fiction world and into reality and must deal with the consequences.

“This film is serving not only as my capstone film, but as a concept film for a larger TV series,” Owens said. “It is my hope that we can find distribution for the series and produce it as the studio's first original series.”

Jason Davids Scott, assistant director of film in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, called Owens a leader in her class of filmmakers and said her film is unprecedented for a capstone project.

“We have never had any student undertake a project of this size,” Scott said, “and the work is going to be truly amazing.”

Owens answered some questions from ASU Now:

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I think that my “aha” moment came in my junior year of high school. Up until that point I had always wanted to be an actress in film, as I had been captivated by movies and entertainment since I was 2. But that year, instead of acting in a play, I got the chance to be the student director for the school’s production of “Noises Off.” It was then that I realized the real magic of telling stories, for me, was making them happen behind the scenes, and I knew that I wanted to pursue filmmaking from a directing and producing side.

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

A: I believe that my time at ASU really taught me how to be a strong leader — both in the classroom and outside of it. When I first began ASU, I felt shaky in my self-confidence and unsure about my artistic talents. But during my four years at ASU, I learned how to successfully lead a group project, how to direct a film and how to run a business. Because of my time at ASU and the encouragement and opportunity the school gave me to be a leader, today I now have the confidence and experience to manage a studio of 11 employees daily, and I can now say that I’ve directed a major film project that’s involved over 100 people in its course of creation. Without my time at ASU, I’m not sure how long it would have taken me to change my perspective on just what a student like me is capable of achieving.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because it allowed for me to be close to my family, my home, and gave me the flexibility to take what I learned in my classes outside of school and apply them to the studio I was looking to start. And I felt, with ASU being the No. 1 school in innovation, that I might be able to apply some of the innovative principles I’d learn through my education to my career and filmmaking goals.

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

A: I think both Professor Janaki Cedanna and Professor Greg Maday taught me to tell the stories I really want to tell in my films and writing and to not worry about what everyone else is doing or what might be the “typical standard rule.” Ultimately, they both encouraged me to blaze my own trail and create my own unique identity as a storyteller and a filmmaker by letting me know that it was OK to do things differently and to go with my instinct as an artist. Break the mold to find your own success.

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

A: I would say that the best piece of advice I’d give to those still in school is to be open to change in all aspects of your life. Before starting college, I had a very different picture of what I thought my life would be like by the time I graduated, and nothing worked out like I planned. But I wouldn’t trade my life now or the last four years I’ve experienced at ASU for anything. No matter how much you may plan out the path you’re going to take, sometimes life doesn’t work out the way you think it will. But if you work hard, if you’re open to change and other perspectives and you never give up on your goals, then things have a way of working out in the end, and often in a better way than you could have ever imagined. They did for me. Have a little faith.

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

A: My favorite spot on campus was always in the basement of the Hayden Library, where I would often take work down to one of the quiet corners with the little gray chairs with desks attached. I’d grab an iced chai latte from Charlie’s Café and go down to the basement to work on homework, projects for Innovelore, a new script or sometimes I’d meet my friends down there for a brief catch-up session.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I plan to continue running my studio, Innovelore Entertainment, Inc., and working with my team to create quality original entertainment content as well as work on building the new division of the studio, Velorean Productions, where we’ll be taking on client commission work and outsource animation and film projects. I’ll be wearing multiple hats in the company, acting as a producer and story-lead for the three original TV show concepts we have in development, serving as the projects director and production manager, working directly with client relations and marketing in the other branch to help build the studio’s brand identity, and working overall in big picture projects to help continue to grow the studio. So I definitely hope to keep busy!

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 try to solve some of the unemployment problems on our planet and hope that this first step would lead to solving other issues, like working conditions, homelessness and hunger. With $40 million, I would take steps with my company to hire more employees to create more jobs. As with our current employees, I’d be sure to provide a nice, livable wage with good benefits for those working at my company, so as to hopefully increase the quality of life for those employed and their families. With the company continuing to expand, I’d hope to serve as an example for other corporations on how to treat and compensate employees fairly, both domestically and internationally, so as to hopefully decrease the poverty seen throughout the world and create a better standard of living for the homeless, the hungry and those either unemployed or employed with poor working conditions. This is an actual goal of mine with my company, and the $40 million would help me to get started providing good jobs for good, hardworking people.

Sarah A. McCarty

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


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After fleeing persecution, ASU student eager to tell stories like hers through film

Fleeing persecution, ASU grad finds film can tell a powerful story.
April 17, 2019

Outstanding Herberger undergraduate finds editing can give voice to people like her

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement. 

Maedeh Moayyednia’s journey as a refugee inspired her to become a storyteller through the art of film.

Moayyednia, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in film and media production at Arizona State University this May, discovered that she can best tell a story specifically through the editing process. She also has been named the outstanding undergraduate in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“Editing is the art of filmmaking. It’s where it all comes together,” she said.

“I love to think about, ‘What am I saying and who am I making visible? What are the voices I want to be heard in this story?’”

Moayyednia was born and raised in Iran in the Baha’i faith, a persecuted minority.

“It’s very dangerous and very oppressed for them,” she said. “I studied sociology in an online university, the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education — that’s illegal. People have gone to jail for teaching there.”

In 2014, Moayyednia was approved for religious asylum and came to the United States, settling in Phoenix, not far from Scottsdale Community College.

She struggled with English, but started taking general education and film classes at SCC.

“I loved movies but I never thought I could be a filmmaker, but I realized that for the things I wanted to talk about, film is the best tool I could use,” she said. “I loved my film classes and I found my calling.”

After earning her associate degree, she transferred to ASU, which was overwhelming. She took five production classes her first semester, and worked two part-time jobs — in the videography office of the Herberger Institute and as a film lab technician at SCC.

“But I talked to my professors and went to them for advice and they helped me to get through it,” she said.

“What I learned was to prioritize my tasks. I have work and I have assignments and I learned to make the best of the short amount of time I have.”

In one film class, Moayyednia had an assignment to edit some random bits of film together.

“I made a very dramatic story out of it and the professor asked me to stay after the class and he said, ‘You should consider becoming an editor,’” she said.

“I told him I was just having fun and he told me, ‘You took something that wasn’t good and you told the story you wanted to tell.’”

Moayyednia answered some questions from ASU Now:

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: When I moved to the United States, I faced a lot of prejudice and a lot of inappropriate questions, being a brown Middle Eastern person in Arizona. I faced a lot of people being ignorant, for example, asking me about terrorism. Somebody told me, "I didn’t know you knew how to eat with a fork and knife." Hurtful questions. With a sociology background, I thought "I have to stop being upset and just do something." It came to me, film is the best way I can show my heritage and my culture and the reality of what it is. I feel the way the media portrays people from the Middle East is untrue and not honest. It was a moment I was like, "I have to stop being upset and I need to choose to tell stories in film that are about people like me."

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

A: I realized that I found my people. I found my chosen family at ASU, and I found people who understand and support me. When I started talking to my professors and people in my workplace, I thought, "These are the people I want to surround myself with so I don’t constantly face ignorance and prejudice." It was comforting to have these people around me.

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

A: As a person who’s older, I am so proud of everything that I’ve done. Some of it I’m like, "I wish I hadn’t done that, but I grew from it." I would say try different things and go to different clubs and internships and classes to find what’s for you. Even if you’re not happy, it’s a growth opportunity. I had internships that weren’t for me, but it was like, "Well, at least I know I don’t want to do this."

For film students, I would say, tell a story that matters to you personally because when you do, it will touch the audience’s heart. Also think about the people you’re making visible. If you’re telling a story about immigration, you have to include people from the immigrant community and the story has to be honest.

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

A: The videography office that I work in, because we are such a great department. We have memes on the wall and it’s so fun and we all put our best into every project. I’m going to miss it.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My favorite thing is documentaries. I was accepted into some graduate programs, but I want to take a year off and work. I’ll be an assistant editor on a feature documentary about the struggles of transgender people in a professional environment and their personal lives. Then I’ll look at a postproduction internship to build a better portfolio. I am eager for that experience rather than going straight to graduate school.

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

A: I would make a university for people in my own country who are not privileged to go to other universities. I do feel guilty that I had this amazing opportunity to pursue my dreams and be here but there are people still there who are fighting. I want to make a place for them where they can all come together and study any major they want and they don’t have to pay.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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3D printing and vinyl cutting join needle and thread in ASU's costume shop

April 16, 2019

Makerspaces drive creativity as more people look for elaborate costumes

It used to be that people would dress up once a year at Halloween, but the world of cosplay has opened new opportunities for people to create intricate, elaborate costumes to wear year-round. Arizona State University has several resources for making extravagant costumes — including professional help.

Sarah Lankenau, clinical assistant professor of costume technology in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, is holding a workshop on Friday from 2 to 4 p.m. to teach makeup techniques. The free workshop is open to anyone and will be in the Hayden Library mkrspace on the Tempe campus, where Lakenau will answer questions about using the technology there to create costumes.

“I feel like the idea of what is costume and what is performance has really expanded,” said Lankenau, who taught a workshop on costume wig styling at the space earlier this month.

“With the maker movement and the emergence of these makerspaces, it’s become such an open and collaborative community.”

Cosplay has driven interest in costuming, along with activities like the Renaissance Fair and Jane Austen societies. Next month, Phoenix Fan Fusion (formerly Phoenix Comic Con) will draw hundreds of costume-wearing attendees.

Students in ASU’s costume classes become as proficient in using vinyl-cutters and 3D printers as they do sewing machines — all of which are available in the Hayden mkrspace to anyone in the ASU community. Lankenau said that the costume shop in the Herberger Institue for Design and the Arts will get its own 3D printer next year, but it’s important for students to know about the resources available on campus.

Students used digital fabrication to create the costumes for the recent productionStudents who worked on the "Ajax" costumes were Adle Smithson, costume designer, and Niamh Murphy, Alexa Marron and Andrew Hopson, drapers. Digital fabrication was done by Marron and Smithson. of “Ajax,” a Greek tragedy.

“I emphasize to my students that they should use technology to solve a problem,” she said. For example, one student used the vinyl cutter to create an intricate “feather” design that would have taken many hours to do by hand.

“I try to impress upon the students that if you let the fact that you haven’t done something keep you from trying it, you’re really missing out on all the fun,” she said.

Besides 3D printing, the Hayden mkrspace also includes 3D scanning; a WACOM tablet, which allows digital capture of hand-drawn images; and a variety of electronics, according to Victor Surovec, program coordinator for the mkerservices, who will staff Hayden Library’s booth at Phoenix Fan Fusion.

“There was a time you did have to be in a profession to have the skill set to run some of this equipment, but now, the usability of some of this stuff has gotten to a level where I teach a 6-year-old to design and print in 3D,” he said.

Lankenau will hold a workshop on “Digital Fabrication for Costumes” from June 6 to 8 on software basics, how to access hardware, types of digital fabrication projects, how to make simple digital files for fabric printing, and 3D printing. Participants can attend for one day or all three days.

Top image: Sarah Lankenau, clinical assistant professor of costume design, shows an intricate costume that was created using a vinyl cutter. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


ASU's School of Film, Dance and Theatre wants you to move your body this April

April 2, 2019

The Arizona State University School of Film, Dance and Theatre is holding a monthlong celebration of dance this April consisting of three events: Latin Sol, SpringDanceFest and Come AZ You Are.

Guest artists from all around the world will be sharing their experiences and passion for dance through performances, lectures and classes. Work created by ASU students, faculty and staff will also be showcased throughout these events. The stunningly diverse work shown in this celebration creates a bridge between the arts community both on and off campus. Poster image for SpringDanceFest with dancer Download Full Image

Latin Sol

The month of dance kicks off this weekend with Latin Sol, an annual three-day festival that celebrates social dance forms from the Latino perspective. This weekend-long festival offers a multitude of events including lectures by visiting guest artists, social/performance dance workshops, dance performances and evening social dancing. Local and out-of-state artists share their perspectives and experiences in the social dance community. Latin Sol encourages everyone with a passion for dance — whether they are a dancer or non-dancer — to come participate.

The festival runs from 6 to 10 p.m. April 5 and from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. April 6 and 7, at the ASU Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus. For more information on the festival and to register, visit


The annual SpringDanceFest concert is the culminating event of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre’s dance series this season. The breathtaking works in this event feature student, faculty, staff and guest artist choreography. The concert highlights dance for stage, screen and tech and features some of the eclectic dance styles and creative approaches offered in the dance program.

SpringDanceFest will be held April 12–14 at the Paul V. Galvin Playhouse on ASU’s Tempe campus. For more information and tickets, visit

Come AZ You Are              

Come Az You Are is a four-day mini festival celebrating spaces of affirmation and radical joy through art as social (inter)action. The interdisciplinary festival is inspired by Vogue/ballroom culture rooted from LGBT communities and is open to all (think "Paris is Burning" or "PoseFX"). The biannual program bridges the beautifully diverse communities on campus and in worlds outside of ASU to foster transformational community through arts and culture. This year's festival hosts dynamic local and national artists and offers performances, battles, fashion shows and more. This is part of the Sol Motion series and cuts across the disciplines of dance, fashion, theater/design, music and more. For a complete list of events happening April 24–28, visit the Come Az You Are Facebook page.

Witten by Victoria Phillips, administrative intern, ASU SpringDanceFest

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Special screening of 'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' celebrates inclusivity

April 1, 2019

More than 3,000 people packed the grass at Sun Devil Stadium on Friday as part of ASU 365 Community Union’s Movies on the Field.

The screening of "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" featured a special videotaped introduction with directors Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman that gave audiences new insights into the background of the Academy Award-winning film. The introduction produced by ASU Film Spark explored the connections between the film’s theme of inclusivity (demonstrated with the #anyonecanwearthemask concept) with ASU’s charter to be a university measure by whom it includes and how they succeed. 

The introduction was hosted by ASU students Micky Molina and Rashaud Williams and was directed by ASU student Jacob Kaufman. At the conclusion of the introduction, the entire audience donned Spider-Man masks in support of inclusivity at ASU.

The event was part of ASU’s effort to utilize Sun Devil Stadium as a cultural hub that hosts events, festivals, concerts, conferences, meetings and movies year-round. For more information on upcoming events, visit the ASU 365 Community Union website.

Family lie on blankets on the ASU football field to watch a Spider-Man movie

#anyonecanwearthemask ... and many of the 3,000 audience members at Sun Devil Stadium did so for the Friday screening of "Spider-Man: Into the Spiderverse." Photo by Tim Trumble

Top photo by Tim Trumble

Renowned theater artist visits ASU Theatre for Youth program

March 22, 2019

In 1988, a spaceship crash landed in a school playground in London. Tim Webb, an internationally renowned theater artist, was behind the crash — it was the setting for a multi-sensory, interactive theater production developed just for the students at the school for special education.

Webb, who visited Arizona State University last week for a residency with the Theatre for Youth program in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and Max Reinhardt were pushing boundaries in theater when they formed Oily Cart in 1981 to make interactive theater for 2 to 5-year-olds. A few years later, when they were asked to perform at that London special school for children who “were classified as having sensory, physical, intellectual and behavioral disabilities,” they were inspired to create something new. Photo of Tim Webb and ASU theatre for youth students Tim Webb, an internationally renowned theater artist, visited ASU for a residency with the Theatre for Youth program in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre. Photo by Tim Trumble. Download Full Image

“We realized that any show we did would have to be multi-sensory,” Webb said. “We couldn’t rely on those theater standbys of what could be seen and heard, and it would have to be interactive so that it could adapt to the many different personalities and abilities. It also needed to last longer than the average young people’s theater show so the young audience could take the time to get used to us performers and for us to get used them.”

They created a production that lasted the whole school day. When the young people arrived in school, they found the crashed spaceship. From the site emerged "three rather jolly aliens with long striped tails who most significantly, knew nothing of life on earth."

"They asked the audience why they were making black marks on white surface and found out this was called writing," Webb said. “Each young person in the school knew more about this world than the aliens, and I believe that many of them found the experience not just amusing but empowering.”

They were invited to perform in other schools around London, and since that show, Oily Cart has produced one new special education needs production each year.

Webb stepped down as artistic director of Oily Cart last year, but said, “I don’t think I’ve got the hang of this retirement business.”

Since then he has written and directed a show in Sweden for audiences who are defined as having Profound and Multiple Learning Disabilities (PMLD) or who are considered to be on the autism spectrum. It is touring in Scandinavia until 2021. He taught for three weeks in the U.S. He revived the Oily Cart show “Splish Splash,” which takes place in hydrotherapy pools and will tour in the United Kingdom through July. He has plans to travel to Sichuan, China, to help a theater there develop theater in children’s hospitals. And he just spent a week in residency at ASU. During his time here, he worked with ASU Theatre for Youth students to develop a production for young people with PMLD. Webb and the students performed the piece for a group of young people from Believe I Can Academy on Friday, March 15.

Webb also took some time to answer a few questions.

Question: What creative capacities do artists grow working with these audiences?

Anser: Observation, empathy, flexibility, creativity.

Q: During your residency here at ASU, what has it been like working with our Theatre for Youth students?

A: It's been great. They are an extraordinarily most-talented and hard-working bunch who are lovely to be around.

Q: What is something you have learned throughout your career that you want to share with theater artists just starting out?

A: That everything seems to take a little bit longer than you first thought possible. But stick at it. With sufficient time you can engage any audience.

Q: What is a question you wish people would ask you and how would you answer?

A: Why should more people create this work? Because you will be able to reach out to and engage people who because of their sensor, physical and cognitive impairment are often cut off from the people and the world around them and show them the wonders that surround them.

Sarah A. McCarty

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


'Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse' directors give exclusive interview for ASU film screening

March 22, 2019

The directors of Oscar-winning film “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” recorded a video interview exclusively for ASU 365 Community Union’s free screening of the movie at Sun Devil Stadium on Friday, March 29.

At the screening, Arizona State University students and the surrounding community will have a chance to watch the interview with directors Peter Ramsey, Bob Persichetti and Rodney Rothman, who have been praised for their fresh vision of a different Spider-Man universe. In the video interview, they discuss their visual style and making a movie with a complex narrative. Poster of Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse movie

They also talk about inclusivity and the importance it had on the film, which inspired the #AnyoneCanWearTheMask hashtag. Attendees at the ASU screening will be given Spider-Man masks to put on when prompted by the directors at the end of the video. The interview was made possible by ASU Film Spark, part of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and was inspired by the Herberger Institute’s Projecting All Voices initiative.

Film Spark partnered with Marvel Studios, Sony Pictures Animation and ASU alumnus Michael Helfant to secure the interview, which was conducted by Rashaud Williams and Mickey Molina, both students in the School of Film, Dance and Theater.

The main event will be the screening of “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” and is hosted by ASU 365 Community Union as part of its Movies on the Field series. Visit to RSVP to the screening. Gates open at 5:30 p.m., and the event begins at 6:30 p.m. at Sun Devil Stadium.

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ASU student uses theater to give voice to people on the margins of society

ASU doctoral student uses theater to empower those without a voice.
McGilvery: “Everything we do, we like it to be performative and for healing.”
February 18, 2019

Dontá McGilvery finds passion in teaching African-American theater, community work

Dontá McGilvery has devoted his life to finding people who live at the margins of society and giving them a voice through theater.

“Performance has the power to transform,” he tells his class.

And he’s harnessing that power in many ways to tell stories.

McGilvery is pursuing a PhD in theater for youth at Arizona State University and was recently honored with ASU’s 2019 Martin Luther King Jr. Student Servant-Leadership Award. Several years ago, he started a nonprofit in his hometown of Dallas to help people who are homeless — an issue he learned about firsthand after living in their community for a year. After coming to ASU in 2017, he co-founded a community theater group, and this semester, he launched a course on African-American theater for undergraduates.

“I noticed that in my own classes, we didn’t talk much about African-Americans’ contributions to the field of theater so I began studying it on my own, and then I would include it in class,” he said. “Often, there were things that the students and even the professors didn’t know.”

So he reached out to the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts to ask about teaching African-American theater, and he received enthusiastic approval.

“What my students like is learning about something they never heard of, in all of their education,” he said. “To me, that’s encouraging.”

So far this semester, the class has covered the genre of plays about lynchings, including “A Sunday Morning in the South,” written by Georgia Douglas Johnson in 1925.

“If we understand that in the 1920s, there were black playwrights who wrote anti-lynching plays to combat what was happening at that time, the class can connect that with what’s happening today with black and brown bodies having their lives taken by police,” he said.

The students have learned about the connection among African-American artists, including the play “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry, whose title comes from the poetry of Langston Hughes.

“It’s a diverse group of students, and we’re talking about things that the African-American students can identify with and then lead the discussion,” he said.

The class studied the 1916 play “Rachel,” by Angelina Grimke, about a young black woman who, overcome by the horrors of racism, vows never to have a child. That was especially poignant to Leslie Campbell, a senior who’s in the class.

“It deals with the fragility of the black woman and the black woman’s negotiation of herself in white society in the early 1900s and particularly the black mother’s desire to protect the black child’s innocence, which I think is a struggle that rings true even today,” said Campbell, who is from the Bahamas and is majoring in theater and global health.

“In this class, I’ve appreciated being able to share the knowledge that I learned growing up in the islands and our history with slavery, and then being able to relate this information to my African-American and non-black counterparts and having them say, ‘I didn’t even think about that,’” she said.

“Dontá takes the time to break down the dynamics of how these systems work and to see how it’s being played out even today.”

Donta McGilvery teaches African-American theater at ASU.

Dontá McGilvery works with a group of students in the undergraduate class he teaches on African-American theater in the Nelson Fine Arts Center on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

McGilvery said that he’s always pursuing one goal: “I’m trained to see that when you read a text or enter a space, the first thing you want to spot is whose voice is absent from the narrative and then investigate why.”

That helped lead to the Sleeveless Acts Drama Company, which he started in 2017 with fellow student Claire Redfield, who is pursuing a Master of Fine Arts in theater for youth. Their idea won an entrepreneurship grant from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“We had this idea of starting a theater company that amplifies voices in marginalized communities, telling their stories using drama,” he said.

“We tear away the sleeves that keeps people’s history hidden.”

Last year, the company created a production about African-American history featuring a cast that ranged in age from 13 to 70, he said. Currently, they’re working on staging a performance later this spring to celebrate Eastlake Park in Phoenix, a historic center of the city’s African-American community.

“Everything we do, we like it to be performative and for healing,” he said.

The company also performs in churches in central and south Phoenix, a mission that is central to McGilvery, who also is a minister.

It was his personal faith journey that led him to make a startling decision eight years ago, when he was in graduate school at Southern Methodist University: He gave away all his possessions and lived for a year with people who were homeless.

“It was important that I took on that project because of my spiritual calling as a minister,” he said. “I understood Jesus was homeless, and I wanted to understand why he decided to live a homeless life and, by being homeless, how could it give me a different perspective on the world.”

He found that the homeless were friendly, supportive of each other and, usually, regular people who came upon hardship.

“The first day I was homeless, I didn’t know how to start, so I just went downtown and laid down on the sidewalk to go to sleep,” he said. “And another homeless guy named Robert tapped me on the shoulder and walked me to the shelter. He told me how he fell on hard times.”

McGilvery spent his nights in a shelter, but because his grad school classes were in the evenings, all the beds were filled by the time he arrived, so he slept in a chair in the overflow room.

In conjunction with living on the streets, McGilvery started a nonprofit called the Dallas Improvement Association, which recruited volunteers to experience homelessness for short periods, as well as helped homeless people with donations and meals.

“We didn’t go to the shelter — we went to those people who were strung out and wouldn’t go to a shelter,” he said. “We were always searching for the most voiceless within the group that has no voice.”

When the year was up, it was hard to leave his friends and transition back to a more typical life.

“My heart is now more compassionate to the people who suffer the most. When I drive in my car and see someone on the corner, I wonder, ‘What is their story?’

“And I look at the other cars and wonder about the assumptions those people put on them.”

McGilvery’s work drew attention. He spoke at a conference held by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which later partnered with the Dallas Improvement Association and donated more than 1,000 computers to low-income schools. He also spoke at a U.S. Army War College security seminar about his experiences.

“I talked about how homeless people are marginalized and how cities are intentionally pushing them to the side,” he said.

Eventually, McGilvery would like to be a professor of theater, but he has a few years left in his doctoral program.

As he continues his outreach, one memory stays with him: When he was an undergrad, he was riding a bus and sat near a man who was a drug user. The man started asking McGilvery questions about being a student. He said, “Do you want to get a PhD?”

“I was like, ‘Sure, if it comes around.’ He said, ‘If you become a doctor, just make sure you actually heal someone.’

“And I thought that was profound. It’s about, ‘What am I doing to bring about healing in society and in individuals?’ ”

He has never forgotten that interaction.

“That kick-started my passion for justice and speaking for the voiceless.”

Top image: Dontá McGilvery, a doctoral student in the theater for youth program at ASU, has launched a course on African-American theater this semester and also co-founded a community theater company. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News